Photo Gallery: download high rez images
Press Release: 24 August 2007
The new violin
Turnham Green to Zurich
Venice to Rome via Stockholm
Kampala, the Tender Talents Magnet school
Australia to Hong Kong
Taipei to China
Buenos Aires to Miami
USA, Canada and back home
9 Sept to 15 Sept
Japan to Hong Kong (again)
The wonderful Michiko Abe, or Abesan, had been organising my activities in Japan. After a late night arrival in Tokyo, I set out for Kyoto the next morning where to meet Abesan. We set out to my busking pitch: Kyoto may be a city of temples but I was in an underground shopping mall – not quite as beautiful but ideal for my purposes.
After a couple of hours, we headed off to the library for an outdoor performance. A Belgian girl, Sue, came over to say hello. She’d recently arrived in Kyoto having hitchhiked there with a friend from Estonia, a journey that took them five months. It made what I’m doing seem rather tame.
Next day I had to make my own way to Kobe to play at St Michael’s International School but had just enough time for a quick morning dash round two temple complexes before catching the train. All went smoothly for about 15 minutes until the train stopped at a station for five minutes. Announcements were made and there we sat. After 15 minutes it was clear we were going nowhere.
Wholly ignorant of what was going on, I reached for my trusty Toshiba Smart phone which works everywhere (more of this later) to ring Abesan, explaining that we were stuck and I didn’t know why. I passed her to a slightly startled fellow traveller and Abesan translated. There’d been a serious accident and we had to change not only trains but stations as well.
It was clear I was not going to make the concert at the school so frantic calls were made to rearrange everything. After a brisk walk to a nearby station, and four trains later, I reached Kobe.
I visited Hiroshima before about 20 years ago and remember being horrified by the scale of what the city had endured. This time, with all the conflict currently in the world, it was a very sobering experience.
Soul in Seoul
After Japan, I moved on to Korea – added to the schedule so I could go back to Hong Kong for the two private concerts. Thanks to the kindness of strangers and friends of friends of friends (again), I was booked into a fantastic traditional guest house, Buk Chong – in Seoul. Inappropriately billed as a backpacker’s hostel, it was beautiful, close to the city centre and cheap. What more could you want?
The schedule in Seoul was extremely tight. An interview as soon as I arrived, down into town for a quick photo op, and then on to another interview. It was 8pm before I had time to find a spot to do some busking. On the path of a stream that runs through the centre of the city, and pedestrians only, it was very restful. I found a gallery area under a bridge and started playing.
The Koreans know their music and soon a little crowd had gathered. I did have the case open for contributions which soon started coming in. It wasn’t long before I’d attracted the interest of a local policeman who came up, took photos on his phone, made notes in his book and started speaking on his radio. I was already packing up but it didn’t look good. One of the bystanders spoke a little English. “Problem?” I asked. The policeman spoke. “He says this is criminal activity.” Oh, oh. After 10 minutes or so, policeman one was joined by policeman two and they conferred. All the time I was wishing I’d had a bite to eat as I was absolutely starving. I recalled, wryly (and a little anxiously), the old maxim: “Never get arrested on an empty stomach or a full bladder”.
After their discussion they gestured to me to walk towards the steps leading to the road where I was expecting to find a waiting police van. Huge sigh of relief when they stopped at the bottom of the stairs and let me go – no police van in sight.
In search of a haircut
The next day I decided to get a haircut. I’d noticed shops with barber signs outside so went into the first building displaying one. Down some stairs, knock on the door and enter. I’d decided to video my haircut experience so was clutching the camera as I entered a rather purple, dimly lit waiting room. A barber stuck her head round the door and looked horrified by the camera. She seemed to be wearing rather fewer clothes than do most barbers in the UK.
Thinking I must have got the wrong door I retreated and found another barber’s sign a few doors along. This time there were signs of hairdressing equipment on display. A woman came out, again not overdressed. Shortly afterwards a Korean gentlemen came in, was greeted by a barber and disappeared into the next room. I waited. After five minutes, another assistant emerged – wearing rather less than the receptionist – and offered me a drink. As they say, I declined, made my excuses and left. Call me an optimist, or just slow to catch on, but I did try again at one place that looked quite respectable. Not a barber’s chair in site. I gave up, bought an ice cream and, as I was wandering around eating it, found a ladies’ hairdresser. Haircut, at last!
Back to Hong Kong
Hong Kong the second time round was great. The Miramar Hotel Group had made their top restaurant available and promoted the event brilliantly. Loads of people (and superb food) it was an excellent opportunity to meet new people and tell them a about Musequality. The evening raised well over £2,000.
The Societé Generale event was equally good. This was a private party for their top clients and, after I’d played, I had the opportunity to try some really fantastic wines as well as meeting their guests. Again, they made a generous donation for which we are very grateful.
I decided not to busk on this second trip here – I was concerned they might be bored with me – but caught up on some much needed relaxation, again staying with the Scofields and drinking in the view from the Peak. I also needed to prepare myself for the very long journey ahead. To South America.