Sunday 15 September 2019

The case of the absent hedgehog

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It's all gone a bit CSI in mum's road. The hedgehogs have disappeared. No-one really knows why, although some are casting suspicious glances at one particular house. There's talk of poison. Rat poison. Not a deliberate act - well, not targeted at the hedgehogs - but a feeling that careless anti-rat sentiment has caught the hogs in friendly fire. It's more than likely: low levels of hedgehog literacy mean they're unlikely to read the warning notices. Even if they do, they may inadvertently snack on slugs that have eaten rat bait but aren't affected by the poison. That's spectacularly bad luck for the slugs, I reckon. But back to the matter in hand. A few weeks ago, mum and her neighbours had a regular dusk visit from two or three hedgehogs. The visitors would enjoy a gentle supper and a quick drink of water before moving on. Now... nothing. At the same time, one of the residents talked about waging chemical warfare against the rodents on their property. There's a suggestion of neighbours planning a 'casual' visit to see whether rodenticide has turned into a broader extermination; whether any attempt was made to keep the poison away from Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Pricklepants and Sonic. After all, there's a legal requirement to protect wildlife from poison you put down for pests. Interestingly, the RSPCA's advice is to deter rats and mice through some simple property management. If that doesn't work, they say an effective traditional-style spring-loaded trap can do the job. It offers a quicker departure for the rats and, if the traps are properly set and placed, is much friendlier to everything else. Except, perhaps, the occasional human finger. And if that happened, it certainly wouldn't need a detective to find out who was hunting the rats.

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Sunday 8 September 2019

Rudolf Bing at Glyndebourne

In 1934, Rudolf Bing was an experienced opera house manager who had recently lost his job in Germany as Nazi influence grew.

"The next couple of months were the darkest I knew", he later wrote in his autobiography '5000 Nights at the Opera'. But then he received "a most remarkable commission" from conductor Fritz Busch.

He was invited to help organise John Christie's new Mozart opera festival at Glyndebourne. Christie had built an opera house on his estate, contacting Fritz Busch who, in turn, had insisted he worked with artistic director Carl Ebert. Ebert and Busch organised some of the principal singers before approaching Bing to employ the rest of the performing company.

Photo of book '5000 Nights at the Opera'"Everything about this enterprise seemed crazy", wrote Rudolf Bing Working from his home in Vienna, he "managed to interest some excellent artists in the Glyndebourne project, largely, of course, because it involved working with Busch and Ebert". As the season approached, Rudolf Bing wanted to learn more about this curious English opera house. In May 1934 he decided to go on his own - "nobody said anything about paying my expenses" - leaving home in Vienna with his wife Nina, who stayed temporarily with her family in Paris while Rudolf took a ferry to Newhaven.

In his book, Rudolf Bing paints a vivid picture of those early days at Glyndebourne - and his later time as General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He talks of John Christie, his colleagues, the house and Christie's butler Childs. "On one of the first occasions that I was an overnight guest at Glyndebourne, Childs woke me with that abominable English custom, the early-morning tea, and said 'Breakfast is at eight-thirty, sir.' I said 'Good morning, Childs. What time is it now?' 'Nine o'clock, sir', he said."

A blue plaque remembering Sir Rudolf Bing can be found overlooking the Glyndebourne lawn, just round the corner from the box office.

Photo of Sir Rudolf Bing blue plaque at Glyndebourne

Sir Rudolf Bing blue plaque at Glyndebourne with busts of George Christie and Audrey Mildmay