A couple of years ago, while in Paris, I was looking for someone to repair my bandoneon. I wrote to a bandoneon Yahoo group: ‘Looking for a good quality repairer/restorer of bandoneons, in or near Paris’ – within minutes I had the reply: ‘the nearest GOOD one is Rocco in Oldenburg’. Well, that’s some recommendation, at over 700km distance!


I happen to have a cousin who lives in Oldenburg, so we combine visiting her and her family with taking the bandoneon for an overhaul.

We find a lovely car park for our overnight stays, just on the outskirts, near a lake and a train line. It seems the train line goes from a car factory to somewhere: long trains with hundreds of brand new cars on them pass by several times a day. To Frank’s surprise (and mine too, really), I turn into a train spotter. I find it fascinating just how many new cars roll past us, and where do they go to? What can you do with more than 1500 new cars per day? I imagine the production and the loading to make this happen. There is something unrelenting about it, something so drastically materialistic, it’s eerie. Especially when they continue to rumble past in the dead of night and on weekends.


Oldenburg celebrates Summer with a month-long music festival. The main square by the baroque castle, in the centre of town, is filled with people of all generations and backgrounds, listening to music in the open air. We also drop in on the opening evening of the Oldenburg Tango Festival. Although we have not been here before, I recognise at least 40 out of the 100 people. The Tango world is so small…

We also meet young Lotta who lives in Oldenburg – she was a helper at the Tango Mango a couple of years ago. It’s lovely to see her, she is such a lively person, full of energy and zest for what’s ahead of her. We swap some travelling stories – she’s recently been to Russia and various other places.

In my cousin’s house big bellies are being compared: two of her daughters are pregnant, one with twins. We share meals, catch up on family stories and I spend one afternoon delving into deep conversation with Gesine, one of the daughters, about family dynamics.


Rocco takes a week to repair my bandoneon, and he does a great job. While we are there, we hatch an idea for a Bandoneon Festival some time next year. One week, just for bandoneons… we’ll create Bandoneon Heaven, for players of different levels, with international teachers, and also with a bandoneon maintenance workshop, so that we learn how to treat the little ailments of our instruments.

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