Friday, 26 November 2010


Music: a universally shared language which crosses international boundaries.

Today, I was in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres. I did not take my 'proper' camera with me but yes, my wee camera was tucked away in my bag. I was thankful I had that with me when the sound of beautiful music stopped me in my tracks. On this day, declared the coldest, worst November for snow in the UK for 17 years, an elderly lady was playing the accordion.

Her music went straight to my heart and I felt the sting of tears flowing in to my eyes. I knew I must go over to tell her how much I appreciated her playing.

From the other side of the street, she saw me approach. I smiled, I pointed to myself and made the action of playing the violin. Her face broke into a HUGE smile, excitedly she greeted me with a torrent of Romanian and then she repeated several times "violino violino violino" and touched her heart. I signed back "violino touched my heart" but took her hand and pointed to the accordion, then my heart - her music moved me.  She gestured to me to wait and changed to a play a waltz. Her head proudly lifted, her smile reflected by sparkling eyes as she played to me. I sang to accompany her and she swayed as she played. I took my camera from my pocket, touched my heart and she nodded, raised her hand to her lips and blew a kiss.

Me, in a smart red coat and black business trousers. This woman wrapped up against the cold, playing with one red and one blue glove and every so often, speaking to me in Romanian.

We must have looked an unusual pair but neither of us cared. 

People hurried past, to some we were invisible, to others there seemed almost a hostility in their expressions - "why were we taking?" I thought that few people in their assumptions would be correct.

This lovely lady was a musician like myself. I respected her skill, I understood and related to her in these short moments which we shared.  Like her, I had stood as a busker playing here and in other city centres in Scotland and around the world. I too, knew of  this experience happening 'now'. Many times I have met musicians on the road and the language of our countries has prevented verbal communication. Yet, music and gestures have shared what we have wanted to say. Music, a language without words.

Finally I had to go. She took my hand, gestured of the cold, pointed to the sun, pointed to my smile and signed that my smile had brightened and warmed her heart. For me, it was a long street to walk away from her and in her line of vision but, when I stopped to look back, she was still stood playing, smiling at me.

Catching the train back to Edinburgh, I arrived in the dark. The city centre was full of people rushing in and out of shops. Christmas lights illuminated Princes Street, yet the season of goodwill seemed more about spending money amidst loud music booming from the fun fair. The music here was not as sweet as the waltz played earlier to me by my friend. How much more precious had been her music, her smile and our shared exchange speaking a language without words.

If you have enjoyed reading my free Blog - maybe I can ask that, the next time you pass by a busker whose music you enjoy, please stop and give them some money. It takes many years of hard work and commitment to become a musician and there is a Celtic saying:

"A compliment doesn't pay the fiddler"


  1. delighted to see and hear this post
    I have passed the same lady many times at the corner of Rose St and Frederick St, when on my way home from work, and does her smile as well as her spontaneous music light up the afternoon

  2. Love the blog Shona. Beautiful photos - and the end poem is great. Feel the fear but do it anyway - a process that is either being lost or commercialised.
    Well done YOU. Hope to see you over for the Tall Ships in Waterford.