49 – One Day Music Festival

It was a disappointing start to the weekend. On Thursday night walking through the Presqu’ile I noticed that all the bars had bands playing outside them. Some on specially constructed stages, some on old wooden pallets, some simply out on the pavement. Jazz, rock, folk, blues whirled around central Lyon and I wondered what was going on. I asked somebody who turned out to be an American on holiday.

‘La Fete de la Musique,’ he replied in a terrible Texan drawl.

I thanked him and wondered why I didn’t know about it. I live here. Indeed it wasn’t just the bars. Place Satonay had a big stage at one end and a useful French/Irish/Romany band had just started up. I stayed for half the set until I thought it best to leave. I had to be in Beaujolais by nine in the morning. Anyway, I wasn’t annoyed; clearly the event will run all weekend, I thought to myself.

I thought wrong. As I entered Place Satonay on Friday evening ready for a night of dancing and high jinx, it was as though the party had never taken place. Just a few winos on the benches where the stage had been. I must be going nuts, I thought. I’ve been having pretty vivid dreams lately, but not as far as visualising entire evenings right down to the colour and pattern of a gypsy violinist’s dress. And her name: Val, she kept telling everybody. No, this actually happened. I was sure.

I later learned that the festival only lasts for one night. Which is silly. If you are going to go to all the trouble of erecting stages, at least let it run for a few more nights. Surely there are enough musicians in Lyon to fill a weekend. I could have dragged out a few Jamshakcle tunes for the evening if I had known.

Saturday was better. A hot sultry night, I was wandering around trying to find a bar to watch the football in (France vs. Spain). I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult given the French apathy towards football. However, that must have temporarily lifted for the evening, as every bar was crammed with sweating Frenchmen. Seeing as the following night I would be in a bar full of sweating Englishmen, I didn’t fancy it. Just as I was giving it up as a lost cause, I remembered that one of the outdoor bars by the Rhone was showing it on a big screen. This was a good plan I thought as I walked into the shop to buy beer, as I reckoned I could get away with sitting on the grass outside without having to buy their beer.

I wasn’t the only person who had had this idea either. A mixture of French and Spanish and me sat on the grass nursing warm bottles of Heineken while the bar owner shot us evil glares. Well, what was he expecting? And hey, so what, your bar’s full. Quit the grousing and smile. Look, you’re losing! One-nil Spain.

I was tempted to use his toilet, but I didn’t want to provoke an argument. At one point old PC Plod drove past in his old citron and eyeballed us all for a few minutes. As with all open spaces in Lyon, you’re not meant to drink alcohol. Although saying that, given the list of rules and regulations, you can’t actually do anything except sit up straight. I’m surprised breathing is allowed.

‘Monsieur. No breathing please. If you want to breathe, go outside into the street. Breathe in the car fumes.’

France lost. Not that anybody was that fagged. As soon as the match finished, people simply returned to talking about whatever they were talking about before the match started. Which I suppose, is fair enough. It’s only a game. Or is it? We’ll see later on tonight.

This morning I was woken up by The Muslim Sunday School that takes place at the Mosque opposite. I know this and so always remember to shut my blind and window on Saturday nights to avoid being woken up by thirty screaming kids at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning. There’s nothing worse than being woken up by screaming kids. Except being woken up by screaming kids on a Sunday morning.

But it wasn’t in vain. I got up and broke my own record for the 10km along the Rhone. 37m 57s. Now that’s not bad I have to say. There must be life in me yet. Walking back home, I realised that in a week’s time, I’d be stepping onto the train to be whisked back to Blighty. Given the weather here at the moment and the ‘non-summer’ back home, I have mixed feelings. I even bought some new summer shirts and shorts yesterday, whereas perhaps I should have bought Wellington boots and oil skins.

As I sauntered along Rue De la Marseille in the sweltering heat, sweat still dripping off me like I was a leaky roof, I wondered if it would have been better to stay around for a week or so to enjoy Lyon in summer without the burden of work. Hang out a bit. Relax. Soak up the atmosphere. I could have done, but I have to work in Bristol in two weeks time at the summer school. Teaching the French again. Will I ever escape…


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