planes, trains and wheatfields


Not only is there ample rehearsal time with French orchestras - a good thing - it seems travel time follows suit: To get to Salzburg for a rehearsal on wednesday afternoon, I am asked to leave on Monday, spend the night alone in a bleak hotel practically on a runway and surrounded by gabbling air hostesses in grey uniforms downing sick-green cocktails, travel all day north west to Paris to join the rest of the gang at dawn the next day and then head back south-east en masse via plane and bus to the final destination. A day early. On my return I am asked to take a six hour train journey to go and pick up my cello where it has arrived back from Spain in a van with all the other instruments going "baaaaaaaaa" across the Alps. This is where I drew the line. Direct flights on the day were not expensive and would have saved the orchestra three nights in a hotel, but then again traveling like sheep all clustered together armpit to armpit is obviously easier for them to organize, even if it means that almost thirty percent of the short trip is spent traveling. Add thirty percent to nine months on the road and you don't get much time at home.

In the UK things were the other extreme and no better: For an entirely unknown programme playued by people who have often never played together before the rehearsal slot was normally three hours on the concert day. This is why English musicians are well known for being ace sight-readers. They don't have a choice. For me, a slow (but naturally deep!) learner, this is not time enough to let the music enter in much past the cerebral cortex, and happy happy quavers wouldn't stand a chance of being anything but a (brilliantly executed)exercise. In terms of travel, I once went from London to new Zealand for TWO DAYS to play six Brandenburg concerti in one concert. The entire trip door to door lasted four days. I was jet-lagged and Cloudy Bayed out of my mind, of course. When I asked if I could go a week early and stop over to see friends and acclimatise in LA they laughed.

This is why we fall for ipods in moments of timeless, spaceless, colourless, flavourless, airless weakness.

Imagine the relief then, on returning home, to spend a day pottering down poppy-lined lanes, picking a few spanking new cherries, stroking furry almonds, checking out funky roofed mas' and surveying potential landscapes with Julian. Suddenly there is so much colour and air!

Here's a lovely one Julian discovered a while back on such a potter, and here's an email from the owner who simply popped up from out of the wheat-field and found his own house:

"Dear Sir and neighbour,

Looking for paintings about landscapes of Provence on the web, I have
discovered your work and I have appreciated your talent so that I
downloaded the images on my PC.
A while ago, I was looking attentively "A Field of Wheat at St Pierre
de Vassols" 46 x 33, oil on linen, July 1998 and I recognized the
back of MY mas, since we have bought the estate in 2000. We have
restored it, preserving its original structure; we only have destroyed
the line of cypresses to enlarge the path behind the house.
For us, it's a real pleasure to see our mas immortalized, and what a talent !
I do know you must be very much in demand and I'm afraid I'm
disturbing you. But I wished to tell you my pleasant surprise; I hope
it will be possible to meet you one day and perhaps to see one of your
Thanks a lot and excuse me for my english : I'm french and provencal
to my fingertips !!!
Best regards


It is good to come home for two days, even if much of it is spent washing knickers and visiting the airfrance website in preparation for the next grand voyage between wheatfields at St Pierre de Vassols and the gleaming new concert hall in Valencia.


The cherries ... the almonds ... the poppies ... the astonishing landscape, paintings and delightful letter ... I am so glad you have these to come home to! Why don't more organizations know how to organize?

I bloody love a good rant, and that was a good rant.

Hope you have a chance to relax and breathe easy too before having to fly off to your glamorous life again...

Hope you have a chance to relax and breathe easy too before having to fly off to your glamorous life again...

Leave a comment