Stock photo glimpsing the front, f-holes and fingerboards of several violins hung vertically.

Fiddle Lessons

This post was originally written in 2016 for an old and now retired blog.

A random conversation with a good friend (always the best) about rollup cigarettes sparked a few memories yesterday. They made me smile and I thought they might make you smile too…

In my teenage years the run up to Christmas was always fiendishly busy due to playing viola in a gazillion carol services and end of term concerts. Which left me one year (I think I was 17) doing my gift shopping a mere two days before Christmas and just a few precious hours before closing time. But I got distracted by a pair of buskers… a violinist and guitarist putting on a dazzling display of folk, Gypsy jazz, Cajun and bluegrass (amongst other genres). And found myself an hour later still standing there with frozen hands and an empty shopping bag. So I gathered up all my bravery, took a deep breath and asked for the violinist’s phone number. 

Skip forward a couple of months and I’d bought myself a bashed up 200 yr old French violin, bought in pieces from an auction and badly patched back together. And I had started lessons! Unlike my formal viola and piano lessons in dedicated music rooms, we sat cross legged on the bed (a mattress on the floor), the only available space in her cramped bohemian ground-floor one-room bedsit. She was a whirling dervish of energy scribbling dots on scraps of manuscript paper and periodically jumping up to record music tape-to-tape for me to study at home. While I played she rolled up skinny cigarettes (I love the smell of fresh rollies to this day even though I have never smoked) and left the result hanging out the side of her mouth while she played. And she was amazing! Sadly, my fiddle playing pretty much sucked – I didn’t have the ability to improvise or memorise – but I did truly love my lessons. They were an escape from an otherwise stressful and over pressurised life.

When I left home to do a music degree across the country I stopped my lessons but I did get to see her once more when we both recorded backing tracks for XTC (remember them? No, thought not!) but then she moved to France and I lost contact. 

A decade later me and Simon went to a heavenly jazz gig – vocals, double bass and guitar – and I was struck by the strangest but clearest sensation that I could hear my fiddle teacher playing along. When I met the musicians afterwards and mentioned this to them, I found out she’d written a couple of the songs on their playlist!