Busking To Santiago De Compostela
Asked back to Belfort to play a gig, our tromboning pilgrim bends the rules and takes the train
After a few days of rampant hedonism (well, clean clothes and restaurant food), I go busking in Belfort. Promptly joined by a beggar with a penny- whistle. Either he's tone-deaf or he likes Stravinsky. Two trombonists walk by. A guitarist joins them. Musical city, this. Approached by Alphonse, manager of a local jazz trio; we exchange phone numbers.
Montbeliard, a pretty town spoilt by the stink of burning rubber (there's a Peugeot factory on the outskirts). Visit the castle above the town - it's closed for repairs.
Chat with a workman, invited back to his house. Interesting decor: St Andrew's cross, two-handed swords, horned helmets. Decide to be very polite. For tea, he promises me "a local speciality". Bangers and mash.
On south-west, down the rue Zingg, past the village of Dung. Around me, cornfields, gentle hills, wild flowers. Above, high-flying kestrels, low- flying jets (can't have everything). In all, a delightful country stroll.
Then Alphonse calls. "Gig tonight. Interested?" Agree, then start thinking. Only way to get there is by train. Nearest station, 12 miles away. Race across country, reach station with minutes to spare. Massage my aching feet all the way back to Belfort.
Show time! The venue: Finnegan's Irish pub. The band: Alphonse (Ghanaian bass-player), Luc (French drummer), Jan (Czech guitarist). The music: African jazz. Total stage area: about 1sq in. Play at the ceiling to avoid decapitating the audience. The music is a triumph of improvisation, none of us knows what's coming next.
Someone buys us drinks. "Can you play quieter?" Don't know, says Alphonse, what key's it in? Luc plays the drums, chairs, glasses and any audience member who comes too close. Jan drops the guitar, picks up his trumpet: "Anything you can play, I can play higher." It's war! He wins - just.
Stop, exhausted, at 2am, and retreat to Alphonse's flat. Listen to Gregorian chants and discuss the evils of the Inland Revenue (yes, they're musicians). By solemn concord, I'm voted a member of the band in perpetuity. The honour chokes me, or is it just their cigars?
For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website at:
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