Rules are rules!

(From my memoir ‘to Paris for lunch’)

Excuse me, but you cannot smoke in here!‘ I heard myself saying to an older man, who was leaning against one of the cutting tables.

We were in the new wardrobe department of Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It was the beginning of the lunch break and we were alone in this vast room. I heard my voice loud and clearly. He looked at me completely shocked, but I stood my ground like a good little German girl. Rules are rules!

He slowly put his unlit cigarette down, shook his head and said calmly: ‘Do you know who I am?’

‘No, but I know that you can’t smoke in here!’
I pointed at the ‘no smoking’ sign that had just been put up. Since Glyndebourne reopened its doors after millions were spent on rebuilding the Opera and its facilities, health and safety guidelines were carefully put in place everywhere.  Everything still smelled new and I was proud to be working in such an amazing place.

I looked at him closely and studied him. He had short grey hair and round glasses. He was slightly bent over, but still looked cheeky like a young boy. I felt I should have known him; I started to blush, but I continued to insist.

‘You cannot smoke here in the wardrobe, all these fabrics are worth a lot of money and we are working on ‘Rakes Progress’. These costumes were designed a long time ago by a world famous artist and they are invaluable!’


He looked at me in disbelief. He started to smile and to my surprise, instead of arguing his point, took his satchel and said: ‘Okay’, and walked past me and out of the door, still smiling. Ignoring his smile, I felt like I had succeeded and defended my territory.

After the lunch break, I walked back upstairs to our machine room triumphantly. But entering the room I felt everybody looking at me and stopped talking as soon as they saw me. Then, breaking the silence, Kathy whispered to me, ‘Pamela wants to see you immediately!’

Being summoned to the manager’s office made me feel less sure, less triumphant.

‘I had a complaint about you!’ she said seriously, ‘from a very well known and world famous artist!’

I froze; I started to explain, stuttered, and then I saw her smiling and I stopped talking.

‘Did you not know that this was David Hockney?  You told David Hockney not to smoke! And these are his costumes we are working on. Thank God he has a sense of humour, he thought you were very amusing!’




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