The Lille Trip starts de grand bonne heure at Leeds Station where I am an hour early for my train, checking my tickets for the hundredth time but not really seeing them.
It's the 11.05 a.m to London KX, over to St Pancras for the 3.04 Eurostar to Lille . Fortunately, while I still had wifi, I decided to mention to Vivianne that I had les cheveux bleus and roses. Because as it turns out there are three sorties at Lille Gare Europeen and it is dark when we are turned out into the evening cold. I walk around about what seems to be the central bit while Vivianne tries to work out what sortie I might be near.
Vivianne lives in Roubaix to where we now repair for a couple of bieres and dinner, and where I am unexpectedly vegetarian, and cause complete desordre on their kitchen table with songsheets and pan sticks.
Bien sur my travel adaptor is the wrong one, but Jurgen and Vivianne have lent me their phone charger. I go down for a glass of wine and talk with the lovely receptionist who is happy to let me further practise my rusty old French. I have put my watch forward, but not my mobile, so when it comes to setting the alarm I spend some time calculating what it would be, set it, and then discover, en hazard, that the phone reset itself to be French time. I reset.
I get everyone's cheese salads. Cecile
At 8.20 a.m, miraculously, I rendezvous with Vivianne in the Gare Lille Flandres, and we take the tube to Fives, where I observe two pan lessons. Everyone is adorable, staff, eleves. They have 24 single pans [6 guitars, 6 seconds [altos] 6 basses and 8 sopranos, the perfect instruments for beginners and primary schools. Before too long they are all covered with gommettes and notes all labelled. [I did ask first!]
At lunchtime Cecile and Vivianne have brought food for me. In the afternoon I am let loose on these lovely classes with their lovely class teachers. No uniforms. The students seemed to manage to behave pretty well without. Quelle surprise! I was in France, in French, on pans. Heaven. Meet Kristina, Sidonie.
Matin tele francaise
Monday evening I make a promenade around the quarter, decide against eating out, find a supermarche and head back for a snack and French tele. After some dross I discover the most wonderful two documentaries about the history of French culture.
Tuesday morning up with the allouettes, again. Manage to find the station and the right tube line for Fives, in which is situee l'ecole. Meet Jerome. Same classes which Vivianne and Cecile share with me. they do Rum and Coca Cola and No Woman No Cry, I do Largo and the Twelve Bar. Hundreds, nay thousands of Leeds school children and adult learners will be humming these already (well not that they read this blog).
Vivianne, Cecile and I have lunch with Sidonie at the Mairie where I still have forgotten to mention the vege status. They surround my plate with their cheese salads. I am still eating them on the Eurostar home!
Vivianne and I head off to some school or other, where she teaches tuba. Here to my amazement we collect nine children and a teaching assistant and take the bus to the conservatoire. I opine it would be less compliquee to move the tubas and not the children, but today it is a tuba concert at the Conservatoire. And what a lovely concert this turns out to be. The Prof demos a dijeridoo, a serpent, then the tuba, then some students play some solos, and one duet. All unbelievably beautiful.
Next I go for a walk around Vieux Lille, find this lovely cafe (Honey and Pie) have a bun and a cuppa. After which I get perdue and practise, "Je cherche la Conservatoire", until I find somewhere familiar. As you do.
French is spoken fast. When les gens turn to address me they speak more slowly, but as soon as they turn to each other we have gone back to 60kph! V says, even after I am not there they will still be speaking slowly. I doubt it.
V and I walk back to new Lille through the belle old ville. By the time I have joined all the city dots I will be in Leeds again. LOL. And here's a wonderful Creperie and I have a vegetarian galette, and a biere, bien sur, so good.
Wednesday, by now an old hand on the tube, I am at the school at 9 a.m to meet the music teachers. Besides my old pals here now is Claire, Prune, Timothee, Charlotte, Clementine, Patrick, Joanne, Juliette. They are having their monthly music teachers meeting. They are talking to each other sometimes about me but I am understanding only une moitié.
Then we are in the pan room and being joined by as many muscian/teachers again and more - 23 pan players in all. We do Largo and Au Clair de la Lune. Timothee turns out to be a batteur, and supportive and interesting all in one go. [Couldn't resist a little crescendo at the end though!]
All too soon it is over and it's kisses with Cecile and Vivianne. Sidonie and I take a light lunch and a heavy chocolate pudding at Bvd JB Lebas , ex-station and now bar, restaurant and cultural hub. Display all round us re climate change. There's one on sea rising with wellington boots. See pic.
When S and I come to our last goodbye I nearly burst into tears with the thought of how welcome and generous everyone has been.
Then walkabout in Lille till it's time for a last cuppa in the Hotel du Paix, and over to Gare Lille Europe. Here a WW2 shell has caused a scare at the station and we are evacuated back to the north Pole of a platform. Enfin, on board, and peu en peu we are back to speaking English.
Think it was fair to say I was sorry to leave.