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Posts Tagged ‘English’

There are deep words that sound
Sound throughout the doings of a day
Working, Running, Cooking
Hillwalking
Can cover them for a spell.
But as a bell  clanging
The tension of the sound carries.
So there are words  there
From behind trees
Around buildings
Along byways
And main  roads.
In places where people gather
And are alone
There
On waking

And at the pause before sleep
For me now the deep sound
And the words
Merge into
The sound of your name
And the answering echo

Calling in my heart’s space
Your name before me.

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fresco_rescue

Hello,

To make sense of this story read Part 1 here.

Our hero continues his journey to Home Town…………..

My attention was drawn away from the mackerel smack, which had begun to list heavily, by a woman who had appeared at the entrance to the carriage. She too wore white foundation and poorly applied black eyeliner and was dragging rather theatrically, a large invisible load behind her. My neighbour peered over the top of his newspaper to watch.

As befits a gentleman I stood up.

“Would you like some help?” I said.

“Thank you, most kind.” She smiled. There was a pea stuck between her front teeth.

The imaginary suitcase was much heavier than it looked and I struggled to stow it in the overhead rack, jiggling with it repeatedly to ensure a secure stowing had indeed been effected. After I had managed to do so, I dabbed my forehead with a faux handkerchief. She nodded her thanks, sat and became engrossed in imaginary knitting; casting off and pearling like a good ‘un. I think it was a scarf or maybe the arm of a jumper or cardigan. I could not be sure.

I felt a twinge in my back as a result of my muscular chivalry. Been a martyr to my back since an early age.

I looked out to Sea and noticed that the spot where once a Smack puttered homeward, was now merely a glut of dead mackerel floating on the water’s surface. Gulls swarmed around this unexpected feast. The crew were now confined to Davey Jones Locket. Or is it Locker? I always get the two mixed up!

We pulled into Piddle Station, where another human statue was located on the platform. It was Napoleon.  My favourite tyrant. The artiste bore an uncanny resemblance to the pudgy faced Corsican.

A woman boarded at Piddle. She spoke, “There, there Geoffrey, I’ll feed you in a minute.”

The woman wore rouge, eyeliner and also a shiny red clown’s nose. She carefully guided an imaginary pushchair down the aisle and spoke softly to its occupant, presumably Baby Geoffrey. Who was invisible.

She sat near the elderly couple and carefully picked up Invisible Baby Geoffrey, cooing to him, even bouncing the tot up and down, smiling as she did so. There was a baked bean stuck between her teeth. The old couple joined in and all three of them pulled strange faces and made gurgling noises at the fantasy infant.

“Do you mind if I feed him?” the woman asked.

“Not at all!” replied the old woman, although the old man flushed when it became apparent that Invisible Baby Geoffrey was still on the breast.

The old man looked at his wife and exclaimed, “Maureen look, the child carries the number of the beast!”

The skies blackened for a fleeting moment as Invisible, possibly satanic, Baby Geoffrey stared at me. If I could have seen his face no doubt I would have been very shaken.

Luckily, things settled down and the train rumbled along. The clouds were darkening further out to Sea and the terrain turned rockier and harsher. Inland was the old quarry and the ancient stone circle near Squelch where local legend tells of human sacrifices being carried out as recently as last Wednesday.

We drew into Widdle station to be greeted by the ghoulish apparition of another human statue, a dust ridden headless spectral with rusted chains sprouting around its legs and dripping from its arms. It was a very impressive display, the best one yet. I wondered where the performer’s head was in the costume and how he or she kept cool in hot weather.

Part 3 tomorrow……..

 

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fresco_rescue

Hello!

Here’s another  Train Travel Tale for you to read. It will be in three parts. the BIG NEWS is that the title is a Spanish word!

Ole!

I hope you enjoy Mimico……..

The train track hugs the coast like a coddled infant as it skirts bays, coves, inlets and headlands. At some points, trains run so close to beaches that it is possible to watch people paddling, beach combing or throwing sticks for excited dogs to chase after into the surf.

As a spur line off the main Inter City route, I am surprised that it is still going after all these years, whittled as it is to just a train from Big Town to Home Town in the morning and from Home Town to Big Town in the late afternoon. But the line thrives in its small understated way. Passengers know each other by first name, can always get a seat and even chat with the Guard enquiring after loved ones and mutual acquaintances.

I was going home after a few days in Big Town where I work in a hotel. I’d also visited the dentist for my annual check-up.  Got the all clear.

Not a lot goes on in Home Town. In fact nothing of note goes on, unless you count the ice cream van doing its rounds each Thursday. And that is only during the summer. I love the van’s Greensleeves jingle and nearly always treat myself to a 99.

The only other passengers sharing the carriage with me were an elderly couple sitting several rows in front.

The first stop on the line, Tiddle was soon reached.  There was a human statue on the platform. The ability to stand still for hours at a time is a highly under rated skill in my opinion.  As the train drew to a halt I noticed that it was The Statue of Liberty, my favourite statue.

A woman was standing on the platform. She unfurled an umbrella, even though rain wasn’t forecast and gingerly walked in a straight line, her face gripped with concentration as she carefully slid one foot directly in front of the other.

She would teeter and wobble, using the umbrella to help her balance. I was nervous for her, at one point hiding my face in my hands as she tottered violently for several seconds. Finally she stopped and flourished her brolly triumphantly to signal the success of her ground level high wire walking act.

She walked back to her starting point to repeat her actions. As the train pulled away and rounded the infamous Tiddle bend, I saw her teetering precariously once more. I worried for her.

A man appeared in the carriage. Rouge had been applied to his cheeks and liner daubed haphazardly around his eyes. A battered straw hat sat askew on his head. He was carrying a heavy load, invisible to the human eye. He came to a halt at row Row 45, opposite me, stood on the seat and heaved the invisible suitcase into the overhead shelf, jiggling with it to ensure it was safely stowed.  Stepping down, he pulled out an imaginary cloth, pedantically dusted his seat with it and then sat, protecting the crease in his trousers as he did so.

He smiled at me and mopped his brow with the faux handkerchief to signify his labours.  I noticed a piece of sweet corn stuck between his front teeth.

Once comfortable in the seat, he unfurled what appeared to be a newspaper. Of the transparent variety. He licked his right index finger to turn the pages and sighed with outrage at the information contained within.

My gaze returned to the sea, where I watched a small mackerel smack puttering its way towards Tiddle’s compact harbour.

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Hello! Gfb is grabbing some me time for the next week or so. Hooray! we hear you cry – sadly we don’t disappear that easily – here are some posts which proved popular. Hope you like them second time around.

#2 The Tight Fisted Traveller (wrong season but hey!)

Hello!

Below we recount the heartwarming story of our travel guru The Tightfisted Traveller’s recent trip to Lapland. You can read more of his adventures here and here!

This Christmas Ma Fightback and I thought about taking Ginger Junior to Lapland to see Santa.

The price quoted by the Travel Agent caused my spleen to rupture. But what price memories? Not that much.

Disappointed, we trudged back to the multi storey car park in Staines. As we looked for the Focus we bumped into friend and economy traveller Contour D. Klepto.

I explained my predicament and he handed me a copy of his latest book “Drug Muling – How To See The World On The Cheap”. As luck would have it, Chapter 7 outlined a recent trip to Lapland.

Day 1 – London Liverpool Street – 07.48 train to Harwich. Seal myself in rucksack after settling on luggage rack. Find DVD of the classic adventure yarn The Vikings in bag. An omen for a trip to Scandinavia?

Day 1 – Harwich – Stowaway on SS Norrkoping which plies between Harwich and Esbjerg. It brings bacon and butter from Denmark and takes metaphors and allegories in the opposite direction. I disguise myself as an anecdote and set sail across North Sea. This reminds me of a rather funny story……..

Day 2 – Esbjerg, Denmark – make my way to Denmark’s largest pig farm. Spend three weeks living with a Sow (who I name Barbie) and her piglets. Discover that pig milk is perfectly drinkable. The suckling is tricky though. Barbie displays lesbian tendencies.

Day 24 – I am vacuum sealed into a family sized value pack of streaky bacon. Taken to Copenhagen.

Day 25 – Copenhagen – Don an Ugly Duckling outfit – recite this and other Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales to earn passage to Sweden.

Day 29 – Deported from Denmark under the 1895 Cobblers Rendition of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales Act. Find myself on a ferry for Gothenburg, Sweden!

Day 29 – Thrown overboard by a group of Hans Christian Andersen fundamentalists who take exception to my Ugly Duckling outfit. They live their lives based purely on the moral code of Hansy’s fairy tales. “We are pure, we are not staid, now swim with the Little Mermaid!” is their cry as I am tipped into the Gulf of Bothnia.

Day 31 – Still bobbin in Bothnia – befriended by a Cod who I call Bob.

Day 36 – Through the fog I spy the prow of a ship. As it draws near I see that it is a long ship of Viking Yore! I fish in my rucksack and pull out my DVD of The Vikings, wave it furiously and cry, “ODIN!”

Day 36 – Relieved to see the Gothenburg Viking And Cod Appreciation Society. Although it is an emotional farewell to Bob the Cod. Well as emotional as you can be with a Cod, who I suspect has lesbian tendencies.

Day 36 – “ODIN!” I cry once more.Bjorn, the captain (and advocate of Cod love) cajoles me.

Day 38 – Gothenburg – After a night of wenching, cleaving and Connect 4, I bid goodbye to The Crew of “The Ryvita” and begin the walk north to Lapland. Bjorn, with a tear in his eye, thrusts Sweden’s most sacred object in my hand. Abba’s Greatest Hits.

Day 39 – Stockholm – Whilst whistling Super Trouper I am chased by gang of Abba Fundamentalists who live their lives according to the lyrics of this mythical four piece. Bennybjorn Law is a growing cult in Scandinavia and like North Africa there is talk of an Abba Spring.

Day 39 – Stockholm – to avoid Abba Fundamentalists I insert myself into a IKEA flat pack storage unit in the grounds of a giant IKEA superstore. Sleep.

Day 41 – Awake to find myself and other items of reasonably priced flat pack furniture heading north! Whistle Dancing Queen to raise my spirits.

Day 43 – Umeå – Search in my rucksack and find long lost Reindeer suit. I name myself Volvo. Join herd of Reindeer that are being shipped north for the Christmas tourist season. Discover that pig impersonation is more fun than reindeer impersonation. But there you go.

Day 44 – Northern Sweden – A Buck takes a shine to me. His antlers are very sharp. After darning the hole in my reindeer suit I make a break for it – and begin the trudge north. Whilst humming the tune to The Winner Takes It All – a pack of Abba Fundamentalists, all sporting blue mascara, crocheted skull caps and platform boots appear from the taiga and give chase.

Day 67 – I finally out-run the Abba Hordes and find myself on the Lapland border. Phlegmatic people. The sight of a careworn traveller in an ill-fitting Reindeer outfit does not perturb them.

Day 73 – Finally one offers me a lift! Lasse a manicurist. As we drive he plays traditional folk melodies on his nail clippers. I crave Abba.

Day 75 – Bid Lasse adieu. My cuticles have never looked better!

Day 80 – I am in Lapland! It is the Arctic equivalent of Hooters. I decide to stay for a short while.

Day 96 – What is there to say about Lapland? Topless elves pole dance, pixies snort cocaine from the bellies of nubile fairies and Rudolph’s red nose is clearly due to an ongoing relationship with Eggnog.

As for Santa? Ho Ho Ho as Snoop Dogg’s Santa might say.

Disappointed but it is mid-May by the time I arrive, but I did save a fortune!

Price Comparison

Lapland Wonder Tours To Santa’s Grotto Flights; London to Enontekio – Time 2 hrs 30 minutes 2 Day Package – £899 per person

Tight Fisted Traveller

Time Taken 2,306 Hours Travel Costs – Nil!

You Decide!

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fresco_rescue

Hello – Many thanks for all the positive feedback on this Tale – why not make yourselves a nice cup of tea, break out the Hobnobs and read it all in one go!

If Music Be The Food Of Love…..

December 16th – 1996 Kings Cross Station

As a child I was awestruck by the grandeur of train stations. It was where grown-ups went. On a daily basis. To do things. What these things were I had no idea. But they went there to do them.

When my parents brought my sister and I up to London for day trips from our suburban backwater, these great voluminous places, full of scuttling humanity had a sense of solid purpose that scared and exhilarated me at the same time. I remember clasping Dad’s hand a little tighter as we walked through them, something my son now does when we come up for day trips to London on my access weekends.

Now their role in my life is much more mundane and perfunctory. Merely conduits to another place accompanied by the heady perfume of diesel engines and fast food outlets.

I was early when I reached Kings Cross station today. Too early. I don’t like having to hang around. The slate grey sky and traffic noise gave a claustrophobic feel to the low slung station entrance. A newspaper vendor cried out “Standard! Standard!” The banner headline told of a political scandal involving a Conservative MP. Another? Surely there are not enough of them left.

A drunk’s basted features appeared before me, “Spare change?” He held a can of super strength lager with the other hand outstretched for alms. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave him a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

“Cheers. Merry Christmas.”

A policeman crossed the lee of the entrance and intimated to the drunk not to come any closer. The beggar mumbled to himself and returned to a companion who was arguing with a waste bin. He took a deep slug from his can and began to solicit others.

Shoals of people drifted and eddied around the station concourse. A limp muzak rendition of Hark the Herald Angels, a begrudging admission of the festive season, played over the public address system, regularly interrupted by information of departures, arrivals and security alerts. The brash yellow lighting gave the atmosphere a soiled, used feel and the floor was pocked with discarded chewing gum like a grubby Dalmatian pelt.

As I looked at the departure board for signs of my train, I heard the nasal drone of an accordion. A Slavic voice accompanied the dirge, “If you thin I sex, an you wan my bod, cam on babi let me no -”

A Balkan tribute to Rod Stewart. Most of his songs have a good beat. Baby Jane is my favourite.

The accordion player was short, squat and unshaven. He wore a vivid, silver trimmed waistcoat over an Adidas shell suit and wore Adidas trainers. He had wrapped a strand of tinsel around his head and warbled the back catalogue of Rod Stewart with a healthy disdain for the original lyrical content – “I am salling, I am salling, oh lard to be nar oo, to be fray”.

I wondered if he knew any sea shanties, much more in line with our glorious maritime history.

A small, under nourished woman was with him. Black headscarf, pained, gap toothed expression daubed on her young face and a cherubic swaddled baby clinging to her. She approached me and held out a polystyrene cup and asked in unmistakable tones of poverty and misery for money. The baby began to cry. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave her a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

She thanked me and approached an elderly man of military bearing standing several feet away, “Certainly not. You must understand that for you and your ilk, and that goes for your musically challenged accomplice, that only the reintroduction of Workhouses can save you people from your insatiable breeding habits and thus your poverty.”

The woman waved the cup in front of him, “Will you leave me alone you Slavic miscreant? Didn’t England do enough for you people in the war? If only Franz Ferdinand had not sent his breast plate for buffing that day we would all be in better shape. Why, the next thing you and your kind will do is annex Shropshire. Now if you don’t go away, I will be forced to report you to the relevant authorities.”

A smartly dressed woman curtly waved her away but a man, a student by the look of him, dropped a number of coins into her cup.

The busker made his way towards a group of Asian tourists who stood like Mere Cats, eagerly trying to locate their train.

“I lav ewe hoh-knee!” I deduced it as Hot Legs, another of rocker Rod’s classics.

Sub-consciously the tourists formed a defensive square that would have drawn praise from the Duke of Wellington. The accordionist found it impossible to isolate any member of the group and allow his partner to beg. One of the tourists took copious photographs of the incident. As tourists do. The minstrel fired a broadside of cedilla laden insults at them. He continued to pour invective at the group and bumped into a middle-aged man who wore a florid, veined complexion. The accordion wheezed in harmony with their collision.

“Excuse me,” the man said in rounded Welsh tones. “Well well, an accordion. What pleasure that instrument has brought to countless thousands over the years. Lamentation, celebration, medication and education, the humble accordion has accompanied life around the world. Once, singing in Poland, Krakow I think it was, I spent a night in a small tavern singing Polish laments with a number of cheerless, mustachioed peasants and their hefty women folk. I don’t mind telling you that one of the Babushka’s favoured me that night,” the man winked conspiratorially at the busker before breaking into song and competing with Ding Dong Merrily On High that blared over the public address system.

He sang with a liquid, cool voice which to shimmered and filled listeners with an instant longing for lost lovers. People were stopped in their tracks at the primal beauty of his voice.

The accordionist began asking for money. His cup was soon overflowing with coins and the occasional note. The man was content to sing his vision of pain and loss. As abruptly as he had commenced, he stopped. Applause rang out. He nodded his thanks, turned to the accordion player held out his hand and said,

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

“Huh?”

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind my friend; I am prepared to offer you half of the stipend the adoring masses have just given me.”

“Huh?”

“Give me half the money,” Bryn replied in less gilded tones. He held out his left hand and rubbed the thumb and forefinger together.

“No.”

“Yes,” replied Bryn

“No,”

They began to jostle. The knot of people that had stopped to listen to Bryn sing now watched with bemusement as the men traded insults in Welsh and Albanian, both apparently with full knowledge of each other’s dialects. The accordion again wheezed its accompaniment. A jaunty Polka.

The old man who had berated the busker earlier turned to me and said, “I’ll have a fiver on the Chetnik. Blood thirsty animals they were in the war.”

The Policeman re-appeared, pulled the two men apart and began to frog-march them from the station, oblivious to their protestations of innocence and accusations of the other party’s guilt. The woman and child followed demurely behind.

Bryn spoke, “I demand a Judicial Review of your actions officer. I am due to board the 14.27 to Edinburgh. Do you know I once shared a sandwich with Charlton Heston?”

Both men were led off the concourse. The beggar approached them for money. I couldn’t tell you if he was successful in his pleadings. But I doubt it. Even if it was Christmas.

Part 2

Elizabeth had to run down the platform to catch the train. The run hadn’t taken much out of her, she was a dancer after all, but being punctilious by nature, nearly missing it had caused some anxiety. She walked through the carriages checking her ticket and seat reservation until she found her seat, 26 Facing in Carriage C.

A middle-aged man with a florid, veined complexion was sat in the seat next to her. Bryn was red faced and slightly out of breath after his exertions with the Busker and Police.

“Close shave,” he said.

“Yes,” replied Elizabeth as she settled into her seat. She took a sip from a bottle of water and stared into the evening murk, attempting to decipher the name of commuter stations as the train sped through them. She opened the book she had bought at York Station the day before, a set of short stories revolving around murder and suspense with the occasional humorous twist. Unable to concentrate, she closed the book and stared at her reflection in the window, allowing herself to float in a pool of leathery half thoughts.

In the seats behind, a toddler began to scream, shattering the calm of the carriage The child writhed and wriggled to be free of his mother’s grip. His mother was trying to reason with him.

“But if you stand on the seat Stephen you could fall and hurt yourself.” The logic of her statement had no bearing on his noisy blubbering.

“That’s <i>enough</i> now Stephen,” The mother’s patience was being sucked out of her. An ethereal noise began to arise from Bryn, the rich, textured layers of his voice defining a set of beautifully evocative sounds, Gaelic in origin. He sang for a further two minutes, the lament slowly evolving into a haunting lullaby. The child became silent.

The lullaby finished. Passengers shook themselves from the mellow torpor his singing had induced. He turned to Elizabeth and smiled at her. She smiled back with a sense of calm curiosity mixed with relief that the cries of the child had ceased. He stared out of the window, content to let the memory of the song linger like a melodic vapour trail.

“Your song was very beautiful”. Elizabeth said.

“I agree. It is an old lullaby my mother sang to me during my own bouts of misunderstood rage. The words deal with a mother’s sadness at hearing the news of her son’s death in war and through her dreams she can stay in contact with him. Yes, altogether very moving. Plus it has an additional value which should never be overestimated” – He beckoned her to come slightly closer – “It always shuts little bugger’s like him up.”

“What is the name of the song?”

“Anything you like really, it’s not the name that counts. More the feeling of loss and love transmitted.”

“It really was beautiful. You have a lovely voice.”

“Bryn, I am a Welshman,” he held out a hand.

“Elizabeth.”

“Thank you for the compliment Elizabeth. Gifted tenor from an early age. According to my Rhodri Lewis, a fine man if slightly inclined to preach about the virtues of Verdi, I had a voice with a range and sensual quality that called upon the angels to bear witness. It was he who urged me to seek my destiny through the notes and words of others. Performance is the highest calling a man can attain. I often considered myself to be a strutting wild beast, locking horns with the sounds one moment, gently stroking their cadences the next. I like to nibble the lyrics,  revelling in my unabated talent. I assure you, critical acclaim was never in my thoughts, I just wanted to sing. Actually, I like to think of myself as the first to connect with the audience where they worked, shopped, played, drank, lived even. Truly, my recitals are akin to the Sermon on the Mount.”

“You busk?”

“I think of myself as an external performer. I’m on my way to perform outside the Usher Hall in Edinburgh for the festive season. <i>Rich</i> pickings this time of year. Although I refuse to sing Gilbert and Sullivan. A pair of shite hawks if ever there were. Lozenge?”

“No thanks.”

Silence fell between them. The Ticket Inspector, a taciturn man who exuded marital discord mumbled, “Tickets please” and punched their tickets with wristy ease. As he continued his duties Elizabeth remembered that she had not spoken to Andrew for nearly two days. He would be upset. She, much to her surprise only felt relief at this non contact with her boyfriend.

Bryn sucked with noisy gusto on his sweet. “The lozenge. A humble concoction of honey and cloves but a tincture without which my soul would forever remain dormant in the mundane we take for granted as life. Singing is my life’s mission. Cut me and no blood would flow from my clotted arteries but the notation of Mozart. Artists such as I are, by our very nature external to the world of the everyday. Through our actions we can shine a searchlight into the soul of mortal people, offering them a glimpse of what can be.”

She looked for a spare seat. There were none.

He bit into lozenge. The aroma of menthol filled the space between them.

“Would you care for an onion sandwich? They are medicinal in nature and thin the blood. Suffering from thick blood is a characteristic of the gifted vocalist. I once read in a periodical whilst waiting for an internal flight in Australia, that the benefits of the onion sandwich are truly exceptional.”

The sandwich had a tongue of onion protruding between the bread slices as if it were gasping for air. Bryn sniffed and said, “On second thoughts,” and returned them to his jacket pocket.

“I must apologise. As you may have noticed I find <strong>no</strong> subject more charming or enlightening than myself. Could I ask you what you do? Something physical by chance? Your movements are very graceful” He noted the change in her body language from his compliment. <em>I am so good at this! </em>he thought to himself.

“I work in Boots in York, on the perfume counter. But I really want to make it as a professional dancer. How did you guess?”

“Sadly, my own body movements are nothing like as graceful. My mentor, Cecil Findings, a man with a marvellous musical ear but with a fateful attraction to the Tuba, described my own gait as cryptic. More charitable people have said enigmatic.”

“I’ve just been for a try out in London. Unsuccessful. Again.”

Part 3.

She took a sip of water, her excitement about the audition now an exhausted memory. She absent mindedly tore strips off the bottle’s label.

“I take it you were unsuccessful in your audition?” Bryn asked.

“Yes. I will not be joining the Contemporary Dance Company.” She tore another strip. Rejected once more. Years of putting up with dull, shitty jobs, fending off drunken magicians and stage hands, so that perhaps one day, one day her gifts would be recognised by her peers and that Andrew’s ambition for them to live the “happy to get by as long as we have each other,” life would not be acceded to.

Bryn spoke, “The purity of a dream fulfilled is something we all aspire to. Failure is something everyone is so good at that we all love to repeat it. Like an addiction. But to this old, tired man who has experienced pain, heartache, failure and rejection there remains something noble about the pursuit of dreams. We must have the courage to manipulate our fears. Never give up my dear.”

“Thank you, I won’t.”

These lines always stood him in good stead. The speech was from the play “Trouble At Home”. He had appeared in whilst a member of a touring Repertory Company in the late 1950’s, playing several roles, a drunk, a limbless ex-soldier, a bricklayer and a man at a bus stop. In all he had said three lines, the longest of which was, “Bless you,” to the leading lady played by the elegant Lavinia Wythenshawe when she sneezed at the bus stop.

As always with this recital his thoughts turned to Annie, Lavinia’s understudy. She fell for his alchemy of dreaminess, dapper japery and tall tales. The first of many to be charmed by his roguish wit and turn of phrase. He wondered if Annie was still alive and rolled through each nuance and crag of recollection. Thoughts that had stayed with him for forty years. In their months together she was the air that he breathed; the beat of his heart; the blink of his eye. For those months she was the love his life. He wondered what became of the daughter they had. He wondered if Annie had forgiven him.

He felt uncomfortable. He focused on Elizabeth once again.

“My Father was my inspiration. I hail from a small pit village in the South Wales valleys. Pontybuchan. Mining was the foundation of our society. So deep were the mines that Tolkien based The Mines Of Mordor on them. Father owned the hosiery shop, but his passion was for magic. He used the name Rhodri The Welsh Wizard, performing amazing feats of magic and illusion throughout our glorious land. He also discovered a gift for chicken sexing but we do not need to pursue that.”

“I’ve worked with Magicians.” Her skin crawled.

“I can assure you his sexual peccadilloes were kept to the marriage bedchamber. My Father’s act often attracted the chagrin of religious folk who considered his mystical feats occultist. He had a pig who could recite Shakespeare, and a polecat who could do bird impressions and by common consent was very impressive, for a polecat that is. The only problem was that Depression era Wales could frown upon with a fervently creased Methodist brow.”

He whispered, “Inappropriate use of animals in a depraved manner and consorting with the English in daylight hours.”

“Sorry?” Elizabeth asked.

“That was the charge brought against him in September 1937 after a performance in the small fishing town of Hywlth in North Wales. Lovely natural harbour. Well worth a visit. Sadly the whelks have been over fished and are no longer available. Lovely with vinegar they were too.” He drifted away into the salty underworld of molluscs.

“What did he do?”

“The pig cursed in a manner most unbecoming a pig, or human for that matter. Nothing that would shock today’s audience with their culture free pretensions for sex and violence, their elastic morality. Excuse my French, but “Fuck!” carries far less weight to offend these days. But the high dudgeon back then! Such was the outcry that my Father was arrested and imprisoned for two years by the intemperate Sanhedrin in the Magistrates Court. Father never gave up though, once sawing a Prison Officer in half, sadly with disastrous consequences. He he died in prison and my own talents had to be suspended to support my Mother and twelve siblings. But I’m sure he found peace in Conjurer’s Valhalla. He never gave up Elizabeth. Right to the end.”

“Never give up.” Sound advice Elizabeth thought, although she wasn’t sure why this aged Welshman had felt the need to embellish his tale. Perhaps he was lonely. Or a liar. Probably a lonely liar.

She looked at her watch. An hour to home and the inquisition. Her reflection stared at her.

The trolley attendant, clearly an advocate of substance abuse, appeared at the Carriage entrance. Like Charon crossing the Styx in a poorly fitted cotton rich uniform, he trundled through the carriage at a funereal pace and into the adjoining vestibule ignoring the request of passengers in need of sustenance.

“I would have loved a cup of tea,” muttered Bryn, “Tea! Who would have thought the slopes of Ceylon would be such a steadfast companion to the nation’s yeomanry. I can honestly say the finest tea I have ever tasted was in Australia, home of the marsupial, dust and these creatures we call Australians. I was there in 1956 with a travelling show. I was second on the bill to The Tumbling Timmins – I have particularly fond memories of Betty Timmins. Broad of beam but kind of heart was Betty, such wrist strength – how the Antipodeans welcomed us from the Mother country. The crowds, adulation and excitement of it all. I never felt so loved, adored and indeed Elizabeth, may I say needed…………”

He had an audience. However small, Bryn had an audience………..

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fresco_rescue

Hello! – Here is part 2 of a longer train travel tale.

You will need to read Part 1 here to make any sense of this! Hope you like it,.

If Music Be The Food Of Love…..Part 2.

December 16th – 1996 A train ready to depart Kings Cross station

Elizabeth had to run down the platform to catch the train. The run hadn’t taken much out of her, she was a dancer after all, but being punctilious by nature, nearly missing it had caused some anxiety. She walked through the carriages checking her ticket and seat reservation until she found her seat, 26 Facing in Carriage C.

A middle-aged man with a florid, veined complexion was sat in the seat next to her. Bryn was red faced and slightly out of breath after his exertions with the Busker and Police.

“Close shave,” he said.

“Yes,” replied Elizabeth as she settled into her seat. She took a sip from a bottle of water and stared into the evening murk, attempting to decipher the name of commuter stations as the train sped through them. She opened the book she had bought at York Station the day before, a set of short stories revolving around murder and suspense with the occasional humorous twist. Unable to concentrate, she closed the book and stared at her reflection in the window, allowing herself to float in a pool of leathery half thoughts.

In the seats behind, a toddler began to scream, shattering the calm of the carriage The child writhed and wriggled to be free of his mother’s grip. His mother was trying to reason with him.

“But if you stand on the seat Stephen you could fall and hurt yourself.” The logic of her statement had no bearing on his noisy blubbering.

“That’s enough now Stephen,” The mother’s patience was being sucked out of her. An ethereal noise began to arise from Bryn, the rich, textured layers of his voice defining a set of beautifully evocative sounds, Gaelic in origin. He sang for a further two minutes, the lament slowly evolving into a haunting lullaby. The child became silent.

The lullaby finished. Passengers shook themselves from the mellow torpor his singing had induced. He turned to Elizabeth and smiled at her. She smiled back with a sense of calm curiosity mixed with relief that the cries of the child had ceased. He stared out of the window, content to let the memory of the song linger like a melodic vapour trail.

“Your song was very beautiful”. Elizabeth said.

“I agree. It is an old lullaby my mother sang to me during my own bouts of misunderstood rage. The words deal with a mother’s sadness at hearing the news of her son’s death in war and through her dreams she can stay in contact with him. Yes, altogether very moving. Plus it has an additional value which should never be overestimated” – He beckoned her to come slightly closer – “It always shuts little bugger’s like him up.”

“What is the name of the song?”

“Anything you like really, it’s not the name that counts. More the feeling of loss and love transmitted.”

“It really was beautiful. You have a lovely voice.”

“Bryn, I am a Welshman,” he held out a hand.

“”Elizabeth.”

“Thank you for the compliment Elizabeth. Gifted tenor from an early age. According to my Rhodri Lewis, a fine man if slightly inclined to preach about the virtues of Verdi, I had a voice with a range and sensual quality that called upon the angels to bear witness. It was he who urged me to seek my destiny through the notes and words of others. Performance is the highest calling a man can attain. I often considered myself to be a strutting wild beast, locking horns with the sounds one moment, gently stroking their cadences the next. I like to nibble the lyrics,  revelling in my unabated talent. I assure you, critical acclaim was never in my thoughts, I just wanted to sing. Actually, I like to think of myself as the first to connect with the audience where they worked, shopped, played, drank, lived even. Truly, my recitals are akin to the Sermon on the Mount.”

“You busk?”

“I think of myself as an external performer. I’m on my way to perform outside the Usher Hall in Edinburgh for the festive season. Rich pickings this time of year. Although I refuse to sing Gilbert and Sullivan. A pair of shite hawks if ever there were. Lozenge?”

“No thanks.”

Silence fell between them. The Ticket Inspector, a taciturn man who exuded marital discord mumbled, “Tickets please” and punched their tickets with wristy ease. As he continued his duties Elizabeth remembered that she had not spoken to Andrew for nearly two days. He would be upset. She, much to her surprise only felt relief at this non contact with her boyfriend.

Bryn sucked with noisy gusto on his sweet. “The lozenge. A humble concoction of honey and cloves but a tincture without which my soul would forever remain dormant in the mundane we take for granted as life. Singing is my life’s mission. Cut me and no blood would flow from my clotted arteries but the notation of Mozart. Artists such as I are, by our very nature external to the world of the everyday. Through our actions we can shine a searchlight into the soul of mortal people, offering them a glimpse of what can be.”

She looked for a spare seat. There were none.

He bit into lozenge. The aroma of menthol filled the space between them.

“Would you care for an onion sandwich? They are medicinal in nature and thin the blood. Suffering from thick blood is a characteristic of the gifted vocalist. I once read in a periodical whilst waiting for an internal flight in Australia, that the benefits of the onion sandwich are truly exceptional.”

The sandwich had a tongue of onion protruding between the bread slices as if it were gasping for air. Bryn sniffed and said, “On second thoughts,” and returned them to his jacket pocket.

“I must apologise. As you may have noticed I find no subject more charming or enlightening than myself. Could I ask you what you do? Something physical by chance? Your movements are very graceful” He noted the change in her body language from his compliment. I am so good at this! he thought to himself.

“I work in Boots in York, on the perfume counter. But I really want to make it as a professional dancer. How did you guess?”

“Sadly, my own body movements are nothing like as graceful. My mentor, Cecil Findings, a man with a marvellous musical ear but with a fateful attraction to the Tuba, described my own gait as cryptic. More charitable people have said enigmatic.”

“I’ve just been for a try out in London. Unsuccessful. Again.”

Part 3 Tomorrow!

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Hello – here is a 3 part Train Travel Tale. Hope you like it, Parts 2 and 3 to follow!

If Music Be The Food Of Love…..Part 1.

December 16th – 1996 Kings Cross Station

 

As a child I was awestruck by the grandeur of train stations. It was where grown-ups went. On a daily basis. To do things. What these things were I had no idea. But they went there to do them.

 

When my parents brought my sister and I up to London for day trips from our suburban backwater, these great voluminous places, full of scuttling humanity had a sense of solid purpose that scared and exhilarated me at the same time. I remember clasping Dad’s hand a little tighter as we walked through them, something my son now does when we come up for day trips to London on my access weekends.

 

Now their role in my life is much more mundane and perfunctory. Merely conduits to another place accompanied by the heady perfume of diesel engines and fast food outlets.

 

I was early when I reached Kings Cross station today. Too early. I don’t like having to hang around. The slate grey sky and traffic noise gave a claustrophobic feel to the low slung station entrance. A newspaper vendor cried out “Standard! Standard!” The banner headline told of a political scandal involving a Conservative MP. Another? Surely there are not enough of them left.

 

A drunk’s basted features appeared before me, “Spare change?” He held a can of super strength lager with the other hand outstretched for alms. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave him a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

 

“Cheers. Merry Christmas.”  

 

A policeman crossed the lee of the entrance and intimated to the drunk not to come any closer. The beggar mumbled to himself and returned to a companion who was arguing with a waste bin. He took a deep slug from his can and began to solicit others.

 

Shoals of people drifted and eddied around the station concourse. A limp muzak rendition of Hark the Herald Angels, a begrudging admission of the festive season, played over the public address system, regularly interrupted by information of departures, arrivals and security alerts. The brash yellow lighting gave the atmosphere a soiled, used feel and the floor was pocked with discarded chewing gum like a grubby Dalmatian pelt.

 

As I looked at the departure board for signs of my train, I heard the nasal drone of an accordion. A Slavic voice accompanied the dirge, “If you thin I sex, an you wan my bod, cam on babi let me no -”

 

A Balkan tribute to Rod Stewart.  Most of his songs have a good beat. Baby Jane is my favourite.

 

The accordion player was short, squat and unshaven.  He wore a vivid, silver trimmed waistcoat over an Adidas shell suit and wore Adidas trainers. He had wrapped a strand of tinsel around his head and warbled the back catalogue of Rod Stewart with a healthy disdain for the original lyrical content – “I am salling, I am salling, oh lard to be nar oo, to be fray”.

 

I wondered if he knew any sea shanties, much more in line with our glorious maritime history.

 

A small, under nourished woman was with him. Black headscarf, pained, gap toothed expression daubed on her young face and a cherubic swaddled baby clinging to her. She approached me and held out a polystyrene cup and asked in unmistakable tones of poverty and misery for money. The baby began to cry. I fished in my pocket for some change and gave her a pound. And another one. It was nearly Christmas after all.

 

She thanked me and approached an elderly man of military bearing standing several feet away, “Certainly not. You must understand that for you and your ilk, and that goes for your musically challenged accomplice, that only the reintroduction of Workhouses can save you people from your insatiable breeding habits and thus your poverty.” 

 

The woman waved the cup in front of him, “Will you leave me alone you Slavic miscreant? Didn’t England do enough for you people in the war?  If only Franz Ferdinand had not sent his breast plate for buffing that day we would all be in better shape. Why, the next thing you and your kind will do is annex Shropshire. Now if you don’t go away, I will be forced to report you to the relevant authorities.”

 

A smartly dressed woman curtly waved her away but a man, a student by the look of him, dropped a number of coins into her cup.

 

The busker made his way towards a group of Asian tourists who stood like Mere Cats, eagerly trying to locate their train.

 

“I lav ewe hoh-knee!” I deduced it as Hot Legs, another of rocker Rod’s classics.

 

Sub-consciously the tourists formed a defensive square that would have drawn praise from the Duke of Wellington. The accordionist found it impossible to isolate any member of the group and allow his partner to beg. One of the tourists took copious photographs of the incident. As tourists do. The minstrel fired a broadside of cedilla laden insults at them. He continued to pour invective at the group and bumped into a middle-aged man who wore a florid, veined complexion. The accordion wheezed in harmony with their collision.

 

“Excuse me,” the man said in rounded Welsh tones. “Well well, an accordion. What pleasure that instrument has brought to countless thousands over the years. Lamentation, celebration, medication and education, the humble accordion has accompanied life around the world.  Once, singing in Poland, Krakow I think it was, I spent a night in a small tavern singing Polish laments with a number of cheerless, mustachioed peasants and their hefty women folk. I don’t mind telling you that one of the Babushka’s favoured me that night,” the man winked conspiratorially at the busker before breaking into song and competing with Ding Dong Merrily On High that blared over the public address system.

 

He sang with a liquid, cool voice which to shimmered and filled listeners with an instant longing for lost lovers. People were stopped in their tracks at the primal beauty of his voice.

 

The accordionist began asking for money. His cup was soon overflowing with coins and the occasional note. The man was content to sing his vision of pain and loss. As abruptly as he had commenced, he stopped. Applause rang out. He nodded his thanks, turned to the accordion player held out his hand and said,

 

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Bryn, I am a Welshman.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Never mind my friend; I am prepared to offer you half of the stipend the adoring masses have just given me.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Give me half the money,” Bryn replied in less gilded tones. He held out his left hand and rubbed the thumb and forefinger together.

 

“No.”

 

“Yes,” replied Bryn

 

“No,”

 

They began to jostle. The knot of people that had stopped to listen to Bryn sing now watched with bemusement as the men traded insults in Welsh and Albanian, both apparently with full knowledge of each other’s dialects. The accordion again wheezed its accompaniment. A jaunty Polka.

 

The old man who had berated the busker earlier turned to me and said, “I’ll have a fiver on the Chetnik. Blood thirsty animals they were in the war.”

 

The Policeman re-appeared, pulled the two men apart and began to frog-march them from the station, oblivious to their protestations of innocence and accusations of the other party’s guilt. The woman and child followed demurely behind.

 

Bryn spoke, “I demand a Judicial Review of your actions officer. I am due to board the 14.27 to Edinburgh. Do you know I once shared a sandwich with Charlton Heston?”

 

Both men were led off the concourse. The beggar approached them for money. I couldn’t tell you if he was successful in his pleadings.  But I doubt it. Even if it was Christmas.

Part 2 Tomorrow!

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