surinenglish

Passion play

You can feel the joy as soon as you step through the door. It shines brightly from the shelves amid the organised chaos that is the workshop of my good friend Enrique, luthier extraordinaire.

We've known each other for more than twenty years, Enrique and I, and when I was playing three or four concerts a week, I'd take my battered old guitar in for a regular service every ten or twelve months or so. Last week, I finally got round to knocking on Enrique's door after a three-year hiatus, standing there like an embarrassed teenager who hasn't been to the dentist in far too long.

"Hi, Enrique - I've, er, brought my guitar."

He smiles and rubs his chin. "Hmmm - come in then, let's take a look."

He lays the instrument out on his worktop and begins his examination. The unnerving silence is punctuated only by the odd sigh until, after what seems like about six weeks, Enrique exhales at length and looks me directly in the eye.

"You might want to take a seat."

No, only joking, what he actually says is that everything's in reasonable nick considering I haven't paid him a visit since 1872.

When I collect the guitar a week later, he's worked wonders - it looks, plays and sounds extraordinary.

Normally, I really don't like talking about guitars - largely because I'm not really that interested in them. With Enrique it's different; he's so passionate about the subject that you can't help but be swept along on his wild tide of enthusiasm.

"See that fret? I had to bevel it with this." He plucks a beautiful file from a drawer and caresses it lovingly. Then he gazes wistfully into the middle distance and launches into a short speech which includes so many technical terms that I might as well be listening to a Vietnamese fly fishing enthusiast. It doesn't matter - just the look on his face is enough to lift the most faltering of spirits.

We play a few Paul Simon songs together and I ask him for the bill.

"Nada."

"No - that's the work of a craftsman, Enrique. It's worth a lot of money."

"Nada."

Eventually I leave a paltry 50 euro note on his worktop as a gesture, turn to pick up my belongings and bid him farewell. I can't wait to get home to play the guitar.

Back in my living room, I open the case and I'm immediately struck by two things: the renewed beauty of the instrument laid out before me - and the 50-euro note that's sitting on top of it.