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2007-08 Babs, Prague and the summer of '07

I TUCKED my Levis into my socks, donned my unflattering, though undeniably functional Sligo Weekender navy hat, and followed an endless flock of Streisand fans from damp field to venue site.

At 11pm, 26,000 damp punters, at times ankle-deep in mud, returned at a sub-glacial pace to their cars. Some unfortunates collapsed. Stretchers were passed across heads to the faint or injured. People had forgotten where they had parked (not me - last tree, trampled buttercups). Gridlock ensued until after 1am, by which time `concert-rage' had become good old-fashioned `road-rage'.

A week later, on my first visit to the picturesque gem that is Prague, I was calm again. Some of the modern architecture shows a wacky Czech sense of humour, from the upside-down Wenceslas, to the celebrated "Fred and Ginger" Dancing building, to the two men (Europe) relieving themselves on the Czech Republic!

But it is Prague's older buildings, hardly harmed by war, which impress most. I began in Josefov, studying in detail the informatively moving Jewish museum, Old Jewish cemetery and ornate synagogues. I wandered, with no particular agenda, around the colourful Old Town Square with signature Astronomical Clock, through
Wenceslas Square, around the expansive Prague Castle and towering St Vitus Cathedral, to the lazy Wallenstein Gardens with impeccably coiffed topiary, and across the Vltava River in blazing July sun, on the picture-postcard Charles bridge, complete with smiling organ-grinder and toy monkey.

I had the best view of Prague from the top of the splendid St Nicholas Church. For "35 I viewed, from the best box in the house, Mozart's Don Giovanni in the Estates Theatre, where 220 years previously it received its première, conducted by Mozart himself.

Having recently read The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas (highly recommended), my trip to Terezin took on an even deeper meaning. Terezin acted primarily as a transit-camp to Auschwitz. Viewing children's artwork from the 1940s, with name, age, and either `survived' or more frequently `died, Auschwitz, 1944', is too
much to take on board. Over the entrance, the contradiction in terms - "Arbeit macht frei" - "Work makes free" - yes, `free', in death.

My four-day trip to Prague (flights and accomodation only) cost me "300. My ticket to see Babs (including programme, excluding replacement of destroyed shoes), cost "325. Both were worth it. Honest.

Prague was magic. So was Barbra. Her voice, breath control, interpretation, stage presence and sense of humour were almost as perfect as I had hoped for. I have seen (arguably) one of the finest songstresses of the last century - live in concert - and I feel truly privileged. It still made me question the whole concept of `value'.

Perhaps there is also a little jealousy. None of my performances has ever created a five-mile tailback, or countless bouts of road-rage - as far as I know anyway.