Coming Home

April 21, 2013
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We’re on the Eurostar going home now. We managed not to miss our final train, which makes it 14 out of 14, plus assorted trams, tubes and busses. There were a couple of very near misses: Cara forgot her passport for the Vienna/ Berlin leg (although we never needed it) and I misjudged a breakfast which led to us runjogwalking past interminable carriages carrying cars, balancing four drinks, three bags, two instruments and a suitcase between us.

Last night’s gig with Sparky in the Clouds felt like a fitting finale. Upstairs, Au Chat Noir was a typical Parisian bar – nicotine stained walls, platefuls of meats and cheeses, small beers in distinctive glasses, a very French hubbub. Downstairs was a gritty sweat box, the audience on narrow wooden benches, pillars obscuring sight lines, hotter than a bathroom with a radiator and the hot tap left on.

A really good sound man turned the stage into microscope, every last detail – good and bad – rendered faithfully. I’d like to hear the recording. Sparky held the sweating audience for over an hour, their set twisting this way and that through folk, soul and blues, covers and originals, always sweet, open, engaging. My personal highlight was Mattieu’s guitar, full of flair and heart, rock solid, ever-present, the style and tone constantly shifting yet oddly consistent, an unfettered, fulsome expression of one man’s personality.

Tomorrow it’s back to work, routine and familiarity, journeys I can complete on autopilot, seeing friends that fit like old shoes. If a lot of pleasure is found in contrasts – hot drinks on cold days, food when hungry, sleep when tired – then maybe the first day back will make the past couple of weeks feel all the more intense. We’re already planning the next one.

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