Thursday, 31 October 2013

Going Going....gone

I had to get some money to get out Calais and back home. Busking was the only way to escape. I had to come up with a bright idea to replace Roger’s almost irreplaceable rhythm on the washboard. I needed some sort of backing. I hammered six tacks into the soles of my shoes, laid the washboard on the ground and while strumming my guitar, did my impression of the Wilson, Kepple and Betty shuffle over the ribbed steel on the board. It went down a storm. The Euros tumbled in. I could have ended my days there but I had to get home.

The English Channel was flat as a snooker table and the sun was shining (!) I sat on the deck and dozed off. After a few minutes it seemed as if a cloud had covered up the last rays of the sun. When I opened my eyes, the sun was still shining but the ‘cloud’  turned out to be a crowd of people standing in front of me staring out to sea. It was a bloody nuisance, I decided to move to another chair. I stood up. ‘Excuse me.’ I said and pushed through them to get to my guitar and the washboard that I’d left leaning on the ship’s rails.

As I went to pick them up, a voice behind said. ‘Excuse me, sir, is that yours?’ 
 ‘Yes, it is.’ I said tersely to the owner of the ‘voice’, who looked like a double portion of cheese cake covered in custard.
‘Please let introduce myself, sir, I’m Herman Winston Grasshopper the 7th. And this is my good wife Martha.’ Martha stepped out and curtsied. ‘Wonderful to meet you, sir.’ She was just one portion (‘easy on the custard’) with whitest teeth I’ve ever seen, so blazing white they would have blinded a pride of marauding lions looking for a quick lunch. ‘Such a talented guy, ain’t he Herm?’

She turned swiftly to he husband and hissed into his ear, searing and pointedly, like a nurse trying to clear a blockage of wax. ‘Buy it, Herm, I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it.!’

Herm turned to me. ‘My wife and friends here have been on a year long tour of great buildings, castles, cathedral, museums and art galleries. We’ve had a wonderful time.’ There was a mumble of agreement from the assembled cheese cakes. ‘Now occasionally theres’s bolt of lightening that can knock you off your feet. And my wife has been struck.’

His wife jabbed him in the ribs. ‘Shut up, Herm, get on with it. It’s time for drinks!’

“Okay, Chammy, keep your knickers on. $750 for your art work, sir?’ he was pointing to the guitar and washboard.

Gob smacked? Yep, I sure was. Anyway to cut my negotiations short (thrilling as they were) ending up with me getting £1500 and an invitation to New York to display my other ‘art‘ in a gallery Herm owned, I disembarked ( to cheers from the assembled cheesecakes) and made my way home.

The great cover up is now over, so back to reality in more ways than one. The disastrous Newcastle Station and wheelie bag adventure. So much to look forward to!     

Thursday, 17 October 2013


So much has happened in the last few weeks. Roger Walker has been a dynamo, he cobbled up a guitar for me using a couple of hub caps soldered together and a flattened exhaust pipe for the neck, using wire from a tatty old soiled mattress for the strings and a washboard for him and then he managed, after getting a wax impression, to make a key for the basement door into Brownlee’s grounds, then we went into the local town busking.  We enjoyed ourselves. Did well. Made a few bob. Then out of the blue he announced ‘We’re off tonight.’ A mate of his, who drove a bread van, dropped us off at Dover and within no time we were on the ferry.

The sea was rough, we were like a cork in a washing machine, sick bowls were filled and emptied by pale faced stewards, a group of wild eyed nuns prayed desperately for a change in the weather or an early death, me, my head permanently in my bowl, the ferry creaking and groaning threatening to fall apart any second, while Roger sat calmly eating a bacon sandwich. I nicked his spare ginger wig, he’d told me while puking, and while he was busy searching for it, I nipped into his office and took our passports, he told me.  

I sipped my Calvados, lifted my fork and pushed in a piece of ham and pineapple into my mouth, chomped away all the time salivating at the thought of a Full English breakfast. God, what am doing in this foreign land? I hate it. Can’t speak the language but Roger can, of course  “I used to be a teacher.” People were scuttling past the cafe. It looked like rain. Lucky old Roger out of these soon to be teeming streets and gone to Paris to see an old friend who ran a British fish and chip bar. ‘Making a fortune’. 

‘Complete, Monsieur Brooks?‘ Gaston, the cafe owner, who had let Roger and me have a room at the back of the cafe for a couple of our ‘musical evenings‘ at weekends, plus a few bob in our pockets and free ‘breakfasts’. Our musical repertoire includes mash ups of Rock Island Line, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavour on The Bedpost Overnight, Maggie May, Dancing Queen, the Engelbert Humperdinck songbook followed by Edith Piaf numbers (a bit of a strain on the vocal chords these), and of course a couple of my songs but naturally the punters don’t take any notice, too busy stuffing their faces with frog’s bits followed by Gaston’s speciality, ‘the world famous Horse Fritters’ and jabbering away nineteen to the dozen. I downed my coffee.‘Very nice, Gaston.’
‘When will Monsieur Walker be returning? You have to play tomorrow night.‘
I lifted my empty glass. ‘I’m sure he will. And can I have a refill?’ 
Gaston shuffled back into the cafe with my empty glass. He didn’t like minions like me having ‘seconds’. But he had leant me his lap top, hence this blog.

‘Monsieur Brooks, Monsieur Brooks!’ Gaston was running back out of the cafe. ‘Monsieur Walker is on the phone!’

‘Ray, I’m flying back to London tonight. Got a job.’ He’s got a job! ‘Remember Gordon Glow?’ Yeah, that little shit who was directing his musical version of ‘The Mousetrap’. ‘Well, he’s got a new musical of ‘Waiting for Godot’ it’s coming into the West End. He wants me to play Estragon. The lead! Big songs and dancing.’

‘Gordon Glow! How the hell did he get one of his crap musicals in the West End?’

He started to speak softly. ‘I have a confession to make, you know that I took the passports out of Ginger’s office. Well I got mine and I took Gordon Glows by mistake.’

So, that was it. What with Gordon Glows connection to the theatrical hierarchy, once he’d gone missing, excepting that he hadn’t just Roger’s mix up with the passports, they’d have had police all over Europe searching for him. So with all the publicity that engendered, some bastard West End producer snapped up Gordon Glows latest lash-up. A musical of Waiting for Godot! Hell’s bells! 

Pass the sick bag.