When Opposites Attract

'Opera is the ultimate melding of words, music, theatre and song; or, opera is adopted by people in mid-life who have lost their religion'
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The Independent Online

Today, I am beginning a new advice column, of a kind never attempted before. It is based on the simple principle that when people ask for advice, they know, deep down, the advice they hope to get. So to each problem we will offer two opposed and conflicting answers. That way you are bound to get at least the solution you really want.

Today, I am beginning a new advice column, of a kind never attempted before. It is based on the simple principle that when people ask for advice, they know, deep down, the advice they hope to get. So to each problem we will offer two opposed and conflicting answers. That way you are bound to get at least the solution you really want.

Do you get the idea?

Well, I'm sure you will as soon as we kick off our first session of "Opposite Options"!

I have never been to an opera, and have now been invited to Covent Garden. Should I go?

a) Yes, yes, yes! Opera is the ultimate melding of words, music, dance, theatre and song. By immersing yourself in this unique art form, you will sense for the first time what a complete experience art can be. But go to the loo first – some of the acts can be very long.

b) No, no, no! Opera is music for people who don't like music, and theatre for people who don't like theatre. Have you ever met an opera-goer who liked music enough to play an instrument? We thought not. Opera is something adopted by people in mid-life who have lost their religion but have found a need for ritual and pomp. It is the nearest thing to Mass that non-Catholics will ever have. Opera is for losers. If you must go, take a hip flask; some of the acts can be very long.

I am now in my fifties, and will very soon be approaching the threshold of old age. How do you advise facing up to this?

a) The crucial thing is not to give in to the feeling that you are getting old. Once you start thinking old, you will be on the last downward stretch to the grave. So the important thing is to keep active, keep doing all the things you did before, and not to surrender to the expectations of old age. Some of our finest artists did their best work in old age, which they would never have done if they had listened to people telling them to take it easy and take up bowls! Keep telling yourself that retirement is just another word for relaunching!

b) The crucial thing is not to pretend that you are still young and that you can do everything that you did before. Old age is littered with the crippled corpses of people who refused to admit they were growing old. Nothing is more ridiculous than the sight of geriatric jivers. The paradoxical thing is that by slowing down now, you are likely to last the pace better.

I have lived in London for 20 years and am increasingly tempted to move out into the countryside, as so many of my contemporaries have. I grew up in the country, so I think I could handle it. But do you think I would regret it?

a) Yes. It is almost invariably fatal to leave the bright lights of London behind. The buzz goes out of life, culture dies, and your mental horizons shrink as your physical horizons increase. Your friends living in the country will never admit this, because it would mean admitting they had done the wrong thing, but by moving to the country, you do not become a country person – you simply become a displaced Londoner in exile. Here's a simple test. Ask one of your country friends how many picnics they have had this summer. We would be very surprised if it was even one. And if you can't have a picnic in the country, what on earth is the point of the place? The countryside is full of ex-Claphamites wishing that they could get back on the London property ladder.

b) No. As soon as you get into the countryside, you revert to natural rhythms of living, and your life expectancy shoots up. Don't believe all that claptrap about the pace of life in London being so fast. Have you ever looked at the speed of traffic in London? Everyone in London seems hectic because they're late for something! The country is the only place where you set out for somewhere at the last moment and still arrive on time! Oh, and don't tell your London friends this, but you're never further than 10 minutes from the nearest Sainsbury's...

Is aromatherapy really any good?

a) No.

b) Yes.

"Opposite Options" will be back soon!

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