Grace Notes: Traumas of travelling with an instrument

Due to the fact I live in London and I’m a musician, I tend to have to travel a lot with my violin. Be it across London, to another city, or occasionally abroad on a tour. Travelling with an instrument, wherever you go, is never completely straightforward. You don’t normally travel with JUST the instrument. You have concert clothes, a stand, music, and occasionally another instrument if you’re on a doubling part. Being a girl I also almost always have my handbag and that adds one more thing you have to strap to your back.

I’m lucky in the fact that I play the violin. It will sit nicely on my back and doesn’t get stuck in doors or on ceilings of low carriages (I feel very sorry for cello/double bass players). I have however had my fair share of awful times when traveling.


Having an instrument when the tube is as packed as this is a nightmare! (I do not own this image)

One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had traveling with my violin was a coach journey home to London after a day in Bristol getting my bow fixed. I’d left my flat at 5.30am in order to get to Bristol by 10am and meet my parents. So when it came to travelling home at about 8pm I was rather tired. I got to the coach station and stood in the queue waiting to show the driver my ticket. He was about to let me on, when he stopped me and said (pointing at my violin case), “you can’t take that on with you”. I obviously protested and politely asked why. Apparently, it’s a fire hazard and could cause people harm. If the bus was full, then maybe he had a point, but over half the seats were free. I pointed this out and he didn’t relent. Then I burst into tears. Now, this is both fairly pathetic and very embarrassing, but I was super tired and couldn’t really cope any more. I was causing such a fuss he sent everyone else on the bus before dealing with me. He tried to explain that the violin would be perfectly safe, it wasn’t going to roll around, and didn’t believe me when I said (or hiccupped out, my crying is not in any way elegant or attractive) that the heat could potentially damage it and I’d rather it was on the bus with me. After about 5 minutes I think he was a little embarrassed that the bus was being held up by a hysterically sobbing twenty year old and let me on, grumbling all the way. I calmed down when on the bus and a fair few of the passengers came up to me to see if I was ok (I had been making quite a scene). After this, I’m always very wary of certain coach journeys….

When I got home I did actually look up the bus company’s rules about luggage on the bus, and to be fair to the driver, he was right. The terms and conditions say you’re allowed one small piece of soft hand luggage that will fit into the overhead rack or underneath the seat. Now, my violin isn’t soft, but it’s also not exactly massive, and will easily tuck alongside and underneath seats. In my opinion it counts as small (people were allowed on with holdalls with no problems), it’s not heavy in the slightest, and especially as the bus was half empty I think he was being very unfair.

In hindsight a well-reasoned argument probably would have got me on the bus faster than crying, but I was tired and emotional. Thankfully (for me, drivers and fellow passengers) this hasn’t happened to me since!


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