In the past I've never taken much pleasure from the 4.40am alarm call when I'm presenting Radio 3 Breakfast; getting up in what is still the middle of the night has until now always seemed a faintly unnatural act. Tomorrow however the steady bleep and flash of my mobile phone will be a reassuring sign that some normality has returned to my life after a strange and unexpected extension to my holiday in Zimbabwe.
You may have read about my difficulties and the subsequent misunderstanding which lead to me spending some time in police custody over there. I had travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, for the culmination of a big community project (outside of my Radio 3 work) organised in part by a charity of which I am a trustee. The event was a triumph; 500 children from dozen schools, mainly from Bulawayo's poorest area, the Western Suburbs, worked with a several UK based choral leaders, and composer Richard Sisson, culminating in a cantata championing the fate of Africa's 5 most threatened carnivores - Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Hyena and Wild Dog.
The vast cast performed magnificently, encouraged further by visiting artists including the Ferrier prize winning baritone Njabulo Madlala, the great inspirer and singer Mary King, and the terrific flautist Juliette Bausor. It was a thrilling event. The days that followed, in police custody, provided much time for thought, and, once transferred to hospital, opportunities for discussion about future projects. I look forward to returning soon and playing a small role in facilitating even wider access to the joys and disciplines of music.
There were several occasions during my unexpected week when I had access to Twitter and email, and it was very uplifting to find so many messages of support from you, my Radio 3 listeners, and for that my greatest thanks. As anyone who has visited Africa knows, the continent rises early. The main hospital visiting hours were 6 - 6.30am; one friend woke me even earlier than that on my birthday, clutching an enormous chocolate cake. Maybe the return to early starts won't be so hard after all.
Petroc will return to BBC Radio3 Breakfast Tuesday 5th June.