Country mouse on country opera

Only in the dead of winter is the countryside quieter than now. The farmers have done their work and the tractors and combines lie idle in preparation for harvest. Ever so slowly, the wheat is starting to tingethe fields yellow. The birds have largely ceased to sing, with the exception of the wood pigeon, still gently cooing; even the rooks are quieter. All their energies are spent feeding their young. Singing is for spring and autumn. It may be the time of plenty for our wildlife, but it’s also a time of frantic activity.

The noise that you hear in the countryside is almost entirely manmade: cars and planes, lawn mowers and strimmers, but occasionally Bizet and Puccini, too. For it’s the time of the country-house opera, and they are everywhere. On Sunday, we trundled down to East Sussex for a performance of Carmen at Glyndebourne. Is there anything more English than listening to an opera in French, and then picnicking in a delightful garden?

The sun shone, the Champagne corks popped and, joy of joys, we finished a delicious meal with summer pudding a culinary triumph that no nation noted for its cooking heritage would have dared invent.