TRAVEL: BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

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The Independent Travel
Our trombonist gets a case of 'deja vu' in Luxembourg while bands collide and battle for attention - and a brawl breaks out at his (paid) international debut

24 April

La Roche-en-Ardenne. Set up to busk: trombone, collecting boxes, banner. Warm up. Deep breath. Suddenly, music. A bizarrely-clad band bears down on me. Medieval costumes. Feathers in hats. Led by eight fox-hunters playing horns. Scarlet jackets. Scarlet cheeks. Feel completely underdressed, but wait till they've gone, then busk anyway. Lady approaches with puppy. Pooch captivated. Refuses to leave. My first groupie.

25 April

Walking along the Ourthe gorge. Suddenly, music again. Cultured area, this. Scramble up near-vertical slope, behold young man playing guitar, smoking cigarette, wearing boxer shorts. Mutual consternation. Embarrassed introductions. He's a marketing executive with a Brussels firm. One of their more original thinkers. Spend the afternoon with his friends (including a Belgian youth rugby international - they do exist) playing jazz in the wilderness. "The hills are alive ..." Dutch tourists pass below - bewildered questions drift up to our eyrie.

27 April

Houffalize, last stop in Belgium. Invited to play in a bar, "and we'll pay you". "Oh, go on, then ..." Meet local star pianist. "Why don't you do some duets?" He plays folk songs. I do jazz. Could be tricky. Then, inspiration. Launch into "Yellow Submarine". Audience bursts into song. Impromptu karaoke breaks out. Karaoke Beatles, Sinatra, Beethoven. Beethoven? Like I said, cultured.

All going well until one local kisses another's wife. Third World War breaks out. Retreat behind bar with pianist and observe the festivities. Gendarmes arrive, remove most of our audience. Shell-shocked landlord evicts survivors. We help clear up. That's showbusiness, folks.

28 April

Over the border. Preconceptions of Luxembourg: small city, small country, farmland, tiny hamlets, an occasional electronics factory. And so many castles it makes Scotland look undefended. Lots of friendly people. All of them Dutch tourists. Sleep at Clervaux Abbey. Meet monks from Belgium, Denmark, Germany. Wonder when I'll meet a Luxembourger.

29 April

Still wondering. Town full of Portuguese. Shops all Portuguese. Sleep in the garden of a restaurant: all the staff Portuguese. Even the adverts are in Portuguese. Have I overshot Santiago already?

1 May

Evidently not. Diekirch, central Luxembourg. Small town, large brewery. Set up to busk. Suddenly, music. Deja vu? Another parade. The local brass band, with a May Day wreath and a Luxembourg flag. More music. A drum band with a Portuguese flag. Parades collide. Music collides. Pandemonium. Wait for fighting to start. Instead, watch in awe. The Luxembourg solution: everyone goes for a drink. UN and Nato, take note.

For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website: www.netplaycafe.co.uk/bonewalk

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