Over the past weekend I should have emerged back into the real world once more after my retreat into creative endeavours. This was not a full-scale return but more a dip in the water, a brief reappearance before disappearing once more for a couple of months.

Of course, the world has changed since those plans were made, but it struck me on Friday evening as I sat through a favourite old series that I should really have been standing in front of a group of singers in Anghiari in the middle of the first rehearsal for the Maratona. This rehearsal normally takes place at the end of a day that has seen an early flight out to Italy followed by a couple of hours in a very hot minibus and, just maybe, a glass or two of the local red.

It can be hot and hard work for all concerned, but I missed it very much indeed on Friday night, that camaraderie and companionship and sense of all working together to pull off something spectacular on a minimum of rehearsal, and I also felt a distinct pang because our friends and colleagues in Anghiari must be going through some very difficult times indeed. Worse still, it is not as though we can all get together in July for the Festival and share stories of how we came through this, for that has been cancelled as well.

The earliest we shall be back together looks like being the Maratona next year, which is a full twelve months away and feels a very long way off indeed, but it will certainly be very special when it does take place. Absence and the heart and fondness and all that.

So I consoled myself with some Barbera d’Asti on Friday evening, but felt a little sad all weekend, especially on Sunday evening when we should have been performing the concert itself after our efforts of the previous two days. There might have been a little Barbera then as well, if truth be told.