Now listen very carefully; I need your help. At the very least, you should acknowledge the huge effort it has cost me to resist appending the words "I shall say this only varrrrrnce" to my opening statement. Anyway, if it gets to the end of August and I have spent two misery-sodden evenings sitting outside in the cold, the rain and the raging gale, one of you is to take me to one side and read me, slowly and patiently, the following pre-prepared statement:
"You do this every year, and you are a fool. Each April, after an unseasonably warm few weeks during which you have got over-excited and decreed it to be summer, you get a letter from Heartbreak Productions, you know, the people who do the really good outdoor theatre. You forget that in July and August you do not have to go to work, and therefore the weather is always unspeakably foul during these months, offering little but constant drizzle and continually prompting you to wonder whether it would be extravagant to put the heating on. Having forgotten this, you book tickets for whatever lovely productions they are doing - and this year it was two of your favourites, wasn't it, Pride and Prejudice and The Taming of the Shrew. You stood no chance. And yet, shouldn't you have paid that extra two pounds (two pounds!) for covered seating, just in case?. Well, too late now - just make sure you learn a valuable lesson for next year."
Please make sure that last bit is read in a really FIRM voice, preferably with a cross face so that I really take notice. I have written before of the sheer brilliance of the Heartbreak team - they are talented beyond belief, and one of them is often very good-looking as well (the cast varies from year to year), but they do not always bring good weather with them. We have in truth often been lucky with the weather, apart from an embarrassingly miserable evening when I took a Spanish friend to see Twelfth Night and it hammered it down - we struggled on until half time, but when the contents of our glasses had reached a ratio of half pink wine, half rainwater, it really was time to go.
Full details of this year's programme are on the Heartbreak website - both P & P (I have already started work on my "I love you, Mr Darcy" banner, in the hope that he will be this year's good-looking one) and The Taming of the Shrew are on at Didsbury's Fletcher Moss Park in August. They are also doing Pinocchio at Wythenshawe Park, but as my friend's nephews, whom we borrow as a pretext for attending such things, are now getting a little too old to be so easily manipulated, we haven't booked for this one. This is worth you knowing, as the weather will be fine and sunny for these performances; if you're alongside me during P & P, ruminating sadly on your soggy quiche, then please accept my apologies. Perhaps next year, you'll learn a valuable lesson and book the covered seating...