Saddo abroad

Saddo abroad: August 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gillett's Gobs Of Advice: 3, The Work

So how come you have landed this fancy job in a far-off land? Well, as often as not you discover that they really wanted someone else but ended up with you instead. Don’t worry. Get over it. It’s how the world works. You’ll be amazed once you step onto mainland Europe just how many singers there are in the business, most of whom you have never heard of, all singing away and scratching a living.
Don’t let it daunt you. Just be thankful for the job you have and realise that it’s OK to be a small fish (that no-one has heard of) in a very big sea. You’re in good company and you must have done something right or you wouldn’t be here in the first place.
It also makes you realise that your paranoia that various casting directors “don’t like you” is almost certainly misplaced. They have a huge pool of people to choose from, most of whom are actually (like you) terribly good. The fact they don’t hire you isn’t personal. It simply means they already have a good supply of people they know and like.
We all need to be reminded from time to time that we’re all good at what we do. Sometimes things just don’t go our way, and that’s how it goes. Don’t dwell on it. Move on. Someone who used to be high up in Welsh National Opera’s administration once told me that casting often came down to whose file happened to be on top of the pile on a given day. That’s how random it can be.

British singers are well-liked and trusted abroad. We are considered very calm and professional, hard working and not prone to tantrums or funny tricks. In some cultures, the throwing of a “sickie” in order to do a job elsewhere is quite common (though it’s pretty dumb these days when you can find who’s singing what and where at the few clicks of a mouse) but Brits are considered to be too honest for those pranks. I’ve met many foreign directors who love the British school of acting. They think we are subtle, cunning, funny and willing to try anything. Our standard of musicianship is also very high and we have the reputation for being responsive to suggestions and ideas. We’re considered to be expert at performing difficult modern music.
All these assets count for a lot and have probably helped secure you the job in the first place, so make sure you are well-prepared and live up to the standard. Or else.

So you’ve got your role, quite probably small to start with, and you’re in a foreign opera house. What can you expect?
Well, most opera houses look pretty-much the same the world over. They have stage doors, corridors, rehearsal rooms, offices and stages. The French, instead of saying stage right and stage left (which are also
reversed as far as Brits are concerned in several countries), say Court and Jardin. I can never remember which is which and I’ve survived intact so don’t fret about it. German houses will often have one dressing-room corridor for men and another for women, sometimes on either side of the stage. I have no idea why. Some houses have fancy dressing-rooms with daybeds, pianos, TVs and en-suite bathrooms. Many decidedly do not. (I don’t recommend the loos in the otherwise beautiful Reggio Emilia opera house. A hole in the floor awaits you.) In the Teatro Reggio in Turin they hand you an allowance of loo roll on your first day. The Teatro Real in Madrid has an abundance of uniformed flunkies backstage who don’t seem to do anything at all except become agitated if you try and fetch yourself a glass of water.

It’s the people who really make an opera house and while the people who work in opera houses are generally jolly the world over they do tend to conform to a few national stereotypes.
German houses tend to be kunst factories, knocking out one show after another. The fest system does tend to ingrain a clock-in, clock-out mentality into a lot of contract singers. German opera houses are generally efficient places with well-run canteens serving German food but not filled with much joie-de-vivre. Many, except the top Stadt houses, do all their rep in German. You really need to speak German to get on in the German system.
Italian houses are everything you expect them to be: chaotic and crazy. It’s piss-up in a brewery time. There are swarms of people who probably inherited their job from a relative and who have very little to do except sit around and gossip. The volume of backstage chat during a show can be astounding. And yet for all the huge number of people working in the house, you can find it very difficult to speak to someone who can actually deal with a particular problem you’re having. Bring a lot of patience to Italy and smile at the chaos.
Spain and France are more organised, the latter prone to strikes and walk-outs. The French divide singers into Lyrique (singing over acting) and Comique (acting over singing) and can be a bit snotty about the latter. The Dutch and Belgians are laid back but efficient and generally very helpful.
American houses are by far the friendliest and most welcoming. Performers are treated with respect and politeness, though you are expected to return the compliment by attending large numbers of fund-raisers and social events where you rub shoulders with immensely wealthy patrons who know next to nothing about opera but whose pockets are deep.
Never swear in American opera houses. It is NOT done. Don’t wear perfume or aftershave either. A lot of houses have strict rules about these things.

Your first port of call is the company manager or artists’ liaison. Be nice to this person as your happiness can be in their hands. They usually speak English, though not always very well. Some will give you a welcome pack full of useful information about the house and the city. Some will not. The rule of thumb tends to be that the smaller the house the more helpful the company manager. Big houses often have several and they’ve seen it all. They’re hardly likely to be impressed by a squirt like you.
The other people you need to cultivate are the stage manager, the assistant director (if he or she is on the house staff) and the music staff. These are terribly important people and your relationship with them can make all the difference not only to your immediate work but to your career. They will also, in my experience, be the best people to talk to about local knowledge; where to eat, where to buy groceries, how the trams work etc. Often they can become your friends. (Many music staffers are also more than happy to earn a few extra quid on the side if you pay them to coach you on something you have coming up.)

Most houses plan their rehearsals on a day-to-day basis. You’ll be telephoned or emailed in the evening with the next day’s planning. If you’re doing a small role this can mean you end up with days and days of no rehearsal but without the luxury of being able to make any plans, let alone pop back home. It can be very, very frustrating, especially if you’ve had to turn down, say, a concert because you’ve been expressly told that the opera house cannot spare you any time at all and they won’t give you the NA. Don’t moan about it too much. It happens to us all.
Use the free days to sight-see, to do something you don’t always allow yourself the luxury of doing at home (for me it’s reading), to get some exercise, to learn your next role. You probably won't though. You’ll end
up doing what a lot of us do – getting up late and wasting the day doing sod-all.
It is usually stipulated that you can’t leave the city without permission to do so. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a day trip on a train but you should think twice before flying off anywhere without asking the company manager. Once the show has opened, presuming you have a couple of days off between performances, you can go further afield (though you’re still supposed to ask) but you will have to be back in the city the night before your next performance.
The Icelandic volcanic ash episode made it quite clear how you can’t casually assume that you are always able to get anywhere in Europe in an hour or two. I was performing in Amsterdam at the time of The Ash and had to spend all day on trains getting back to the Netherlands Opera from London in time for my next show. Our mezzo, trying to get there from Sweden, didn’t make it, losing thousands of pounds on cancelled flights as well as the fee for the show she missed. Between shows is a good time to go off and do some auditions for other houses, if you can get them, but don’t venture further than you can travel back with an alternative to flying. Just in case.

German houses usually rehearse in the morning and evening with the afternoon free. It can be a culture-shock and it is worth bearing in mind when booking your digs. You don’t want to make the mistake I made of having to spend all afternoon travelling back and forth to a dreary flat in the suburbs of Frankfurt from the opera’s equally dreary rehearsal space many miles away in another corner of the city. In Germany it pays
to live near the opera house.
Some houses have very flexible working hours and you can find that there’s just one rehearsal a day, say from midday to 5 pm with a long break in the middle. Very civilised. In smaller houses with a limited season and no other shows on the go you may find yourself rehearsing on stage almost from day one.
Rehearsals, particularly the further south you go, can be scatty and erratic. I’ve grown quite used to having pretty-well no direction at all. I have done whole productions where I have barely exchanged two words with the director. There’s a lot on this in Who’s My Bottom? My advice: bring lots of your own ideas. Don’t expect to be told anything apart from where to come on and where to go off. Be creative. They’ll love you for it and won’t hesitate in taking all the credit.
In Germany there’s every chance that production will be heavy on Konzept. There’ll be machine guns instead of swords, comedies will be played as tragedies and, god help us, someone will sing an aria into a mobile phone. In America everything will probably be very old-fashioned and literal and all the baritones will have regulation goatee beards. There are no hard-and-fast rules on this. Except the German bit.

As for conductors… there are some real doozies out there and many of them work in opera houses. In Italy I have experienced the strange phenomenon of the maestro (and do call them maestro, especially in the States) who won’t come to any staging rehearsals but who thinks everything can be sorted out in music calls.
It must be a hangover from the park-and-bark era where people didn’t really move much on stage; they just assumed a position near the front of stage and bellowed.
Again, don’t assume you’ll ever develop much of a working relationship with the conductor. Sometimes it happens and often it doesn’t. Many aren’t that much inclined to give you notes or discuss anything with you.
That’s the job of the music staff, in the bad conductor’s opinion. They may also insist on a prompter, in which case you have the joy of someone hissing words every few seconds, slapping the stage to keep time and generally being a nuisance bang in the middle of the front of the stage. If there is a prompter you won’t get any cues from the conductor. That’s not his job. His job is the orchestra. It’s seriously strange.

So, all-in-all it can be a thrilling, bumpy ride. Oh and just to make it even more interesting, in some houses the first night audiences are made up of über-wealthy subscribers who secretly hate opera but who love showing off their latest mistress/boyfriend/shoes/jewellery. You bust your balls trying to get them interested but they are simply not. Not unless you’re a household name. It can be seriously dispiriting when the patter of applause at the curtain call is drowned out by the sound of Porsches revving up outside the opera house doors.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gillett's Gobs Of Advice: 2, Logistics

Whenever I’m heading off on a foreign job, my friend Stan, a writer, asks me if I am being met with a limo at the airport and transported to a five star hotel.
Okay, okay, if the job is some concerts with a nice orchestra then there is a good chance you’ll be met and driven to a decent hotel (though, curiously, never in Berlin…) but opera is almost always a different beast and before you arrive in a new and unfamiliar city all most companies will do for you is tell you when and where your first rehearsal takes place. The rest is up to you.


This isn’t to say that opera houses won’t help you find digs. They will, but I find that I almost never use the proffered digs because they are usually much more expensive (but also much pokier) than digs I can find on the internet. This is something that has definitely changed since the birth of the internet, and massively for the better. 
Here’s a short extract from my book Who’s My Bottom? penned in the days before broadband and wifi. The prices are a little old; you can add 33% at least. I should also point out here that 99% of the time you will have to pay for your digs out of your own pocket.
If you imagine that all opera singers are wealthy camelhair coated, Rolex-wearing types who lead a plush existence in five-star hotels and chauffer-driven limos, then you already have most of the qualifications needed to become the landlord of a rented apartment in a foreign city. Say the words “opera singer” to anyone with whom you are going to perform a financial transaction and you can virtually hear the cash-register ker-chink ringing inside their heads, or see their eyes spin like the wheels on a one-armed bandit stopping on a line of cherries.
How it usually works is this: the opera house for which you are going to work will have a list of apartments available to rent for a couple of months - these are usually owned by people with connections to the theatre – and for which you personally will have to fork out quite incredible sums of money. You can find yourself in an apartment that a “normal” tenant would rent for £200 a month, albeit on a longer let, but for which you pay £1500. How do they get away with it? First, by keeping the price slightly lower than the cost of a hotel. Second, by knowing that it’s a Hobson’s choice. Most of the time you have no idea what the going rate is until you are well and truly committed.
Furthermore, you usually arrive at night-time, tired and laden with luggage, too grateful to have stopped travelling to exercise your best judgement on the comfort-to-cost ratio when surveying your new home, and it is usually not until 48 hours later that you start to realise that you have been well and truly ripped off. When you search in vain for a halfway decent kitchen knife or cheese-grater you realise that once again you’ve been duped; how naïve of you to expect these things when you’re handing over such vast wads of cash! Oh yes, and the owners of these places always want cash alright, strictly hush-hush and well before you’ve even smelled a pay cheque for the job in hand.
I once arrived in Lausanne on a cold November night and checked into what was a very comfy little apartment for which I was paying enough to put the entire Family Robinson through yodelling school. The only snag was that the phone didn’t seem to work and I couldn’t ring home to say I was safe and sound, nor could I connect my laptop so that I could e-mail. The ritual of getting satisfactorily connected up gives me perverse pleasure, and to prove it I have a small sack positively bulging with phone gizmos, adapters and cables, of which I am absurdly proud. I managed to contact the landlord the next day.
“Is everything alright? It’s a lovely apartment. Very desirable.”
Yes, fine, only I can’t get the phone to work.
“Phone?! No it is not connected. You want a phone??! Haven’t you got a cellphone?”
Well yes of course but the cost of international calls is prohibitive.
“Oh (thinking: but you are surely a camel-hair coated Rolex wearer who doesn’t give a toss about the cost of a phone-call), well in that case I’m going to have to rip you off even more and charge you another £100 to have a phone connected.” (Or words to that effect.)
Blimey (or words to that effect).

In the end, outraged by such tactics, I decided to manage without a landline and opted for a Swiss SIM card for my British mobile (to make incoming calls cheaper) and spent long hours in freezing phone booths talking to my children via cheap phone cards.
The same landlord, when it was time for me to leave ripped me off again.
“Have you arranged for the apartment to be cleaned after you leave?”
“I beg your pardon? I am very clean and I’ll hoover, strip the bed etc…”
“But when you leave a hotel someone cleans the room for the next person and I have someone arriving very soon”
“But surely the person who is leaving the hotel doesn’t pay a surcharge to have the room they are vacating cleaned?”
“No no, this is not correct. I am sorry but you will have to pay for a cleaning service!”….. and I ended up, fool that I am, coughing up the Swiss franc equivalent of £85. For that price I hope they polished the floors with wax rendered from the rarest Edelweiss. But I got my revenge by not stripping the bed and leaving the place just a little bit grubby. I also didn’t own up to the fact that a knob on the washing machine had broken off in my (ahem) vice-like grip and I’d bodged it back on really rather better than was necessary with some glue and a chunk of a chopstick. That showed him.


Recently my wife Lucy was working in Geneva. The opera’s list of digs mostly consisted of apartment hotels that cost over £3000 a month for a studio room. She found a large well-equipped flat for less than half the price by spending some time online.
Some points:
  • You can ask your agent to handle all your travel arrangements and digs but, frankly I think they have more important fish to fry, like finding you work. In my experience the fewer people that get involved the better; ultimately it is you who are going to live in the digs for two months so why not make the effort to find a place you like and can afford rather than risk the choice to someone else? You wouldn’t do it for a holiday so why do it for work?
  • Ask on Facebook for recommendations. Google “apartments for rent”. I often use and . Make sure you ask for a discount for a long stay. My top priorities are: location (make sure you can get back there after a show but I don’t see any real need to be within spitting distance of the theatre – just be near good public transport), internet access and laundry facilities. You’ll be living out of a suitcase for eight weeks so your wardrobe will be in the machine a lot.
  • Staying with friends and family will save you money but you’re in town to work and the hours you lead are often at odds with “civilian” hours. Relying on someone’s hospitality for two months can be the quickest way to lose friends.
  • Book your digs at least three months in advance. Don’t rush into a choice.
  • You will almost certainly have to pay a deposit in advance and you may have to pay for the full rental as soon as you arrive. That’s just the way it is.
  • Use Google Street-view to check out the area where you’re planning to stay. It’s amazing how much information you can pick up.
  • Keep in mind what your needs are going to be for the entire rental. If you’re planning to have friends or family over, make sure you have room. On the other hand, there’s no point in paying a fortune for a two-bedroom flat if it’s going to be just you for the whole time or if you think the odd visitor can actually make do on a blow-up bed for a couple of nights.

Very few houses will book your travel for you. Again it’s something you should do yourself rather than hand over to the agent (in my humble opinion). More and more houses these days offer a “global” fee, meaning that it’s up to you to get to their city and they won’t pay any travel expenses at all.
  • Don’t necessarily take the view that as the opera house is paying your airfare it doesn’t matter how much you spend on the ticket. In most cases they will tax the amount they reimburse you. So if you spend £200 on a flight they say they’re going to pay, chances are they will only give you £150 and hold back £50 in tax.
  • A lot of companies, especially in Italy and Spain, have a habit of saying your first rehearsal is on, say, a Monday and then at the eleventh hour, say the Friday beforehand, changing that to the Wednesday. There’s not much you can do about that, especially if you’ve booked a non-changeable flight and rented your apartment from the Monday. Either turn up too soon or fork out to change your plans. Don’t expect the opera house to give a shit.
  • Don’t travel to a city on the morning of your first rehearsal (unless, possibly, it’s an evening rehearsal). Give yourself time to move in, get acclimatised and get your bearings. First rehearsals are nerve-wracking enough and you need to make a good impression. You don’t want to sound like you’ve just been travelling for six hours.
  • Make sure you know where your first rehearsal is taking place. Don’t assume it will be a short stroll from the stage door. In Milan it will probably be the other side of the city. Do some homework to make sure you know where you’re going. First impressions are very important.


If you’re working in the EC (and some other counties), make sure you have your European Health Insurance card up-to-date but more importantly you need to apply for an A1 (used to be called an E101). I’m assuming you’re paying Class 2 National Insurance in the UK (£2 a week?). The A1 certifies that you are already paying NI and nine times out of ten you’ll need to hand an A1 to each foreign opera house for each job you do. It will prevent them deducting potentially whopping rates of social security from your fee.
Oh look! A thrilling but important link about this:

  • Your agent can prepare the paperwork for you but DON’T WHATEVER YOU DO sign a form which certifies that they can act as your agent on your behalf with the HMRC. It’s a common mistake. When HMRC says “agent” they mean “accountant”. If you sign the form you’ll suddenly find all your tax stuff is going to your agent, and neither of you wants that. Believe me. My agent prepares my A1 application forms, sends them to me so I can sign them and then I send them to HMRC.
  • DO THIS WELL IN ADVANCE. HMRC are hopelessly slow. I applied for an A1 in April for a concert in Berlin in May. I received it in August but luckily in this case the promoter didn’t need an A1 after all.
  • If you haven’t received the A1 by the time the job starts, don’t panic. The important thing is that the opera house gets it before the end of the job, when you’ll be paid.


  • If you’re not flying on Easyjet or Ryanair (but there’s every chance you are!) then do join frequent flyer programmes. Some day you may get lucky and find yourself flown business class on a few long haul flights (it does happen, especially to the far east) and you’ll quickly earn enough miles for free flights and upgrades. Hotel loyalty cards too. Think like a corporate lacky.
  • Get a non-commission credit card like this one . Most credit cards charge you hidden amounts of commission every time you use them abroad. The Post Office card is one of the few cards that doesn’t.
  • In the future you may have to consider getting a second passport. This is so you can submit one to an embassy for a visa and continue to travel for work on the other. There’s nothing dodgy about this though it’s unlikely to be hurdle you’ll have to jump for a few years.
  • If you do find yourself being booked for work in countries which require you to have a visa (USA, Australia, Japan, Russia…) then the employer will certainly have to help you, but you’ll probably have to buy the visa yourself. A US visa is about £200 by the time you’ve paid for all the bits and bobs. Time to turn to your agent for some help and expertise.
  • I’m an O2 customer. Before I go to Europe for any length of time I pay about £10 per month for the MyEurope bolt-on which cuts a fortune on roaming charges.  Incoming calls cost me nothing and Lucy (and anyone on O2) can call me for free on my mobile. I’m sure every mobile company has a similar package. Worth setting up before you go. I have in the past bought local SIMs and stuck them in a second phone but I don’t think it’s worth it any more.
  • Why not enrol for the IRIS programme? It can save hours.

Next post will be about THE WORK (though reading Who’s My Bottom? will give you a pretty comprehensive insight into that…)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gillett's Gobs Of Advice: 1, Getting Started Abroad

I’ve promised to hand out of gobs of knowledge to the young singers who attended British Youth Opera’s career advice day (and also to those who didn’t) so if you’ve come to the blog today hoping to read about, say, barmy tenors, pancakes or train journeys you’ll be bitterly disappointed. You might learn a thing or two though. Some of this is stuff I said at the seminar, some of it is new.


Getting work abroad in the first place is pretty difficult unless you have an agent. Well, that certainly always used to be the case, but it is feasible that you can simply contact the casting department at most opera houses and see if they’ll give you a general audition. And who knows what might happen next? Certainly it shouldn’t put you off because for all the auditions you do that provoke no response whatsoever, you will possibly do one that has someone in the stalls thinking “Eureka!”
Very few casting directors will give you feedback, though there are some who will tell you exactly what they think straight afterwards while you’re still gasping and trembling in the wings.
Some companies send people to London to hear singers, but not so much these days, and if they do you can bet that the agents have all their time pretty-well sewn up.
My first work abroad didn’t come as a result of auditions. It came from British-based directors and conductors asking for me to be hired by foreign companies for their productions. And that would be true for many singers I know.
If you want to work abroad then your best bet is probably baroque repertoire (especially if it’s in English) and modern British music from Britten onwards. There are a lot of foreign companies who recognise the need to have Britten operas in their repertoire but who aren’t entirely comfortable with casting them. They know who would be best for, say, Verdi, but not for Britten. I once found myself helping a Franco-Russian director in Rome cast “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. All he could see was a list of British names but I knew which ones would be good for the piece and which ones wouldn’t. If you go to a foreign house and try and sell yourself as a Nemorino, you’re up against singers from every corner of the earth who are also selling themselves as Nemorino. If you sell yourself as a Novice (from Billy Budd), you’ve narrowed down the competition by a massive margin. So bear that in mind when you choose your rep and when you’re thinking about what it is you are trying to achieve by auditioning in the first place.
Unless you have a Green Card I wouldn’t think about auditioning for American companies at the outset. The visa issues are immense. US opera companies won’t generally consider hiring you unless it’s for a starring role or something very specialised for which they can’t use one of their own, and even those roles are extremely rare. The unions are very strict about keeping American work for American singers. You will probably find that your first work in the States is as part of a visiting company on tour. Though, just because I can, I will enlighten you in future posts about some of the joys and pitfalls of working there. It’ll be fun!

On the one hand singing opera abroad can be exciting and thrilling, but on the other it can be soul-destroying, lonely and miserable. There’s no escaping this and I’d be deceiving you if I didn’t make this clear. If you are a travel junkie like me (and I use the word “junkie” advisedly) it presents enormous possibilities. You can truly immerse yourself in another culture for a significant amount of time, visit fantastic museums at your leisure, buy food at wonderful markets… always remembering though that you are there to work and you may find that all you actually want to do at the end of a day’s rehearsals is buy a frozen pizza and slob out in front of the TV. You wouldn’t be alone. It’s what a lot of singers do. More on that later.
There’s no doubt about it: singing abroad is generally good for you domestic career. Apart from the fact that it gives you a certain amount of kudos, learning and performing a role away from the acid gaze of the London critics can be very useful. What can be better than bringing a role home that you’ve conquered abroad?
The fees abroad are generally much higher than at home. I’ve been paid four times what I get at ENO for the same role. But don’t let the size of the fee fool you into thinking you have struck it rich. More on that later too. Besides, I’m afraid the recession is hitting everywhere and fees are shrinking the world over. More good news eh?

That’s it for this gob. Next time I’ll be writing about LOGISTICS. Thrilling stuff, but which comes to occupy your every waking moment once you are climbing the greasy pole. Believe me.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hardy's dog

Thomas Hardy lived outside Dorchester in a house called Max Gate. He often entertained famous guests to lunch, many of whom were surprised to see the great author share his meal with his pets. Most notable of his animals was his terrier Wessex who would climb on the lunch table and snatch food from visitors. He was also famously vicious. Wessex is buried in the garden of the house, which is where I caught up with him just a couple of weeks ago.

CG: Hello!
Wessex: Morning guvnor. Where to? Just so long as it's not south of the river.
CG: I beg your pardon?
Wessex: Sorry, sorry. Later incarnation of me messing with the psychic ectoplasmic thingamybob. Yeah, after I died, I was reborn as a London cabbie. Not many people know that.
CG: Interesting.
Wessex: Yeah. If was you I wouldn't go round the other side of the garden. All dug up innit. Go the long way around from the other side. Might seem like it's longer but it'll take the same time. Honest.
CG: Oh OK. I was hoping to ask you about some of the people that came to Max Gate.
Wessex: Oh, yeah, well, I seen them all haven't I? You watch the football last night? Oh deary deary me.
CG: Uh no, missed it. Um, the famous people?
Wessex: Oh yeah. Well, that A E Housman, I bit him a couple of times.
CG: You bit him?
Wessex: Oh absolutely mate. I've bitten all the greats I have. Yeah, Housman, Siegfried Sassoon, Rudyard Kipling, er... Robert Louis Stevenson, Marie Stopes, George Bernard Shaw...
CG: You bit George Bernard Shaw?
Wessex: Oh yeah. Irish tosser, pardon my french. I was on the table as I always was and there was this beardy git yacking on and on, and all I wanted was a sausage...
CG: But Shaw was a vegetarian. He wouldn't have had a sausage.
Wessex: Well, yeah, I know that NOW but at the time I thought he was just being a stingy bastard didn't I? So I bit him. On the hand as I recall. That shut him up. Yeah. Who else? Gustav Holst. Sounded a bit dodgy to me. German. Well he didn't sound German but his name was German and that was good enough for me. Bloody Germans, coming over here, stealing all our sausages...
CG: Who else did you bite?
Wessex: Mrs Patrick Campbell. She was lovely. Tasted of violets. Oh and Virginia Wolf. Another one that went on and on and on. Scrawny cow though. My teeth went straight through to the bone. That James Barrie, he was tasty. Robert Graves too. Ah, now, wait though. I'll tell you who I never bit and that was that T E Lawrence. You know, the one from Arabia? Yeah there was something about him. He was always willing to give me his sausage. A real gent. So I didn't bite him. Didn't say much though. Much shorter than he looked in pictures. Yeah whoever caused that accident wot killed him should be strung up if you ask me. Only language they understand. And I'll tell you something else for free: what happened to national service? Eh? That's wot I want to know.
CG: Well this has been fascinating, but I must go.
Wessex: Right that'll be seventeen quid. Mind if I drop you here? Can't get any closer.
CG: Er...
Wessex: Shit, sorry. Bloody ectoplasmic whotsitsname.
CG: Thanks very much.
Wessex: Cheers mate. Mind how you go.