(from my memoir ‘to Paris for lunch’)
Being so in love, that you can’t eat, sleep or think, was not easy. Not for myself and definitely not for my friends.
I had no appetite and lost weight, I could hardly concentrate on work; I totally lost myself. I was not interested in anybody but Sebastian. I had no time for my friends in London and wrote endless letters to my friend in Dusseldorf describing our romance in detail, but forgot to ask her how she was. I became completely selfish and obsessed.
Straight after the season finished in Glyndebourne I flew to Munich, met Sebastian and together we drove in his car through Austria and the Dolomites, where he had a house in a little village near Bolzano. This was an unforgettable journey. The views of the countryside were breathtakingly beautiful.
Approaching the mountains, he knew of a lake where we stopped for lunch. It was a very hot day and the cool dark water of the lake looked so inviting. Sebastian smiled and to my surprise suddenly took off all his clothes and with one loud scream and splash, jumped into the lake. This was too good an opportunity to be missed, so I did the same. I am sure that my heart stopped beating for a minute when I hit the freezing water. Luckily Sebastian swam straight towards me to warm me up…
We arrived late at his house and if I remember rightly, it was once a small hotel that belonged to his family for several generations. It had thick walls and beautiful old-fashioned French windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling. There were stone floors and marble tiles; old wooden beds and heavy feather duvets; a grand piano and books – books were stacked up everywhere. The old kitchen had an Aga and copper pots hanging from the walls. This was a real house, not like the little houses I had lived in in England, with thin walls and electric meters, which one had to fill with fifty pence coins to switch on the electricity.
He had employed builders to fix the roof and sometimes went up to check progress. One day, he asked me to climb up as well. I sat down carefully on top of the slate tiles and took it all in. The view was incredible. In front of me was the picturesque village with all its rooftops and when I turned around I saw the beginning of the mountain range of the Dolomites. It could not have been more perfect. I stayed up there for a long time; I felt as if it was a dream I did not want to wake up from.
The kitchen of Sebastian’s house was huge and had a long wooden table in the centre of the room. The roofers would arrive early in the morning and Sebastian would get up to let them in and make coffee for everybody. There was fresh bread from the next-door bakery and the house would become a noisy, busy place. I loved it and instead of seeing all these builders sitting around the long kitchen table drinking coffee and grappa, I pictured a big family; I saw children laughing and fighting and me preparing their breakfast.
The movie that began in Glyndebourne continued here in Italy. Come to think of it, it seemed like a very good life; a handsome, talented man that I was completely in love with, who came with a house that was enormous and beautiful; situated in the most stunning part of northern Italy. Every normal twenty-four year old would have thought she’d won the lottery and would have done anything to get that ring on her finger pretty damn quickly.
But no, not this girl! After a few months of this idyllic life I realised that I was just not yet ready to live in a small village in Italy and settle down. I decided to go back to England to work things out for myself under much protest and many frustrating arguments with Sebastian. But strangely, I really missed my unpredictable life in England; it had become my home and I loved the freedom and the opportunities that were waiting for me back in London.
So I followed my heart once again and came back.