Thursday, February 03, 2011

Go 'Aften

You know things have come to a pretty pass when you’re sleeping in your singer’s kitchen with your suitcase of belongings taking up barely more room than the guitar case beside it at the end of the mattress. One of the items of clothing I’d stuffed into the case, and thence into the back of the van, when making my troubled escape from Humberside domesticity to the bright lights of Ipswich’s downtown rock n’ roll heartland was my Kevin McDermott Orchestra t-shirt, a gift from a grateful record industry in the days when a pencil and the back of a fag packet were all you needed in order to complete a fully authoritative chart return. It was clean, it was comfortable, it was on top of the washing pile when I left.
We were on a cross-North Sea ferry en route to play a series of arts festival-funded shows to disinterested Danish youths when a bass player walked up to me and said that he knew one of the guys on the back of my t-shirt. We got chatting and it turned out that he lived four doors down from where James the Singer and I were sharing rather too much domesticity. Drinks were taken, tour plans discussed and before too long overtures were being made to the in-house cabaret band who had already proved themselves to be embittered veterans of the Harwich to Esbjerg round trip and had forewarned us darkly of the fates that lay in wait for any rising young group of popstrels who should misguidedly accept an engagement playing covers while they waited for their proper career to sort itself out. A visibly sweating floor manager watched as we disengaged ourselves from the ancient musicians, leaving them as idle as painted ships upon a painted sea and took their places on the bandstand for a glimpse into our future. The ghosts of cruise ships past, present and future were in the room.
At some point during the evening it became apparent that wagers were being taken on various courses of action and their possible outcomes. Thus it was that I found myself asking a lady of fairly advanced years if she would like to take to the floor in order to both dance, and earn me several Krone in illicit gambling returns. After some discussion regarding the advisability, motives and possible outcomes of such a course she gracefully accepted, and started to tell me about herself. She had been widowed some years before after a long and happy marriage, and when newly bereaved had decided to explore what else life had to offer and, as a result, had eventually pitched up on a ferry as part of a choral group doing a low key tour of opera recitals at the same time as I was going off to do a low key series of spending evenings staying up late playing indoor cricket with a tennis ball, building campfires, riffing on a double bass we found in a games room at our accommodation and putting the drummer’s hand in a glass of water when he fell asleep to see if he’d wet himself. She was not planning to indulge in any of these activities herself but, to be fair, I hadn’t exactly set them in stone at this point either. She spoke on, I moved my clumsy feet to the music as best I could, trying not to either trip me or her up or become entangled in her evening dress, and after some time had passed I realized that we’d been talking easily for ages, her quietly with grace, passion and humility, me with a sense that I was learning a life lesson in the company of a far wiser head than I had been able to muster so far. It was almost spiritual. As we parted, I think I may have kissed her hand. “Will you still respect me in the morning?” I enquired wolfishly. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem” she replied, the coquette.
When the band disembarked the next day in a flurry of sleeping bags and hangovers, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I told you I’d still respect you in the morning”. She smiled, with eyes as grey as the colour of the sea. “I wasn’t sure I’d recognize you in the daylight, but I saw your shirt. Be kind, you are a good person, I wish you happiness” she said. “Farvel”

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