It was decidedly cooler on Sunday at Green Park #1; a real relief given that during stifling July, busking on the Underground can be nigh on impossible as sweat rolls down my face, pools in my chin rest, and it feels as if I'm breathing in pure carbon dioxide. The day before, I hadn't got to bed until 2.30 am as on Saturday evening I'd been live reviewing the Scott Hamilton Quartet gig at Pizza Express, Soho, for Jazzwise magazine: I felt sluggish and my left arm was stiff because I'd forgotten to massage the tendons in it before I began. I perked up, though, when a little old French lady stopped opposite me and took the time to riffle through her bag for change. Apologetically she said, "Pas beaucoup," then as she headed off towards the escalator, "You play well." Just hearing a French accent excites me (I love France), and this encounter bought back memories of busking folk fiddle in Place des Abbesses, Paris.
On 12th February 2013 I played my violin in Paris for the first time and felt I had something to prove to myself: My mission on this trip had been to honour my musical soul mate, violinist Peter Conua's memory (he'd been found dead in Canal Saint Martin, Paris on 13th May 2012), by playing songs from his book of Irish folk music ('Ceol Rince na héireann 2' by Breandán Breathnach) in Montmartre. We'd played together here from the spring of 2011 and he's now buried in Montmartre Cemetery.
It was good to be in Montmartre again. As I arrived I saw a figure on rue des Abbesses (just beyond Le Saint Jean bar where Peter and I always met up), who looked exactly like Peter from the back - walking away. I busked my folk fiddle set outside La Prairie de Coquelicot pâtisserie-boulangerie, 50 bis Rue de Douai for one hour in the freezing cold and saw a young girl dressed as an angel with striking white wings: Peter liked angels and had drawn me one on 'My Old Address Book' poem in Le Saint Jean where I enjoyed a café au lait in-between busking sessions and looked at the song, 'Dear Ghost' I'd written about Peter's death.
Back at Green Park #1 I was snapped out of my reverie when a boy asked me if he could play my violin because he reckoned he was really good. I looked him straight in the eye and replied (incredulous that he'd even asked), "No. I'm sorry. This is my instrument... my precious violin." The girl with him reminded him, "This is London and anyone could just run off with it." I thought of Peter again: His partner, Nuna Kurek told me last month in Chez Adel, Paris, that he'd lost or had stolen 10 violins throughout his career - and he'd even died hugging his violin in the unforgiving water of Canal Saint Martin.