From here there’s a proper pilgrim route to Rome, the Via Francigena. So everyone understands the concept of an arduous journey South to the Mother Church.
Some proper ceremonies and good omens should accompany the setting off from here.
So with the Bishop’s permission I have wheeled the bike into the Cathedral, and propped it against a pillar. “Have you cleared this with Security?” they want to know. I reassure them, without telling any untruths.
I’m due to play during the midday service, which I will take as a suitable blessing on me and Libre, before we sail across the channel tomorrow. Meditation, by Frank Bridge, seems appropriate.
After the service there’s an expectation that I might play more. Song of the Birds sounds about right.
A short tour of this truly magnificent and wonderful building, and then into the Cloisters to play some Bach to an appreciative but itinerant audience. There’s a school party in fancy dress. I’m not sure if they’re being monks, or if they meant to be at a Harry Potter do.
Then in the sunshine some more Bach outside the South door. A kind member of the Cathedral staff says I have to sign the Via Francigena pilgrims’ book. So he goes off to fetch it, but returns empty handed and apologetic. Perhaps it’s gone for a walk itself.
Walking back through the town, past the bookshop with the seriously wonky doorway, and three upper storeys each cantilevered above the one below.
Charles Dickens above the door: “A very old house bulging out over the road… leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below.”
And then the most extraordinary encounter, sending the day in a quite unexpected direction. Here is another cellist, carrying his cello on a bike!! It’s parked up outside a restaurant, and when we stop to take a photo Christian emerges, in a sharp three-piece suit.
He’s been busking like this for twenty years, he says, and making a respectable living. He kindly told me all the things I was doing wrong, and why my hat was empty, and his tin was full.
After his lunch, we pedalled off in tandem, and set up in the Butter Market, to play a few things together. We improvised a little tune, which I thought wasn’t bad at all, to get the measure of each other. We were just about to embark on The Swan, to the accompaniment of his backing track, when the heavens opened, and curtailed it all.
I’m still trying to believe that really happened, but I’ll take it as an auspicious beginning to the Via Francigena, which starts tomorrow…