Early-morning champagne, a game of square boules and two Last Suppers - it's a busker's life
1 July

Approaching Beaune (as in trombeaune?) along country lanes. An enormous Mercedes draws up. Tinted windows hiss down. Gigantic businessman in shades looks out. Ye Gods, it's the Mafia! He reads the mission statement on my rucksack, inspects me from battered hat to holey boots. "You'll need some encouragement. Buy a drink."

Immense hand passes me a FFr100 note. As I gape, the behemoth roars away.

It's 9am: too early to drink (little do I suspect the future), so drop into the Hotel-Dieu, a perfectly preserved 15th-century hospital. Star attraction number one: The Last Judgement, painted by Rogier van der Weyden in the 1450s, its damnation scene enough to put one off sinning for life. Star attraction number two: Cile, the guide, a dutchwoman who left home for New Zealand and got stuck here - 10 years ago.

She tells some good stories and points me to a friendly winery to spend my windfall. The vigneron asks me all about whisky, then refuses to let me pay. Generous place, Beaune.

3 July

Leave very early (along country lanes) to avoid the heat. At 8am, climb a cliff, surrounded by birdsong, bees buzzing and ... techno music? Curious ... At the top, devastation! The carnage of an all-night garden party. A corpse waves feebly: "Hi, Ben!" It's Cile! It's her birthday. It would be rude to pass by, so I join in. Champagne at 8.15am.

So much for my good intentions. Everyone wants to hear the trombone. Except the DJ, lost in a world of his own. So I busk Dixieland-style to a techno accompaniment. Surreal.

4 July

More country lanes. Starting to yearn for a change. Mind you, it's lovely scenery - bucolic beauty at its best. This is the edge of the Charollais: small fields with thick hedges, locals with thick accents. Descend on Autun, formerly Augustodunum, founded in AD85 and hasn't grown since. Famed for its 12th-century cathedral carvings of ... the Last Judgement. Evidently a popular theme. A perfect example of what a sculptor can do when he's having fun, the Fall of Simon Magus belongs in an Asterix book.

Spot an intriguing sign near the cathedral: "European Boules Championship (Square Balls)". Follow arrows to the grand final.

Youngest player (about 10) melts everyone's heart: cries of "Let the little one win!". No help needed, he's brilliant. Tension mounts. It's neck and neck. Alas! He loses on the last ball (block?). His runner-up prize: a sausage bigger than he is. His grin stays with me for the rest of the week.

For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the

website at www.netplaycafe. co.uk/bonewalk

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