TRAVEL: PASSPORT; JAMES GALWAY

The world-renowned flautist hates queueing, performing in South America and French bureaucracy. On the other hand, there are always New York delis and Manchester United...
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The Independent Travel
When it comes to travel, I've got one important piece of advice for everyone. Just make sure you've got a book in your pocket at all times. Then you needn't waste a single minute in all those queues. You read a couple more pages while you're kicking you bag along.

I tour for about eight months of the year then have the rest of the year free to water my garden in Switzerland. When I'm touring, I just fly from one place to the next - arrive, practise, perform. That's not as boring as it sounds though, because I have a lot of old friends everywhere. Travelling with the orchestra is more fun because you get to stay a bit longer in each place.

When I get to Ireland, of course, it's like the prodigal son coming home. Everybody knows me. But in New York it's almost the same. Last time I was there I went into one of those great Jewish delis and asked for a coffee. "I'll have a kiss, Mr Galway, for that," said the woman.

There are plenty of places round the world where people recognise me but New York is the place where I've got the most mothers. Boston, by the way, has a totally different feel. There, it's much more of a university crowd.

I've never had any travel nightmares, but occasionally I've had to travel without my passport. Once I was flying to Holland from Switzerland and the Swiss police wanted to know how I planned to get through Dutch immigration without any ID. So I took out a couple of my own CDs from my suitcase to show him. "But wait a minute," the policeman objected, "anybody could get these made up." "Maybe," I replied, "but not anybody could play them." And I was all ready to get my flute out for a demonstration. They decided to let me through.

Once I got to Holland the Dutch gave me a piece of paper as a substitute passport, which I was told I would have to surrender when leaving the country. This I eventually did, in some customs shed on the border with Germany at 6am one morning. There were these four Dutch border-police playing cards in the shed. I walked in and showed them my piece of paper. They were fascinated. "Where d'you get this?" they asked. "We've never seen one of these before." I had to resort to my trick with the CDs again.

Places that I enjoy travelling to? Japan is always a good place to visit. My wife and I went to have tea with the Empress on our last trip. She speaks English extremely well. "Do you mind if I call you Jeannie?" she asked my wife. They were having a whale of time together. Later we played together, the empress on the piano and me on the flute.

Believe it or not, Manchester is the other place I like, and that's not just because my brother lives there. I recently did a charity concert there with my old friend, the composer Phil Coulter. I've sometimes done work for a few badly run Irish charities but this was great: we raised pounds 35,000 in a single night, to build an annex for a home dedicated to caring for terminally ill children. Phil has never got paid for any concert he's done with me, though I did take him to a Manchester United match afterwards.

There are some places I don't like going to. I don't go to South America anymore for example, where they have a nasty habit of cancelling concerts at the last minute which you had agreed to take part in two years before. When that happens it ruins your schedule. Basically, I won't tour south of the Suez Canal unless I get paid fully in advance!

I don't like travelling to France either. This is the country that murdered two Greenpeace activists and got away with it. And anyway you can't plan a holiday in France without having to take the possibility of strikes into account. I was once flying out of Paris and found a mile-long queue at customs. There was a single guy on duty reading every page of every person's passport.

I finally got through to find that the late Lord Menuhin was down there, too. He had switched flights because his first flight was delayed, but then ended up watching the original flight leave earlier anyway. Another time, I had a fully paid-up ticket for a Concorde flight out of Paris and still missed the flight because the airport computer systems weren't working. You may think that these things are all part of the charm of France, but I don't.

I've been living in a little village outside Lucerne in Switzerland for the past 23 years. We live in Switzerland because my wife is Swiss, but wherever you live, you pay for what you get. In Switzerland everything works and nobody goes on strike.

Ours is a lovely village. I've got three professional fishermen and one professional farmer living in my street, and then there's the Russian pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy just round the corner. It takes me two hours to water my garden. What more could I ask for?

James Galway is starting a 60th-birthday nationwide tour of the UK on 12 May. He is also performing on 30 June at the City of London Festival with the London Mozart Players at the Guildhall (tel: 0171-638 8891).

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