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Plan(ning) B

I’ve been accused of being spontaneous and a stickler for being organized in something like equal amounts over the years, but neither is entirely correct. With certain aspects of character it can be possible to determine which is the more default positioning simply by realising which aspect comes easier than the other. I tend to believe we all have things that come more naturally to us in many areas of our life which provide a wonderful opportunity to irritate the hell out of each other on one hand and really help compliment and help each other out on the other side.

The reality is that I’m not spontaneous in any way. The Lovely Wife understands this and therefore is reassured that I am unlikely to suddenly buy a piano, or reveal that I have actually sold the house and we are starting our new life pig farming in Patagonia. Where the skill comes in is in carefully planned spontaneity. Masterminding a weekend away where a series of lovely coincidences come together to make it truly memorable is the true mark of the planner’s art. Until I thought about it recently I never realized how much fun a carefully timetabled schedule could be (providing it is not an exam schedule, obviously).

There are lots of good reasons for being a forward planner. For a start, it helps us in the never ending fight to make sure we see friends and family enough (we fail, but it is a brave failure). Life is so busy (for everyone) these days that I would be completely lost without our schedule of where we are supposed to be, and increasingly that planning is months ahead – we are booking things for next January.

But why bother? Well one thing is that without looking that far ahead you can forget certain events that otherwise you might have wanted to see. People have asked how we can possibly afford to go to the theatre as much as we do. It is a fair question. The truth is I have an upper limit in what I will pay for a ticket (and it is a low threshold) but if you keep the ear to the ground, are flexible and book as soon as you are able there are plenty of bargains to be had. If you are lucky and do not mind an uncomfortable restricted view then you can get opera or ballet tickets at the Royal Opera House for as little as £6 for some performances and since neither of us were blessed much in the height department we do not fear the dreaded ‘restricted legroom’ threat. When booking for new shows the other risk of course is that show is rubbish or the set will break down during those cheap ticket previews but that is a risk worth taking. I think the only show I remember as being so awful that maybe the ticket was a waste was a musical version of ‘Gone with the Wind’ some years ago – it was interminably dull and far too long; we and most of the rest of the audience left well before the end. There was also a time when we went to see a preview performance of the last version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ put on in London at the Palladium, where part of the set was a circular, mechanical, Yellow Brick Road that rotated and therefore allowed the actors to keep moving while not getting dizzy walking around the stage.

Unfortunately, it broke on the night we were there. True to the adage, the show went on with the cast improvising but it did remind you what previews are for.

And every so often you get a nice surprise. I always book tickets at Shakespeare’s Globe as early as I can as I know we always like to go once or twice a year. I never look beyond what the play is, as the Globe is pretty reliable entertainment. So a few years ago when Twelfth Night was part of the schedule I had no idea I was booking some of the hottest tickets that summer, with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry (as Malvolio) starring; I’m pretty sure if I’d waited for the casting announcement I would never have gotten hold of them. So while we are close enough to London to enjoy it, we are planning to keep this up as long as possible, which means I’d probably have to go and the check the usual websites for anything interesting that might be coming up on the distant horizon…

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