Monday, 2 January 2017

Paris - 27th May - 3rd June 2015

Place des Abbesses, Montmartre - 28th May 2015
This afternoon I visited the Petit Palais - Musée des Beaux-Arts and fell in love with the vases of Emile Gallé. On entering the museum the woman on security checked the inside of my violin case and suggested I leave my violin in the cloakroom. I explained to her that it's precious and I don't like to be parted from it. She understood this, and let me go on my way.
Having looked around all the collections, I went in search of the gift shop and was stopped by another security guy who (without listening to my explanation that I'd already been around the museum), ordered me to put my violin in the cloakroom and behaved as if I was harbouring a lethal weapon. I promptly left and the shop lost my custom.
By the time I got to Montmartre my feet were blistered because stupidly I'd chosen vanity over comfort regarding footwear for my trip, but I was determined to play as a big 'up yours' to the overly officious security guard at the museum. I set up under my usual tree across from Le Saint Jean restaurant on rue des Abbesses. Just as I was lifting my violin out of its case, however, a lady from the house opposite told me not to play because someone in the building had to work.
Feeling down but not beaten, I decided to play next to the carousel on Place des Abbesses instead (pictured above). I knew it wasn't going to be great money-wise, but having just spent the last three months playing underground, it was going to be a pleasure to play in the open air - not that a passing guitarist (who, like me, wasn't French), appreciated this: He eyed the pittance I had in my case and kept asking, "Are you winning?" He pestered me to play outside the bank nearby, along to a song by Charles Aznavour. I said no because I was in pain and couldn't be bothered to move all my stuff. He then refused to believe I was an actual musician because at present I don't play with an orchestra and am not a student... blah, blah, blah.
People with cute kids gave me a few euros, though one 'monster' little girl ran around with a coin in her hand but wouldn't put it in my case as instructed by her father. The pair then both disappeared into the ether. Periodically, a football dribbled past my feet from a game that kids were playing further up, and a shy Frenchman carefully gave me 50 cents and touched his fingers to his lips by way of compliment.
Pigalle (Paris Métro) - 29th May 2015
This pitch I'd found deep in the tunnels of Pigalle Métro station proved to be lucrative - albeit smelly last summer, so I thought I'd give it a go. Generally the reception I got in terms of lack of interest shown was on a par with what I get at times on the London Underground, but older French people gave generously and a young woman warbled over the top of my Irish fiddling as she walked by.
Unfortunately after just half an hour of playing, I was told (politely) to move on by staff, because the "controller" said so. Hey ho.
Chez Adel, 10th arrondissement - 30th May 2015
It was lovely to be back 'home' in my favourite bar: Owner, Adel, was repairing a broom when I arrived. He was pleased to see me, gave me a lingering kiss on the cheek, and offered me a beer. I was sad to hear that his beloved dog (and big character), Pincher, had had to be put to sleep following an age-related illness and that the goldfish he'd had on the bar were also "finished."
The wardrobes at the back of the stage area had disappeared and one of the leather-covered bar stools had been Gaffer taped. I played Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes for an hour in exchange for a plate of potatoes Adel had lovingly mashed up with hot milk plus his 'special sauce' on the side. He then gave me a whole orange chilli I bit into thinking it was sweet, but it burnt my mouth out like an inferno. Adel found this hilarious!
Chez Adel, 10th arrondissement - 1st June 2015
The above sculpture made by Ossip Zadkine in 1919 is called 'Musicienne', and it captures, for me, the close relationship I have with my string instruments.
This late afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed playing jazz standards on violin at Chez Adel with my singer and guitarist friend, Claudio Zaretti. Claudio and I have performed here many times before, but in the past I've usually had my double bass with me. Here is a video of us playing 'Blue Bossa' back in November 2011: https://youtu.be/uJFwUf875vA - and also a video of my late friend, Peter on violin, Eirik on guitar and I playing folk music here in April 2011: https://youtu.be/i8sLMqxnxDo
Unfortunately or amusingly (depending on the way you look at it), the same drunk old Chinese man who was present at another gig Claudio and I did here together a while ago, was back again - clutching (as he was before), a bottle in a paper bag and shouting out at us: Adel repeatedly hit him on the shoulder with a rolled up newspaper and told him to leave. "You're not my papa!" the man retorted. After about three rounds of this, Adel managed to get him out, but before he left he and Adel embraced affectionately as if nothing had happened.
As payment for playing, Adel presented me with a quinoa and vegetable dish and coke, and Claudio told me that with regards to his songwriting process, he works on up to four songs simultaneously which can take a year - and a lot of discipline, to get right. 

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