Almost every day I get to walk down Cornmarket, a pedestrianised road in the centre of Oxford. Often it is thronging with people: tourists, shoppers, language students, Big Issue vendors, street evangelists, a few market stall holders... and then, adding to the noise and vibrancy, an all day busking and entertaining presence. When all busking sites are filled the effect is of a musical chain: I can usually hear the first one as I approach the junction with Broad Street, the music becoming louder with each step; then as I continue, their music fades and the echo is picked up by the next one, about halfway up the road, who in turn fades and hands the baton on to the last one, near Carfax. Rather like the fine lady on a white horse, whenever I walk down Cornmarket I will have music wherever I go!
And what a variety! There's the ballad-singing young guitarist in a trilby, the older classical guitarist, the saxophonist and myriad other instrumentalists. There's a young serious-looking string trio and a cheery Roma combo with accordion and trumpet. There's a beautiful young soprano, who sings O mio babbino caro and Ave Maria and whose hat is full of coins in no time. There's a simple, homespun puppeteer and a wacky one-man band complete with howling dog. Sometimes there are also jugglers and acrobats, a tightrope walker and a variety of human "statues".
And then there's the Paraguayan harpist, who is here sporadically, and fills the air with breathtakingly beautiful music. He was there this morning as I loitered on a nearby street corner, waiting for a colleague who had texted to say he was stuck in traffic. The harpist struck up a new song - Ciliegi Rosa e Primavera (known to Anglophones as Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White) - and suddenly I was transported back a few decades to my childhood. This was one of several old Italian-American-type songs with which my parents would fill the house, and which now fill my subconscious memories. Now, listening to the harp, I could hear the trumpet effortlessly, lazily, sliding up and down between the strings, could remember the few snatches of lyrics my mother would sing out loud.
When he had finished I thanked him, and explained how glad I was that my colleague was late, as it had allowed me to enjoy this unexpected concert and the memories his music brought back. He smiled: nada es por casualidad - nothing happens by chance... and then, after a few more words, he launched into an achingly beautiful rendition of the love theme from Romeo and Juliet. A few minutes later my colleague texted, and I walked slowly down a side road to our meeting-place, the love theme a gradually fading backdrop.
Nothing happens by chance. Today was a lovely, sunny day, with rain forecast for the weekend - so maybe my last opportunity to loiter and listen. As with my "dragonflies moment" two weeks ago, this was a simple pleasure, freely given and received, a touch of God experienced in something small and seemingly insignificant. No, nothing happens by chance - and that includes this "chance" comment by a Paraguayan harpist!