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A weapon or implement of war in some bold and anafractuous lands, a domesticated instrument of music in others. Give me the arts of peace any time, I say. More below on my attempts to master at least some of a set of Flemish pipes.

What happened first

The Stichting Draailier en Doedelzak had a few simple sets of pipes available for a hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe weekend I went to with Chris. I survived a day among strangers when I went north to collect them, but very nearly lost my composure at the start of the journey home. You know that punched-in-the-chest, stepped-on-a-stair-that-isn't-there feeling when you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with someone and don't know what to do or say to make the good impression you instantly long to produce? Well, at least "Utrecht, alstublieft" was an appropriate thing to say to a bus-driver, and a reflex that saved me from gaping like a complete idiot.

Such a smile! 'merry' is the only word I can find for it, crinkling his eyes and leaving his lips on the brink of opening into a laugh. Short fair hair and beard setting off a handsome, curled, red-gold moustache; fine-boned but completely masculine: and above all, that unaggressive, secure, unaware self-confidence. Making a good recover, as any fluent speaker of eighteenth-century English would say, I just admired from a discreet distance.
"Tot ziens!" he called cheerfully as I left the bus.
"Hm," I thought, trudging up the steps to the station.

What happened next

This must have been in the autumn of 1997, getting me as far as deciding I liked the instrument and really rather wanted one so that Chris and I could play duets. Left to my own devices, that would have been that: but Chris is better at making me do things than I am, and instructed me to accompany him to Gooik for the 1998 folk festival. That's where he'd found Peterson the previous year, and that's where I found a beautiful set of Flemish pipes – known as Rebate, but that's a different story – from the Dutch maker Ruud van den Berg.

I didn't made much progress, and we also decided (our suspicions confirmed by a visitor who happens to be music director at a college in the UK; where should we be without our better-informed friends) that Rebate is just a touch too assertive for duetting with silver-toned Peterson. There was only one thing for it: order a musette from Remy Dubois at Gooik 1999 … Three years to wait, and Chris feels he needs to order a lute-backed hurdy-gurdy, because the musette will be A=415 and he doesn't want to detune Peterson every time we play together.

And what's happened since

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