The Story (in decidedly more than two parts)
2008-01-13 07:01:12
On the way to Andorra, a Catalan woman rang me up and asked me if I could play for two weeks with an orchestra who were to do a tour of Spain and the south of France. Rehearsals were in Barcelona and started on the 25th and they would pay me how much? more than the others, (it was the 23rd and they were desperate) so don't tell. I was not in the position to turn down a stack of money, especially at this time of year, even though it meant I was to forgo my much anticipated sojourn of excess in Valencia. I did think very hard about it...

Having returned back from Andorra, I discovered that the rehearsals were in fact an hour and a half out of Barcelona, in a remote location that you could only reach with one specific bus. I checked the sunday/holiday timetable and rocked up prompltly at 8:15am on Christmas day, to find a tacked-on sheet with the special timetable for the 25/6 December - first bus out left at 11:30am. It was freezing and the streets were dead, and I was stressed out - couldn't reach the woman by phone and worried if I should take a taxi, lest be late for the first rehearsal. One hour and a cold coffee later I finally got through to her and she told me 'no te preocupes!' (no worries mate), come when you can.

I rocked up at the hostel in Corbera (none of my friends in Barcelona knew where it was) and walked into the rehearsal tired and heavy with bags to be greeted with a stern 'you're late' by the maestro. I'd been counting my regrets for 4 hours already that morning, and was feeling very fragile when I sat among the orchestra of chav-dressed weary faced Romanians and proceeded to sight-read a violin concerto, new composition and 15 Strauss waltzes all the while being instructed in Romanian.

It was a long day, and when rehearsals wound up at 10:30pm, I suggested to my fellow flute-mate that we go to dinner together. 'There's no dinner' she said and I laughed and said come on let's go get dinner. 'There's no dinner' she said and when she saw my face she said 'Hasn't anyone told you? There's no dinner. We ate at lunchtime'.

So that's how it was. Sharing a room with four Romanians in a crappy hostel from where I could see the beckoning lights of Barcelona but couldn't touch them. I was despondently wolfing down the bag of rice crackers that I had by chance bought earlier for small change, when the older Romanian woman (who spoke only Romanian and Italian) took pity on me and signaled for me to wait a moment. Five minutes later the other four had joined forces, and our table was laid with bread, cold hunks of pork, mustard, home-made pickles and home made wine (in a plastic bottle) all brought in the bus from Romania. We had our own little Christmas feast and topped it off with some Romanian panettone and a mountain of cigarettes.


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