That summer, I travelled to Czechoslovakia to chase down catguts. I’d read that the best, the most vibrant violin strings were made from the intestines of animals that were sick and ill-fed in life. You got tough, I discovered, after you died. I arrived in Plzeň, a city I knew only from the beer, and, perhaps inevitably, the weight of a bright blue sky led me to a dark, stained-glass pub.
Word had already got around, I suppose, that I was in search of the perfect string. For those who still bothered to look at CD covers, or huddled around the right corners of tiny clubs at certain times of the night, my face may have been familiar. It was the hair, usually. I had already shaken off a documentary crew in Prague. They’d caught me coming out of a hotel and bolted from their seats like Christmas shoppers. They’d been following a TV chef around Europe and needed fresh angles. I’d had to slide over the bonnet of a car to lose them.
And now, here I was, one leg up at the bar, pushing back steins of a local fruity beer, waiting out for leftovers from farm animals crafted up by the arthritic hands of a fallen master. Life was bloody good.