The 20th May ran seamlessly into the 21st as days tend to do. Normally I consider a day to be over when I go to sleep and a new one begins when I am awake again but, given my ridiculous sleep patterns, that seems a touch redundant as one day can easily run into three. Yes, I sometimes do not sleep for three days which is ludicrous but that is just the way it is.
If the reader has read my previous journal / blog entry here they will know that the 20th had been an utterly fascinating day hanging round the 3rd arrondissement of Lyon where I was staying and celebrating Cameroon’s national day in a Cameroonian bar amongst other little adventures. Eventually I made my short way back to the hostel without even getting lost despite the rather copious quantities of beer that had been consumed.
Back in the very comfortable common area / bar and there was time for another beer before bed. Let’s be honest, there is always time for another beer before bed and this is where my world took another sideways turn.
I had been considering turning in but, of course, my world never works quite like that. There was a young lady sitting there playing the house guitar “finger picking” style and with a repertoire of French songs of which I knew neither a word nor a note. I had to sit down and watch, beer in hand. After a few wonderful songs (she was very good) she offered me the guitar as protocol in such circumstances demands. I know that there are many in the world who think that “road bums” like us have no such concepts as protocol and manners but that is far from the truth. From my time in the Forces I know that communal living imposes certain demands on you and sharing is central to a lot of them. It simply does not work otherwise.
The guitar was passed to me and I kicked off into some song or another, although I have no recollection what it was now. I have been in hostels with guitars before and they are normally things that I would not use as a plant pot and have not been re-strung since the day they were bought but this was not the case here. It was a half-decent box. Certainly it was no Guild or Martin but it held the tuning well and stood up decently to my hammering of it. Like everything else in the hostel it was in prime condition and I suspect the staff restrung it regularly as the strings were very “bright” as we say and it was a joy to play.
The night wore on, as it does, and it ended up with the young French lady, myself and a young American lad sitting on and playing the plywoood box which does have a proper name which I don’t know but which serves as a percussion instrument. Somehow or another harmonies even made an appearance. I’ve played some reasonably big gigs and in front of some pretty decent crowds (I think about 5,000 is my best so far) but this was up there with all of them, it was truly magical and the reason I learned to play the guitar in the first place. I was dragging songs out of the locker that I had not played for 30 years and thoroughly enjoying every one. I was constantly waiting for the night receptionist to tell us to shut up and go to bed but not a bit of it, he was positively encouraging it to the point of making requests which I did my best with if I knew them.
It was by no means a “straight ahead” gig and we were stopping between numbers for a drink and a chat and I discovered that the very talented young lady was called Elodie, an actress from Bretagne (a Province in Northwest France with a large Celtic heritage and a place I am very fond of) and was in Lyon for an acting course, that being her profession obviously. She was 29 years old which makes her easily young enough to be my daughter and yet that was not a problem at all. The drummer was younger still.
I know that I was easily the oldest person staying in that hostel in the fair amount of time I was there and I include in that statement the teachers of the rather boisterous bunch of French schoolchildren that infested the place and created havoc for a couple of nights.
My age didn’t seem to bother anyone and the night wore on and on towards the dawn. Elodie did not speak more than a few words of English and so we were conversing in French but I was frankly running out of intersong conversation by about 0400 in the morning. I just had nothing left to say that I had the vocabulary for and, more as a conversational gambit than anything, I admired a rather unusual ring she was wearing. She did no more than remove it from her finger and offer it to me. Well, I could not accept that and thanked her politely for her kind offer but she insisted, eventually putting it on my little finger which was the only one it would fit on.
The attached image here will show that it is a pretty fanciful female piece of jewellery and I have not worn rings for over 30 years when I nearly ripped a finger off catching one in a Land Rover door in the Forces. A look at any of the images of me will show that I am a particularly hairy, tall male and yet I have worn this very effeminate ring every day since and will continue to do so. I am wearing it as I type this. It means so much on so many levels. It is a souvenir (to use a proper French word) of a great trip that did more for me than I might like to admit. It was a gift from a gorgeous young lady, given freely and very generously. I still think it looks effeminate as it looks far too “fancy” for a man but I love it and will continue to wear it and, in truth, the occasional comments I have had about it have all been positive. I know who and what I am and if I choose to wear this wonderful gift, I’ll wear it. I just need to remember to take it off going through airport security!
Update August 2018.
I am posting all this retrospectively in August 2018 and there is a lovely story attached to this ring which will feature in my account of Broadstairs Folk Week, another little project of mine here.
After waking up pretty late (I think I got to bed about 0600) I went for my usual walk ending up in the La Savane cafe which I mentioned in the last entry and which I shall speak of again in a future entry.
I did, however, manage to take an image of the utter carnage that is French driving and, more particularly, parking if it could even be called that. It is merely a matter of abandoning your car wherever you like and going about your business. Heaven forbid that anyone in a wheelchair or with a pram should try to pass by.
Thus ended another day with a newly beringed Fergy still riding it for all it was worth and with no intention of going home.
Trust me, I really do get out of Lyon eventually so stay tuned and spread the word.