I WASN’T CUT OUT TO BE A VIOLINIST

Na Coşu is a small and elegant restaurant in Belgrade.

Contrary to other restaurants in the city, such as Dva Jelena, it doesn’t have a local character. When you’re dining there, you won’t be able to hear Balkan sounds like in restaurants on Skadarlija Street. It doesn’t have the futuristic and wicked feel of Lorenzo i Kakalamba. It mostly reminds you of La Belle Époque French bistros.

When we went to Belgrade for two years because of my father’s job, I was just 11 years old. They enrolled me in a school that also drew diplomats’ children. If someone in my co-ed class misbehaved, the British teachers would enforce the “underwear” punishment, which entailed spanking the kid on the bottom after removing their underwear. Either they didn’t know that such punishment was a huge blow to the psyche of the kid on the receiving end, or this type of punishment was part of the education system in England at that time. I can honestly say that I didn’t learn anything tangible at the school. In fact, I guess the purpose wasn’t to teach kids anything but to subjugate them. There were no shared values, joys or pains that the children from different countries could share, except for one.

Watching Manchester United’s last game before fate intervened

When I got to school one Monday morning, I saw that all the children were upset and that the British kids were crying. I asked around and found out that the plane of Man Utd, who had just played a match against the Yugoslavian team Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) in Belgrade, had gone down while taking off in Munich and that all had lost their lives apart from a few. This made me sadder than the other kids because I had seen the game the other day with my father at Partizan Stadium. The score was 3-3 and Manchester United had made it to the semi-final of the European Cup. Sadly, now there was no one to play in the semi-final!

My mom, my older brother and me

I have often witnessed joy and unhappiness arrive at the same time. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or the natural flow of life. One thing I do know is that I’ve been a supporter of Manchester United ever since.

Besides school, my sister and I got French lessons from two spinsters. There was an ice-skating rink on Taşmegdan near our house and we used to skate there. My sister also took ballet lessons. When my father’s post ended and we were about to leave Belgrade, her teachers said she had great talent and that they would make her a world-class ballerina if she stayed in Belgrade. However, it wasn’t an option to leave an 8-year-old girl there, meaning that she missed the chance to become a famous ballerina although she did become a professor of political science!

My sister, the erstwhile ballerina

Dreaming of becoming like Yascha Heifetz

As for me, my father had bought me a violin and hired a young and beautiful teacher from the conservatory. Intriguingly, my father had wanted his kids to become violinists. Previously, he’d bought a violin for my brother when we was little, but he, unfortunately, also failed to become a violinist, although he did become a professor of constitutional law. At that time, the most famous violinist was Yascha Heifetz. My father hoped that I would also become a virtuoso like him one day and even called me “Hayfez.” My first lessons went great; lessons that dealt with how to hold the violin and the bow and where the fingers went were easy. But when it came time to play by looking at the notes, that young and beautiful teacher of mine turned into a witch who would brandish a broom in front of my eyes. I began to sneak off to my friends, pretending that I’d forgotten about my lessons. My father realized the situation in no time and ended the lessons. Years passed, until he said during a conversation over drinks:

Me at a slightly younger age

“We hired you an 18-year-old fox and even then you couldn’t deal with this violin stuff!” At the time, I was going through Andropause, so I shot back:

“But daddy, I was just 11 years old at that time. Now you hire me an 18-year-old fox and watch me tackle that violin!”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t succeed in becoming a violinist. Still, I told this story to my postgraduate students studying capital market law, and they liked it…