I sighed as I lugged my double bass from the car. NCO had invited me to go on a 'lower orchestra' course, continuing for three weeks and going on tour. Apparently, the lower part of the orchestra (trombones, tubas, basses and bassoons) didn't understand how important they were because they were overshadowed by other instruments. I'm seventeen now, and meeting some kids whom I haven't seen for two or three years.

The bass section, for instance. There were always six, but only four could come. Anya, Julie, Kazan and me. There were four bassoons, four trombones and two tubas, and two precussonists for good measure. A tutor for each section, and a conductor, the group came up to about twenty. We were staying in a youth hostel, and they were renting a small music school a couple of miles away. I was just dropping my bass off before they drove us in a minibus to the youth hostel.

I was sort of looking forward to seeing everyone again. My best friend, Jack, who played the tuba, was there. And Kazan had always been nice, and my long term crush on Anya had hopefully disappeared. Then there was Julie, who was always too hyper and chatty for me. We were rivals from the very first course. She was very Welsh, and she could be very funny, and we spent a lot of our time swearing at each other in different languages (she swore at me in Welsh, I swore at her in French and Anya swore at all of us in several different languages.)

The tutor, Joan, was as exotic as the rest of us, but she wasn't arriving till tomorrow. I hoped that Kazan was a bit less quiet, Julie a bit less chatty, and my crush on Anya rapidly disappearing.

How wrong can a boy get?

My first sighting of them was Julie filling what seemed to be a hood full of grass, and tipping it over Anya, as they use to do so often when I'd watch Anya at fourteen. She slowly turned around, her long, intelligent face glowering at Julie. Kazan was half an hour late, however, I did get time to catch up with Jack.

I chatted and messed around with everyone on the bus ride to the youth hostel and over dinner. Julie had found quite a few more swear words to say in Welsh, and we swapped stories about Cardiff and Leeds. I also talked a bit to her best friends Florence the bassoon player and the precussionist Thea, before Florence and Julie nattered amongst themselves in Welsh and Thea tried to catch their drift. Apparently, Anya was in her second year of music conservartoire in America and had flown over especially for this.

The youth hostel seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but Anya said it was just in the middle of a forest. I argued that that was in the middle of nowhere, before Julie tipped a hoodful of grass all over my head. Thea took a photo of me with a complete look of horror on my face and Julie standing above me, grinning cheekily.

We all stayed up in the lounge until ten, discussing our lives and playing Monopoly. Though Julie cheated, a trombonist called Mel won. I was sharing a room with Jack, Kazan, Jordan (tuba), Justin (bassoon), and Michael (trombone).