When the bells go off in the House of Commons, it means one of three things. The House has begun its session; the House has ended its session; or there is a division.
Thus the bells usually ring at 2.30 and at 10.00 to mark the kick-off and the close of play. And they go off intermittently in between, when the Nation’s elected representatives are unable to agree on whatever proposition is in front of them.
Like Pavlovian dogs, we are conditioned. When the bells ring at 2.30, we head for the Chamber; when they ring at 10pm, we head for home. And if they ring in between, we head for the Division Lobbies, where a well-informed and courteous Whip gives guidance as to whether we are in favour of or against the proposition that has provoked dissent.
So, when the bells went at 4.15pm last Wednesday, I headed for the Lobbies. But I had been sold a dummy. The debate on the Merchant Shipping Bill had ended early and without dissent, and that was the Going Home Bell.
We know from the press that MP’s find all sorts of ways of amusing themselves when they are alone in London. And I succumbed to temptation.
I rang up the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and booked a ticket for Giselle. Or, as it turned out, for Gisel..
Let me explain. My ticket was AA30. In financial circles, a double or triple A rating is good news, indicating status and prosperity. In musical circles, they work on the opposite principle.
Seats in Row AA are not for those who suffer from vertigo. They are at the highest point of the building, where the atmosphere becomes rare. My fellow buffs and I were provided not with a fire exit, but with parachutes.
Not only were we very high; but we were at one extremity of the building, privileged to enjoy what the Opera House describes as a Restricted View. Only part of the stage was visible, so it was with some relief that the only prop on the stage, when the curtain rose, was on that part that I could see – a bench.
The relief did not last long. Giselle is a ballet; and, if there is an object on the stage, that is the part of the stage you don’t dance on.
And, so, instead of seeing Giselle, I saw Gisel.. I admired the prima bal…ina, performing some athletic entrech..s and working well with the cor.s de bal..t in their tut.s; The choreo…..phy was fantastic.
But I cannot complain; the ticket only cost £7. Next time the business collapses, I will pay £7 for ticket ZZ, and see ..selle.