Saturday 5 March 2016

Memoirs of An Accidental Busker

I don’t know what the average attention span of a blog reader is
but I suspect it is like mine…short.
I usually do short, 
but now and again a piece stretches beyond the confines of a poem in a mischievous fashion
So rather than let these yarns gather dust in a shoe box I will give them to you piecemeal in instalments if necessary…not too many!

 Memoirs of an Accidental Busker

   In the summer of ’77 I set off for London with a green canvas ex-US army sack on my back and a guitar strung over my shoulder. 
The sack which looked like a rolled up sleeping bag was a relic from Vietnam and belonged to a friend of a friend. It proved to be a useless carrier that all too often unfastened and leaked an array of High Street panty hose at inappropriate stages of my sojourn. The guitar was not mine. I was simply its courier and could hardly strum a chord. So there I was travelling out into the wide world under borrowed pretences to make my fortune.
   Somebody who knew somebody had secured a job for me in an International Hotel in Hammersmith; I was to wait tables and assist chef. But chef’s wife was heavily pregnant so I spent most of my time avoiding same chef whose suppressed libido was in heat. This avoidance called for skilful manoeuvrings on my part which left me at the rear end of the service tail-back during the lunch-crunch. Any friendly overtures from me and I might find myself pinned to the kitchen wall within arm’s reach of chef’s cleaver. So I walked a thin tightrope that long, hot, Hammersmith summer.
   The same friend of a friend was to relieve me of the guitar one day in Piccadilly Square but never materialised in the flesh. So I had to lug the thing through the London Underground back to the matchbox sized bed-sit that I shared with Hannah.
   She and I had been best pals at school where, within the narrow confines of classroom walls, our real compatibility was never tested. But here in the wide world of Hammersmith we quickly discovered each other’s limitations. Her Achilles’ heel related to her Polish boyfriend and she spent the summer hallucinating that I was trying to steal him. It was true that he followed me from work on my every shift and I began to suspect that his job in sales must be a figment of his imagination. I should say “stalked” rather than “followed” for he shadowed my every move and drove at Paparazzi distance behind me. Then after my dive into the cramped hallway of our digs and a leap up three flights of stairs I was treated to a serenade of insistent knocking until, out of desperation, I grabbed the guitar and drowned out the orisons of my unwanted suitor by tuneless strumming. Needless to say he only performed this serenade when Hannah was absent.
   Now this testosterone high that seemed to permeate Hammersmith that summer, and the fact that it gravitated towards me, had nothing to do with my looks and/or charm for I was a plain, gauche country girl. But perhaps it was that, my lack of guile, which piqued their interest. And, in truth, the chef and the Pole were characters who would have romped with aplomb in any of Henry Fielding’s sexual escapades through rural England: seducing servant girls, dairymaids and whoever they happened to chance upon….
   So I spent the summer dodging lascivious advances until I was worn thin. It was when another friend of a friend offered me a job in a chipper in Glasgow that I stuffed my ex-army bag with my now over-sized clothes, grabbed the guitar and headed for Heathrow. I did not even work my notice.
   My plane ticket clutched to my chest, my meagre savings stashed in my deflated cleavage, I sat glumly in the departure lounge surrounded by business suits. The plane was delayed by an hour, my fellow passengers grew restless and one of them began to make his tentative advances.
   I wondered if the friend of the friend ever would demand to have the guitar back and contemplated, for a second, landing it on this Lothario’s head. It was then that the hapless fellow revealed his intentions; would I give him a tune. 
The chorus was taken up by others and I fumbled hesitantly with the spectrum. A few strums later and a folksy tune began to emerge. The clank of coins falling at my feet and even the discreet rustle of notes that followed nearly distracted me from the men in black - the Airport Security Anti-Busker net that was beginning to tighten.
   At the first sound of a boarding call I gathered up my earnings and scrambled, panty-hose trailing, for my escape flight out of the Great Metropolis. 

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016