You'd almost get the impression I was having a good time at the minute, wouldn't you ?

(Before I get too far into this, it looks as if my site's broken at the moment if you try to get into it via www.jasonbstanding.com – one of the hamsters exploded and things aren't quite running as usual, however the site's available on http://www.glenosmondscoutgroup.asn.au/~jstanding still… Hopefully everything will be back to “normal” soon!)

How's this for a lineup: Wednesday night Richie, Hilary and I went to see the Sondheim musical masterpiece “A Sunday In The Park With George“. It didn't have Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters and Brent Spiner in it like the oroginal Broadway version, but it was chock-full of Sondheim's amazing lyrical gymnastics, and a pretty inventive design – most of the scenery was images projected onto white walls; a fact which you almost copletely forgot until the show finished and it went back to stark white.

Thursday I toddled off to Marseille to catch up with Nick, Kelly, Una, and the French girls – Elisa, Julia and Yvane. The first night we had a bloody marvellous dinner (I had something called Carpaccio de Boeuf, which was effectively really thinly sliced raw beef with slices of parmesan, and it was deeeeeeeeeeeeeee-licious !), and then went & caught up with Victor in some out of the way bar, where we drank nasty cheap student booze (think of a mojito, but more viscous and with extra lighter fluid) until our brains cried out “stop!”.

Friday we never made it to the beach, cos we were too busy enjoying a sumptuous lunch of fresh baguettes, jambon, fromage, poivrons, et the atmosphere of Marseille. Friday night we jumped in the cars and headed 30km out of town to Patrick's country house for yet another blindingly good feast and a convivial night of chattering and relaxing with good wine & good company. Unfortunately Yvane couldn't make it because of work, but Elisa, Julia, Victor, Laurent, and Xavier were there… always a pleasure to hang out with such a cool crew.

Saturday saw Kelly & Una's departure for Italy, and Nick & I spent the evening at Julia's housewarming party. Luckily, unlike last time, I'd managed to avoid having to help Julia shift house. She seems to have a thing for living on the 6th floor of buildings. It would have been about 6000 degrees up there, but we soldiered on with only our trusty bottles of champagne and beer to assist us. I still can't speak any bloody French of course, but managed to battle through OK. It was really cool to catch up with Charlotte, Audrey & Seb again too… well, not that we really communicated in any way, but I remembered what they looked like from last time.

On Sunday Nick shot through to Vienna, and the challenging part of the trip began – leaving me unsupervised in France. Once again though, Elisa to the rescue – we hooked up with Julien and met Charlotte down at the beach. Ordinarily I'm not a tremendous fan of the beach, but I guess 2 years in London without sighting a decent beach got the better of me and I donned the Olympic Marseille shorts to head out for a paddle. Mon dieu ! How awesome !! We finished up with a trip back to Henry's Bar (near Julia's) for the inevitable watching of the France-Korea game. And once again, the football proved to be a much-needed crutch for my ailing Franco-linguistic abilities. Yes siree, as with in most settings, if you've got nothing to say then faking an interest in the local ballsport of choice will see you through.

Monday morning I headed back to work (reluctantly), and managed to pull through a whole day without bursting into tears pining for the south of France, and was rounded out nicely by my inaugural trip to possibly the poshest place I've been yet – The Royal Opera at Covent Garden, for La Nozze di Figaro. You've got to hand it to little Wolfgang – for a bloke who was born in 1756, he managed to crack out an opera which was based around a number of themes which are just as relevant today. Namely: adultery, jealousy, mistrust and climbing the social ladder.

You really know when you're watching some of the finest opera in the world though (he says, not knowing a damn thing about opera) – I'm convinced they perform with no amplification, and let me tell you, those voices really filled the space ! Also, the scenery was the most exquisite I've ever seen in any kind of production, anywhere. I was frequently distracted by the 18th century costumes, because ever since watching A Bit of Fry and Laurie I've had this obsession with finding people dressed like that wearing a wristwatch. Guess you had to be there.

I think The Marriage of Figaro is the closest thing you'll get to “pop opera”, because so many of the tunes are hummable and well known. Certainly not singable, unless you're familiar with the Italian libretto… thankfully though there were what are apparently called surtitles – interesting, given that they appear above the stage. Perhaps “supertitles” would be more applicable ?

What to do next…?