6 February 2013

One of the wonderful things about touring the world is experiencing different cultures; the food is a big part of that. Bento boxes are like a packed lunch, with rice or noodles, dumplings, some meat or tofu, maybe some funky vegetables or some other unidentifiable product (see bento B at the Robot place!).

The sushi, fresh out of the Tsukiji fish market, is the best on earth. And I've already mentioned the ramen noodles from Sapporo. These days of course we can get almost any food we like in London. But it's still nice to try it in the country of origin, where it will be presented in the best manner possible (you hope!).

Sometimes, however, you just crave a ham and cheese toastie. This morning, as we waited in Shinagawa station for a Bullet train to Nagoya, the thought of fish or dumplings for breakfast was just too much. There's a time and place for experimentation, and this was neither. Thankfully, there was a well-known Seattle-based coffee shop nearby, whose food counter contained a torpedo of soon-to-be-toasted ham and cheese. I was happy.

A few days before, Robin, our principal bassoon, had had to pull out of a concert at the last minute due to the highly undesirable effects of eating a fishy wrong 'un. Let's just say that there was a prodigious amount of meal-reviewing going on. Contrabassoonistextraordinaire (is that some sort of word record?) Luke stepped in and saved the day in Beethoven 7. Trying new, exciting foods is all well and good, but getting ill on tour is never fun.

Nagoya is famous, as you undoubtedly already know, for being home to Arsenal Football Club manager Arsène Wenger before he became the football manager of Arsenal Football Club. Nagoya Grampus Eight Football Club, whilst managed by Wenger, won a domestic trophy, which encouraged Arsenal Football Club to hire Arsène, where he won many more football cups, (although not so many recently).

I like Nagoya, and not just for its rich Football Club cup history. There's a strip of beautiful park right in the middle, with bridges, rocky hillocks and fountains, and also an Eiffel Toweresque structure that lends a certain grandeur to the skyline. Violinist Gideon and I took a turn around it together. He likes football too, and history. He knows all about Nagoya Football Club's rich football cup…ok I'll stop there.

One of the difficult things about being away from home for so many weeks of the year is that we sometimes miss important family events. As I was warming up before the rehearsal, Gijs excitedly called me over to where he was sitting with his laptop. He had received a video from home in an email; his daughter Elsa's first steps. The little girl's grandmother held her upright, and then let go, allowing the 13-month old's little legs to carry her 30-odd steps towards Mummy. It was amazing. She was holding a phone as she went, and as she paused halfway across the room it looked like she had decided to update her Facebook status on the way. Walking? Done! We laughed at how wonderful it was, and then I left Gijs alone to watch it again, and again. Proud father. Being away from home can be tough.

We had the pleasure of accompanying the beautiful Japanese violinst Akiko Suwanai in Sibelius' amazing violin concerto in the first half, but when we came off at half time for a slice of orange and cup of tea, we heard the alarming news that one of our horn players had been taken ill and whizzed off to hospital. He'd been eating something fishy. Luckily we keep a spare horn player in a box, and Jim played perfectly in the symphony.

After the concert we were pleased to hear that the stricken blower was feeling better, and would return to Tokyo to re-join the tour the next day. We all piled back onto our coaches, returned to the station (where I bravely bought a bento box), and we headed home feeling triumphant, as if we'd just won a football cup, or taken our first steps. Or something. Thanks for reading!