I am sitting beside the fountain in the Jardin de la Palais Royal watching the sunset over the theatre to let the moon light the courtyard outside the Comedie Francaise. There are chairs dotted around the fountain in ones and twos. A trace of rendez-vouss that took place sometime today. A man gets up to move opposite me as I sit down so there is some kind of equilibrium to the flow of people sitting and going, ebbing and flowing. It is the end of the day. The end of the week. The end of the holiday season. Christmas trees are sticking out of dustbins across Paris and Christmas lights are being switched on for the last time tonight. I am listening to the water and find myself humming the melody of Bolero. I’m not playing it but I can hear it and I can mark it now. It’s duration is etched or scored upon my consciousness through the process of repetition before I made my journey. It’s a good job because I decided on leaving the hotel today on the edge of Montmartre and near the Gare du Nord (a less salubrious area) that I really shouldn’t be wearing an ipod or carrying a laptop or a camera at this time of night. So there is something therapeutic about using a pen and paper like this. Like Perec’s inventory. Or maybe Ravel composing Bolero in 1922. My writing can breathe a sigh of relief. It is safe here. I write these words here. With this pen. On this paper. At this time of night. By this fountain. To the sound of the water. A couple turn their chairs next to me around to take a photo of themselves in front of the fountain. Then the chairs will remember that moment, stage that photo, until another couple turn the chairs back again. And I imagine Ravel sitting in the chair on the other side of the fountain. Recently vacted by the man who left when I arrived. And I wonder what he might have said to me if I told him I was on this journey. This journey of remembrance. This journey of discovery. This pilgrimage to his music. I would ask him why he wrote it. I would ask him why he said there was no music in it at all and why he would get upset when someone conducted it too slowly or too fast. Perhaps because they were not letting the music breathe in the way he wanted it to breathe. Its heart beat in the way he wanted it to beat. They were playing with its pulse and it couldn’t live in the same way. It’s getting dark now. A plane flies overhead and its lights echo the stars and the fairy lights on the ground in the boutiques and epicuries that line the garden. And I wonder what Ravel might say to me about this journey. What advice he might offer. To listen to the music or to stop listening to the music when I could hear it without listening to it. When the music was already in me. Tomorrow I visit his house. On Sunday I visit his grave. Tonight I am meeting a man at the Comedie Francaise to talk about the project and to ask if he can help me to access the Opera on Monday. To sit for 17 minutes in the auditorium. To lay a rose on the stage to go with the one I leave on his doorstep and the one I leave on his grave. To sit by his house. To sit by his tomb for 17 minutes. The duration of the music and to imagine what he might have thought about those times and about those places and how they might play a part in this story I am trying to tell and how I might try to tell that story. It’s getting late. It’s getting dark. It’s getting cold. It’s time for my meeting. The music in my head is coming to a close. I’ve been sitting here for 17 minutes and it’s time to move on. I will leave my chair as I found it. For someone else. I look to my left and I see a chair that wasn’t there earlier. Or if it was I didn’t see it earlier. And I wonder if Ravel was with me all along. Maybe he’s with me on this journey. In the music. In the memories of the places connected to the story. My Dad sent me a message today to point out that the word RAVEL is hidden in TRAVELLING and that is an appropriate way to end. But it also means I go travelling, I take Ravel with me. In the words. In the music. Goodnight Maurice. See you tomorrow. At Montfort L’Amaury.


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