One of the lesser-known facts about Turkmenistan is that residents there get free gas and electricity. I've just discovered something about Santiago that, if it gets out, might result in making it one of the most populous cities in the world.
I've just come in from a performance of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, dismissed by the noted musicologist Joseph Kerman as 'that shabby little shocker', a wonderful expression and no mistake. Love it or hate it, Tosca has gorgeous music and, if well-sung, will be an unforgettable evening. Elisabete Matos, Alfred Kim and Sergei Leiferkus made sure it was the latter but it was what I discovered in the two intervals that made my jaw drop: I was wandering over to the refreshments table to get a glass of wine when I noticed that turnover was brisk; people were approaching and leaving incredibly quickly. Then I find out why: the glasses of wine lined up on the counter were...free. Yes: Eff, Are, Ee, Ee. Not only does this city provide you with the best opera singers in the southern hemisphere but it plies you with free local wine during its two intervals (one more than any other house, except when they're doing Wagner). That, in any sensible person's book, is reason enough to go home and inform the family that you're upping sticks and moving to Chile.
So now I'm sitting on my bed, tapping out words which will never be read by anyone I know, watching CNN in Spanish and generally enjoying life, as I always do anyway, but that's by the by. Skype means I can speak to and see Mrs. F and the Fingernails and that alone is worth its weight in gold. The inventer of Skype deserves a medal for services to society; the ability to see and speak to your family every day, free of charge, when you're on the other side of the world is beyond valuation and has probably already helped many a travelling businessman to retain a cool head whilst away from his loved ones. It'd be interesting to run a survey on that, actually; any takers?
Joseph Kerman did have a point; Tosca is a bit Tack-Ola, but if he'd care to head over to Santiago any time soon (born in 1924 but yes, he's still alive) I'd happily try to take his mind off the events on stage with a couple of gratis glasses of this august country's finest red...