it'll be great. Fine music. Fine wine"...I heard myself trying
to convince the other half as we pulled into Henley amidst a torrential
was a good turnout at the Festival on Thursday night, even though
dark clouds and strong winds threatened to spoil everyone's fun.
well as the music, there are art galleries and sculptures to enjoy
- including one of a full-size naked woman lying on the grass (click
picture gallery to see more!)
numerous restaurants (of varying prices) where you can sip champagne
in this idyllic setting alongside the Thames.
of the seating is in front of the grandstand in deckchairs which
are, worryingly, not under cover.
we took to our seats and marveled at the dark clouds overhead, a
very kindly gentleman from Row H offered us two grandstand tickets
as two of his companions had failed to turn up.
very smug indeed, the other half and I climbed the steel steps into
the grandstand, passing ex-BBC Director General Greg Dyke on the
here we had a fabulous view of the floating stage where Dame Kiri
was to perform. The stage is on the Thames, but to say it's 'floating'
is a bit of a misdemeanour. It is clearly anchored down very firmly
to be able to cope with the full Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on
it and it doesn't bob about or anything.
Kiri, resplendent in a turquoise spangly dress and shawl, thrilled
the crowd with classical numbers from Handel, Vivaldi, Verdi and
Puccini accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
if you're not an opera buff (which I am not) there's something a
bit special about listening to such wonderful music in this tranquil
setting - swans floating by on the river, the blue and white stripey
canopy of the grandstand willowing in the wind (OK, gale) and the
constant trail of boats mooching up and down the river.
of the funniest moments for me must have been when a crew from Henley
Dragonboats rowed past, just as Dame Kiri finished a set to rapturous
applause. It's certainly the best reception the rowers have ever
Festival really is one of those very British occasions where you
see the bizarre sight of women in full evening wear, wearing wellies
and rain hats. You can't help but get into the spirit of it when
you're there, and you know what they say, if you can't beat them?