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.