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I am getting ready to go now. Sitting in the departure lounge at the Gare du Nord. I visited the Centre Pompidou before leaving today, to see a version of Bolero by Maurice Béjart that Laurent told me was synonymous with the music in France. For the English, it is Torvill and Dean. For the French, it is Béjart. What has surprised me is how much the music has haunted my journey. When I arrived at Ravel’s house on Saturday, the lady who shows visitors around was humming Bolero to a policeman who had popped in to have a look around. She showed me a teaspoon in the display cabinet and asked me to guess where it was from. When I couldn’t guess, she started humming Bolero to me as well. I said Spain but she said ‘La Russe’. The spoon was a gift from the Russian ballerina Ida Rubenstein who commissioned Bolero. When I went to the theatre yesterday at Theatre L’Odeon, in a play that had no connection to Ravel, the soundtrack sampled Bolero. There were echoes of Serge Gainsbourg, whose graffitied apartment I visited yesterday, so maybe the director was paying homage to the soundscape of Paris but it was another haunting on my journey. The music is everywhere, in the sound of trains. So now, as I take the Eurostar back to London and the first part of my journey is nearly over, I have come closer to Ravel still. Through playing his piano, leaving flowers at his monument, his home and his grave. Sitting with him and his music. I have learnt that he was kind, that he was ‘pas triste’ and celibate. I have seen his single bed. I have seen the walls he painted himself by hand. Modest colours: blues, greys, yellows, but with simple patterns painstakingly drawn across the top: pillars, flowers. He was a man of patience, of resources. Happy in his own company. I have seen his handwriting on the shelves of his library. Books neatly labelled and ordered. I have seen his bathroom, his shaving equipment still on the shelf. I imagine him to be well groomed, immaculate. I have walked around his garden. A Japanese style garden. Minimal, like his music. The lady who showed us his house gave us a seed from a vine on his balcony so when I get home I can plant a seed from Ravel’s house. I left him a rose and he gave me a seed. When I left the flower on his grave I felt the closest I have felt to him. As if he was writing, through me, to the music. And now, as I take the sounds, the sights, the memories of the Paris Ravel knew, the Paris he was inspired by, to Sarajevo, the seed of the story will continue to grow. Whatever it becomes, something has been planted, ideas have been sown, and like the music Ravel composed, they will start to grow in my mind and my heart. To the Bolero.


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