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Last Sunday we had the second – and last – performance of the school play for the Third – and last – Course. It went really well, and I’m truly happy and proud of ‘my’ pupils and the work we’ve done together. The’re a fine group. I’ll miss them.

That said, of the whole hectic, glittering week, there is one moment that I want to remember, the sort of thing that, when it happens, makes you stop and think that “Oh, how book-like!”

It happened on Saturday evening, a good hour before curtain-up. We were on the stage, moving about the bench that doubled as a fridge, a shelf, and an apple tree (no, really), to fix a couple of changing hitches that had happened during dress rehearsal. There was a handful of us, traipsing around the stage, lugging about the damn thing – which is awfully heavy, by the way – and discussing changes, so I have no clear idea of quite how we came to discuss opera…

“Oh – you too, then!” Patrizia exclaimed, with the delight of one discovering a fellow opera-lover. “But… Verdi or Puccini?”

Because in Italy, if you have even the remotest interest in opera, you must be either a Verdi or a Puccini person. I am neither, strictly speaking, and explained that, while my very favourite opera in the world is Verdi’s Don Carlo(s), I may, on the whole, prefer Puccini’s music–

It was enough: Patrizia, an ardent Puccini person, took it as a token of fellowship, and launched into raptures over Turandot and La Bohème. Remember, we were still on the stage, still twiddling with the bench… Well, in no time at all Patrizia was singing Mi Chiamano Mimì, and Giuseppe was joining her, and then Benedetta, and then I… Matilde, being very young, only stared at us, uncertain whether she should be bemused, amused, or annoyed at the antics of her elders…

And for a moment I saw us from outside: a bunch of people on a half-ready stage around a bench stood on its side with apples hanging from its legs (no, really!), cheerfully singing opera before the empty audience…

Oh, how book-like!

And then Benedetta (my own Sarge) remembered that we didn’t have all that time, and we’d better get back to business, and so we did, and finished things with the bench, and then pushed it in the wings where it would wait to be brought on, and closed the curtain before any early member of the audience arrived, and off we went to our various tasks, with curtain up looming larger and larger.

Life around the stage, as usual – but that small, joyful, oh-so-book-like Puccini moment, will remain with me.