Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bordeaux - The Bicycle Orchestra and Other Stories

Before I knew that Bordeaux was synoniem to wine, it was a town where the Tour de France would pass every year. In Europe this great cycle tour de force is followed by millions. On television its reputation is so massive, that more millions stay two hours or more in front of the television. The nice summerdays can wait for a while. Last century Bordeaux had a name to be a Dutch city. Almost as a tradition it had a Dutch cycler that won the etappe there.

After Bordeaux the Tour would proceed for the Pyrenee mountains. The real heroes were born there. When coming from Bilbao, I expected to cross these mountains. Don't know much about geography, and don't know much about the French I took. But I do know I felt some regret and some faint nostalgia when I saw the traffic sign `France`and realised I had to leave Spain. There were no mountains.

Empty spaces get filled up very fast. My host for the day was Jonathan. He materialised out of a story that Pati told me back in Vigevano. Such are the little mysteries in life. When I walked out of the trainstation a little guy with black sunglasses and a moustache came cycling towards me, leaded me through the inner city to an anarchist's cove, and much later to his house on the Rue de la Croix
Blanche.

The next morning I woke up with a bag full of souveniers. Breakfast was had in the garden, where objects of other times composed a structuralist's dream of a shipwrecked society. Fortunately also the philosopher had gone. The sun was out, birds were singing their springtime melodies, in a nearby house some work was done.

We all know that God lives in France, and not in the machine as some nihilists want to believe. On that spring day God picked me up and swirled me through the days, as if He had decided to do some jeux de boules. I got to know the city by bike and recognised all the streets I had seen in my childhood when watching the Tour de France on TV with my father.

I had have to write a series of poems to honour those days at the house on the Rue de la Croix Blanche, but I am not a master of words.

Dear Chrystèle Palvadeau ,

If I remember right, the bicycle was a French invention. It was a machine that combined the love for circus and poetry. You enter into a state of wonder when you step on a bike and start driving, fearlessly balancing on two thin wheels. On a bicycle you are only twenty centimeters above the earth, but it is enough to hold the promise that one day you might fly. Poetry starts just before the day that your
longings get fullfilled.

On my first day in Bordeaux I was brought to the narrowest street of the city. At the end of it was the Athenée libertaire. In one of their rooms a fundraising festival took place. I was surprised at the great variety in sound and different approaches to music that I encountered.
One of the groups, but here it is better to speak of orchestra, looked like a bicycle repair place. Twelve bicycles stood in a circle, upside down, as if twelve people had run through glass at the same time, puncturing their tires.
This was not so. They were making music. And they used every piece of the bicycle to produce sound. And in every soundbit the love for circus and poetry was expressed. The onlookers smiled. The enthousiasm of the musicians changed the day.

A few days later I was a member of this orchestra, not as a musician, but as a recorder. We went to visit three schools at the other side of the river. There one of us rang the doorbell, spoke to the teacher, explained the scope of the visit, and made a sign that we could walk in.

The bicycles were put in a circle on the playground. The teachers called the kids. Ten minutes later some fifty children aged 8-10 years were listening. Twenty five minutes later those children were laughing, shouting and banging on bikes with spoons. The teachers were surprised and satisfied. The courtyard got cleaned and after forty minutes the whole action was over.

Please, Mademoiselle, consider this. Contact one of the members of the group, and ask for more information. And then, excuse my little attempt to be poetic, consider that a little grant to the group, in return for a visit as the bicycle orchestre to more elementary schools in Bordeaux, would give a great sense of recognition and stimulation to the young musicians in your town, and –not to forget – it would
bring joy and an unforgettable memory to the children.


With upmost respect and kind regards,

Rinus van Alebeek

Chrystèle Palvadeau: http://www.bordeaux.fr/ebx/portals/ebx.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pgCVEluCM&classofcontent=eluCM&id=60

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