Lost and found

Lost and found

It has been on the national news here in the UK, that a classical violinist managed to leave his beautiful antique instrument, worth £250,000, on a train out of London after a hard day at the recording studio. He only realised he didn’t have it when he was ready to go out next morning, and had to borrow his wife’s. Quite a few days later, and after national publicity on the BBC and Twitter, investigation by British Transport Police, the instrument thankfully turns up again. The chap who found it said he “made a mistake”! Now, unless he also plays violin, and keeps his in an identical (to the owner’s) shiny white hard case, and he had also forgotten that he did not take it out with him that day, that’s some mistake! Think the owner is going to buy a tracker for the future!
How many of you have ever left an expensive instrument somewhere and been lucky enough to get it back? A friend of mine has left a good mandolin on several occasions and always got it back: twice abandoned in pubs. My tally of forgetfulness involves several whistles left under a chair years ago, (got ‘em back), handbag left on bus, (got it back when the same bus came back through town 3 hours later), camera left in the dark recesses of a swimming pool locker (got it back next day, fortunately “before” we’d driven over 100 miles home!), music holder from my keyboard left at a gig (only missed 3 days later, but got it back before it was binned as a useless piece of non-descript black plastic!), jacket and scarf left at local club (club told me they weren’t there, but went to check for myself, and they were!) So guess I’ve been lucky, if a bit stupid - apart from the book left on a train - never saw that again.

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I once left my custom-made case containing two concertinas under a cafe table. I only realised about 10 minutes later when I stopped at a cash machine and realised I didn’t have to put it down! I ran like hell back to the cafe. The couple sitting at the table were rather surprised when I dived under to retrieve it.

It’s usually welded to me, I even lock the car between trips when loading after a gig, so I don’t know how it happened. I was probably distracted by chatting with my wife as we went to leave the cafe. I certainly triple-check everything now.

I’ve left a coat on a train, at that tricky time of year when sometimes you carry one, sometimes not - got that back too,

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Not an instrument but a story worth telling.
A few years ago I lost my rather new Iphone in the middle of Oslo. It slipped out of my pocket while I bent forward to help my little son with something. I did not even notice it fell out. We were visiting friends and after our little walk we went back to their apartment. After a while my wife’s phone rang and it was one of my friends from my hometown. His name is Lars. He asked my wife if I had lost my phone. She looked quite surprised at me and I said “no, I dont think so”.. And started looking for it. And could not find it. My friend Lars told me he got a phone call from an american guy who told Lars that he had found a phone. Lars got information on where this guy was at the moment. I ran down to the cafe where he had instructed me to go and met up with a very nice young fellow having lunch with his parents. And he had my phone!! I could not quite understand how he could possibly have known my friend Lars and how could he know the phone was mine! And the phone was locked.
He quite calmly told me when he found the phone he discovered that the screen lock was on. He was visiting Norway for the first time and although he did not know much about Norway he knew Lars is a quite common name here. He pressed the home button on the phone activating the “ask Siri” feature and told the phone to “call Lars”. Luckily I have two friends called Lars and luckily he answered the phone! I was amazed by the quick thinking of this fellow and needless to say I was very grateful and quite impressed! And I sure did let this young guy know it! Amazing stuff!

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Not an expensive instrument, but my workhorse mandolin at the time.

Some 20-odd years ago, I was preparing for a trip cycling around N. Europe. Bear in mind that this was a few years before the ubiquity of the internet and mobile phones. I cycled into the The West End (London) with a checklist of tasks, such as buying maps, visiting tourist offices for information - and buying a hard case for my mandolin (which, up until that point, I had been carrying around swaddled in an old jumper). At some point I needed to make a phone call, which entailed going into Tottenham Court Rd. tube station to use a payphone. That accomplished, I continued about my business until I had done all I had planned to do, then returned to where I had parked my bike. As I was unlocking the bike and making to set off home, I realised that I should have been carrying in my hand a mandolin with hard case - and I had neither. After a moment of blind panic, I mentally retraced my steps and worked out with reasonable certainty where I had left it, although I was much less than certain that I would see it again. I had visions of it having been removed by security and destroyed in a controlled explosion - or simply stolen.

I headed back towards the tube station, returned to the row of payphones where I had made a call earlier, and there, under the phone I had used, was my new hard case with mandolin inside. Perhaps nobody had noticed it, or assumed I was somewhere close by and had only left it for a few seconds; perhaps people had regarded it with suspicion but were prepared to take the small risk that it could be an incendiary device rather than make fools of themselves. Whatever the case, I felt as if I’d been watched over by benign forces that day.

That mandolin went on to travel with me for 2 years through Scotland, Scandinavia, The Baltic States, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and back to England - and a few times back and forth to Ireland - before I enrolled on an instrument making course in 2000 and built my own.

Re: Lost and [not] found

No happy ending for me - I was unloading my car after a gig late one night, carrying armfuls of gear up the garden path to the house and the mandolin would have been the last thing - I had left it on the pavement next to the car but when I got back it was gone. We live in a quiet semi-rural street and there was seemingly no-one around. Like CMO, it wasnt an expensive instrument but it sounded good and played well. I often wonder where it ended up.

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Not a story about an instrument but the story does have an Irish component. I took my favorite jacket to Ireland with me in 2015. By the time we returned, the weather was warmer and I wasn’t wearing it. Eventually I realized it was missing and for the next four years I lamented its loss. Enough so that my wife tired of hearing about it. Two months ago, I broke out the suitcase I used for the Ireland trip and lo and behold, the jacket was in the side pocket. It had been “missing” for four years. We’re going to Ireland again next year and that jacket will surely go. Hopefully, I’ll keep better track of it this time.

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Some great stories there, tho sorry about your never-found mandolin, Christy.

Remembering another friend who has on 5 separate occasions left the following items in various places: fiddle in case, tuner, chin rest, folder, mobile phone. With the fiddle, she wasn’t sure if she’d left it in the hall where we had been practising, or beside the car in the car park: fortunately it was safely locked in the hall, but it was a 20-mile round trip to retrieve it. Now we run a check list before she leaves anywhere!

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Trish, for months afterwards I viewed all my neighbours with suspicion but couldnt somehow see any of them as a potential mandolin thief - plus it was 1.30 in the morning and the street appeared to be totally deserted. One of life’s unsolved mysteries. If there’s one lesson to be learned, NEVER leave your instrument unattended!

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I often wonder what kind of head you need to have to leave a priceless violin on a train. Yer man’s not the first. Thirty years ago a Swedish fiddler I knew in London, also a concert violinist, told me that he had got off a train leaving his valuable 18th-century instrument in the luggage rack. He also got it back, I don’t remember how. And wasn’t there a young woman recently who put the Strad she had on loan down on the floor of a café near Victoria station and got it nicked? (Also returned.)

Remembering where you might have left something does work though. A couple of decades ago a friend (also a brilliant musician, a pianist, and a brilliant mathematician as well) turned up on my doorstep asking for help. He was in quite a state, having lost his passport, which he needed to leave the country later that day to take up a research position in France, where entry and visa requirements had already proved a bureaucratic nightmare. We went over the previous days’ events and the only place he thought it could have fallen out of his pocket or bag was a bench halfway up a mountain north of Montreal - a popular hiking route that dozens of people might have taken since. Oh and it had been raining all night. He didn’t have a car. Nor did I but I was a member of a car-sharing venture, so I abandoned my day’s work, got a motor and off we went. A two-hour drive and a one-hour climb later, there was his passport under the bench, decidedly damp but still serviceable.

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At the risk of rubbing it in for christy taylor, I’d ike to tell another positive tale.

A few months ago, I was coming back from a gig. I was dropped off at my door in the wee small hours. It had been a long day so when I got in I went straight to bed and slept like a log. Next morning, for some reason, needed to get into my bag of gig accessories (leads, mics, instrument stands etc.). Now, I am not the most organised of people when it comes to material stuff - my default system of storage for larger objects is to put them down somewhere on my front room floor, leaving enough space to walk through without too much risk of accident. Sometimes I might need to lift something or push something aside to find what I am looking for but mostly I don’t have too much trouble finding things (smaller objects are another matter…). On this occasion, I could not find my blue canvas bag anywhere. I tried to think back in stages through the previous night’s events - I could remember loading the bag into the car *and* I could remember taking it out at the other end. I became aware, then, that whilst my fiddle was in the expected place, my mandolin was nowhere to be seen. It was then that I remembered, on arriving at my door, having my hands full, I had put the mandolin and bag down on the pavement in order to get the door key out of my pocket; the fiddle, meanwhile, was slung over my shoulder. I got inside and offloaded the fiddle, intending to go straight back outside and bring everything else in but somehow got distracted, and in my tiredness, completely forgot about it and went to bed. In the horrible realisation at what I had done, I opened the front door and there, right outside my house where I’d left them, were my mandolin and my blue canvas bag. Fortunately, it had not rained overnight and everything was present and unharmed.

I met a couple of my neighbours in the street later that morning; both of them had noticed the things sitting there but assumed I was on my way out somewhere and had just left them there for a moment whilst popping back inside for something. This incident (or lack thereof) served to remind me just how fortunate I am to live where I do https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llanidloes .

Christy Taylor - Perhaps you’ll consider moving here…

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(^Perfect invitation for opportune instrument thieves.)

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Not my instrument, but it happened after leaving a session at my house. My friend, Sam (RIP) was at an afternoon party/session at my house. He and his wife left as the session was breaking up, and decided to go to a movie before going home. They had a banjo and a bouzouki in the back of the car. (I know, this sounds like a joke we all know…) When they came out from the movie, their car had been broken into, and I kid you not, someone stole the bouzouki and left the banjo…

Well, that bouzouki was a very nice 5 course Steven Owsley Smith, so Sam called him to let him know that the instrument was stolen. That’s the first thing you should do, especially if your instrument is rare, and the luthier is still around. After a couple of months of scouring eBay and Craigslist, prospects were seeming bleak. But then Mr. Smith got a call from a pawn shop. Apparently, that’s a common practice with pawn shops. If you bring in an instrument to sell, they will tell you to leave it, and they will research what it is worth. Then they call the luthier - first and foremost to see if the instrument was stolen. And if not, to get an idea of the value…

So Sam got the zouk back many months later. The good news for me is that in the meantime, Sam had bought a Fletcher Brock bouzouki, which I ended up buying – and that was my first real serious foray into ITM…

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CMO - I did a similar thing before I lost the mando - I came downstairs the morning after a gig, opened the front door and was horrified to see my melodeon case containing my lovely 2 row Saltarelle sitting on the front step. Luckily we have a long front garden and a thick hedge so not easily visible from the street, so I got away with it that time………….

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For me, to misplace, even temporarily, a beloved instrument is as bad, or worse than unrequited love. To irretreivably lose such an instrument would bring on grief.

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A few years ago a bloke I know who played an [expensive] Cairdin box staggered home a bit worse for wear after a session and woke up in the morning wondering where his accordion was. When he retraced his steps from the night before he remembered stopping for a pee at a vacant building block and realised he must’ve left his instrument in its case sitting there. After a quick look around he discovered someone had chucked the whole lot over a fence in disgust. Obviously had no idea of what they’d found …

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“someone had chucked the whole lot over a fence in disgust” Or was “half-inching” it.

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So the daughter was insistent on a lovely old German lion’s head fiddle she’d spotted and we finally relented. What a tone it had! Several weeks later, she brokenheartedly announced it was lost, she knew not where, which is worse than having a starting place to look for something! Re-tracing her paths, placing ads in local papers, checking with the bus company’s lost & found, etc., turned up nothing. Weeks passed and life got back to routine. Then out of the blue, we get a call from a lovely lady who’d seen these young people at a bus stop as they waited, setting down their instruments, and then forget to get one of them when the bus arrived. She promptly retrieved it but didn’t know who to return it to. After getting home from a trip some time later, she decided to go through her old newspapers, saw our ad and called! Now we all put identifiers in our cases because you always hope that it will be a good soul like this woman that finds it if it goes missing!

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My tale: Once a week we drive an hour to share the day with our two grandkids, picking them up at school and riding bicycles to their home. A few weeks ago on a very nice day, we first stopped at the library, then an ice cream shop, then a playground, before biking to their home.

That evening at dinner with their parents, I touched the little leather holster that always hangs from my belt, carrying my 3 piece Parks whistle. It felt a little loose. To my horror, the top part (the whistle part) was missing! I had only the two bottom pieces of the barrel.

I was fairly frantic. Daylight was fading, but I set off on my bike to retrace my route. Did it fall out as we sat on a bench at the playground? No sign of it. I stopped at the ice cream shop. Nobody had turned it in. I asked and searched at the library. No luck. I returned to the school and happened to catch the attention of the night custodian, who searched the “lost and found” bins. Nothing. As I rode the now dark streets, I kept searching for something white in my headlight beam. No luck.

I mourned as we made the hour drive back home, then went to by basement practice room. There it was! For an upcoming gig, my friend wanted to do some tunes in C, so I had switched the head to the C barrel, then forgot about it when I’d finishing practicing.

Sometimes one’s forehead deserves a good slap.

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Paddy Keenan - an exclusive Celtic Cafe interview w/Zina Lee “Triumph & Troubles”

“…after waking up covered in snow in St. James Park one morning, that was it,” Keenan recalls. “I had to
get myself onto the subway train that went round in a circle, just to thaw out! It was soon after this, I was
forced to sing and play my guitar to feed myself. My first nights buskin’, I had to hide my hairy head up an alleyway from football supporting Skinheads. Soon after that first night I was a regular in the
subways of London, singing with my guitar. I made a lot more doing this then I did working in a
tile and concrete pipe-making factory.” (Weatherwells, at Clondalkin, Co. Dublin)

During this time, Keenan didn’t play his pipes, even trying at one point to sell them at a pawn shop, but had
no takers—uilleann pipes were simply Not Cool in late 60’s London. Even now Keenan sounds incredulous
when he recalls, “I went as low as two bob. I couldn’t believe my ears when he turned me down.” (They were Crowley pipes with a custom Rowsome chanter, and the Crowley part of the set had been owned by the Honorable Garret Browne of the Guinness family.) Keenan walked out of the pawn shop and made to
throw his pipes into a trash bin. A friend stopped him and told him he’d keep the pipes for him.“

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Re: Lost and found

On the other hand: the prominent Cape Breton fiddler Sandy MacIntyre tells of having moved to Toronto, and for a long time having no fiddle, until he found one sticking out of a garbage can. He polished it up, so to speak, and used it for years ….