Franco’s Swan Song

For the last two years, Frank’s been thinking and talking about retiring his clown Franco Bassetti. Being a clown on the street is hard physical work and some of it didn’t agree anymore with Frank’s ageing bones. Last summer when we came back to Cardiff, we heard that the Welsh National Opera were planning to resurrect a 20 year old production of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, in celebration of the Opera’s 70th birthday. They were looking to employ as many from the original cast as possible, and Frank got his place as a clown in the clown troupe.

We came back to Cardiff in April this year, in time for the 6 week rehearsal period. I was not allowed to know anything about it, other than the fact that Frank came home completely drained of energy on rehearsal days. So it was with great anticipation that I went to the dress rehearsal last week. I was completely bowled over by the beauty of his performance. Ok, it’s a nice piece in itself too and the others were doing pretty well too, with a great chorus and exceptional principal singers, but in my view, Franco stands out above all others.

Despite the fact that his part has been toned down several times so as not to pull focus from the singers, Franco still shines. He doesn’t need to do much, his presence and way of moving captures the eye as soon as he enters the stage. He’s like a butterfly and compared to him, everyone else seems glued to the ground.

Ok., maybe I’m biased, but do go and see it if you can, see if I’m right – they have a couple more performances in Cardiff and two in Birmingham! This may well be the last time you can see Franco.



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We’ve found a great place to park our Emma, pretty much in the centre of Cardiff on a quiet car park near the beautiful Bute Park.


We’ve joined a leisure centre that has a UV treated swimming pool with very little chlorine in it, a jacuzzi and steam room, plus the offer of daily Yoga or Pilates classes. Frank goes off to work in the mornings (and the progress of Cav & Pag is shrouded in complete secrecy; I haven’t got a clue what’s going on and am really looking forward to the performance at the end of the month), I get out my violin and practice for an hour or two and if the weather is nice, I go busking by the nearby pedestrian bridge that leads into the park.


The air hangs heavy with the smell of tree blossoms – horse chestnut and lime are in full bloom – and the well maintained flower beds are bursting with all sorts of tulips. Spring is here!


I’ve spent some time in Cardiff before, in the 2 years before we got married, but it was always on and off, going up and down between Totnes and Cardiff like a yoyo. This time, I wanted to spend a block of time in Cardiff, followed by a block of time in Totnes, so that I could really connect with the place and its people. I like living here in a van, in fact I prefer it to being in a house. I like the direct connection with the outside, the light feel of our surrounding walls, the gentle sway of the van when we move around in it, the compact space and the warmth as soon as we light the fire in the stove. I like foraging for wood – there is plenty of it in the parks – and snuggling up in our super comfy bed to watch a film on the computer.

I’m running a 7 week long Tango course in St. Catherine’s church hall and on Sundays I have access to the studio in Frank’s house to teach private lessons. On Monday nights we often join the local dancers at Barocco, a pub in town where Chris and Francesca run a little Milonga.

We’ve had various friends of Frank’s come round for dinner and and been able to catch up with their news, and on Saturdays we tend to meet up with Frank’s daughter Zoe and her daughter Eva, either to go swimming together or to share a meal. Here’s a photo of Eva making a den in Emma:


On most days we spend some time catching up with internet stuff at the Café of the bustling Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been helping both my girls with applications for various things – jobs and funding – and through this been able to connect with where they are at. It’s great to see them taking life in their hands, making changes and using opportunities.

All these positive things and above all Frank’s support, create the ground upon which I stand and weather the more difficult things in life. Make no mistake, there are plenty of those too.

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