travels with a double bass

this is a bunch of notes i made a few months back about the fun to be had when carrying an instrument bigger than you around london...

Within ten minutes of buying my first double bass, a London Underground employee who saw me carrying it informed me that I may have trouble trying to get it under my chin.

There is a crack in one of the illuminated signs at Liverpool Street station that was caused by a collision with my new bass’s headstock around 30 seconds after that. Carrying a double bass is not easy at first.

I have never attempted to get on a bus with my instrument. However I once sold a double bass to someone who intended to take his new purchase home by bus. I would liked to have seen that.

It is possible to get a double bass, a cello and three humans in the back of a cab.

Carrying a double bass on the tube makes you very aware of the different layouts and heights of train carriages on different lines. I don’t like the Piccadilly line very much. The Victoria Line is good.

Escalators are evil. I narrowly avoided a very nasty situation on a crowded up escalator at Oxford Street when the little rubber thing that protects the spikey bit on the bottom of the bass came off. As a result the metal pin (and the bass it was attached to) got stuck in the grating. I couldn’t shift it, imagining an extremely unpleasant meeting of plywood, metal and humans when we hit the top. Quick thinking is not generally what bass players do too well so I relied on brute force which seemed to do the trick.

I once travelled with my bass down an escalator at Seven Sisters as a very attractive woman with a double bass came up on the other side. Whenever I think of that day it feels like the opening shot to a whimsical French comedy by the bloke who did Amelie, but what actually happened was that we ignored each other.

It is quite unlikely that you will be able to make a journey without someone commenting on your a) very large violin b) very large machine gun or suggesting that you have a body in your bag, or c) you should have taken up the harmonica. There are variations on these themes, all of which are hilarious. My solution is to get in there first if i can, thereby disarming my adversary.

In my experience Taxi drivers are very fond of the ‘big violin’ theme, but my view of this is coloured by the fact that I have by chance ended up with the same cab driver on at least three occasions and been treated to the same joke each time. I once met a very nice (and extremely good) Norwegian bass player whose fibreglass bass case was about the size of a small speedboat. He told me that he had continually encountered the ‘bet you wish you’d taken up the harmonica’ gag. He tod me that he’d come up with the perfect retort, which was ‘bet you wish you were driving a bus’. I have thought about this a lot, and concluded that it probably loses something in translation as it's something most london cabbies would be unlikely to wish for. Suggestions for a better one are always welcome.

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