Thursday, 23 September 2010

Perfect Day

There are still places under the parasol.  I take my large cappuccino and place myself facing the street.  As I start to write the short story I’ve been desperate to write all week, I hear David Grey’s, Sail Away with Me sung by the mesmerising voice of a twenty-something year old, with his hint of a beard, jeans slung low from his hips (but no sign of any pants, thank you) and guitar strap relaxed around his neck as though it’s part of him.  The case is open on the ground.  People are filling the base with coins and notes.  He’s good.  He smiles at every passer-by as they drop in their gratitude and respect but he doesn’t miss a beat.

He sings another busking favourite of mine, Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen style.  I smile at the scene in which I find myself. It doesn’t get much better than this.

There’s a different voice now.  I stop writing and look up.  It’s deeper with an African tinge – Bob Marley with slightly more attitude.  The hair suits the voice: slightly dishevelled Rastafarian, chin length curls, greying in a ten pence piece size spot on the crown of his head. 

I notice that my young busking friend has taken a step back, is leaning against the wall with one knee pulled high. He’s strumming an accompaniment quietly; the other man is singing.  Because the other man can sing.  It’s the slightly predicatable, No Woman, No Cry but it’s got passion and a rawness which mean I keep listening.

It’s a warm September day and this man is wearing a brown Paddington bear type coat.  I gasp: it’s Rudi.  Everyone knows Rudi.  He’s to be found every Saturday, and other days as well, wandering through Harrogate.  Generally he carries a megaphone to convey abstract messages of learning and joy.  ‘We all have the power to be nice,’ he shouts.  He was perched on the top of traffic lights when I heard that one.  ‘Your daughters are beautiful,’ he proclaimed another time, much to one of said children’s delight, after her dad had simply passed the time with Rudi.

But I didn’t know he could sing.

No Woman, No Cry finished.  Rudi’s whole face smiled in response to the applause.  He turned and shook the guitarist’s hand who motioned Rudi to the coins in the case.  He should take some, after all people had specifically left money while the duet took place.  It was only right that Rudi should earn something for his trouble. 

But Rudi didn’t touch the money.  There was more gesturing.  But he simply dipped his head, shook the guitarist’s hand again, beamed as he turned and went on his way.  The guitarist watched him leave, nodded sagely, then turned back to his music. 

Judging by the fact that Rudi has been wearing the same black cotton trousers and that brown duffle coat, whatever the weather, for the entire eleven years I’ve lived here – and sometime prior to that too, no doubt, I do not think Rudi has much spare cash.  Couldn’t he have just taken enough for a sandwich?

Rudi just wanted to sing.  And that was enough.  And so he did.  He’s a singer, an entertainer, certainly but entrepreneur, he is not.  In that moment, however, hearing him chuckling into the distance,  I thought that Rudi probably understood the world better than the rest of us and was certainly happier than many. 

Most days I don’t feel confident calling myself a writer.  I say that ‘I write’, when people ask, but the official title of ‘writer’ seems too much like ‘author’ and I’d feel a sham without my name to accompany it, on the front of that book.  But today, watching this exchange, two strangers simply enjoying their mutual love of music and song, enjoying the simple pleasures of life without having to communicate a single word about it, I felt so happy to be someone who loves to write.   

I have the picture of the guitarist and Rudi firmly in my mind now.  And I have a scene, perhaps, or at least two characters who will appear in a book somewhere.  They will jam. They will understand each other, they will know what’s important and then they will go on their way.  I don’t know where I’m going to put them yet but whether it’s next week or when my children have left home, there’s a story about them sharing something, I know it.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ellie Williamson

A few months ago I discovered and got into email correspondence with the site owner, Ellie Williamson. She seemed great, we'd chat about how ridiculous it was, us both being up at 2am in the morning working on our various bits of fiction, seemingly not realising that we weren't actually writing at all but chatting. 

I was going to be the site's profiled writer in July.  I submitted the required pieces of writing - an About You, a Blog Entry and a Short Piece of Fiction but then everything went quiet.  A few days of no response and I had a terrible sense of foreboding.  I knew I'd only 'met' Ellie on-line but she just didn't seem the type of person to suddenly, and without explanation, close all communication.  I kept checking back to the site which was like the Marie Celeste.  I even had the fleeting notion that the site was a scam to fleece my £10 annual membership from me but I had to have a stern word with myself for doubting my instincts; I knew that  Ellie Williamson and her site were completely kosher.

When I got back from holiday, I clicked on the link to and everything had changed.  A new homepage had been uploaded which explained that Ellie had died after a three year battle with breast cancer.  Her friend and colleague, Lorraine Cornish, who runs Words Undone and also helps out with Active Writers, had decided to take over the site in her memory.

I wouldn't claim to know Ellie or insult those close to her by pretending to feel a grief like theirs but I enjoyed my few months of correspondence with her and do feel real sadness that another person in their mid-forties should lose their life too soon.

So, I'd like to help Lorraine promote in Ellie's memory.  If you're a writer, please have a look at the site. It's primarily a showcase for writing with constant opportunities to enter competitions and air your missives.  If you're a reader, please pop over there and let us budding wannabes know your thoughts.

My July profile has been resurrected for September so you'll see me over there.  I had to steady my hand when I submitted the featured short story as it's something I wrote ten years ago, annoyed by the rise in cosmetic surgery, even back then.  I rediscovered the story (it isn't as heavy as it sounds) and decided to give it a whirl.  However it's the first time I've ever submitted anything which hasn't been read and critiqued by an army of helpful others.  I'd be keen to know your thoughts - honest!

Thanks for listening and here's to making the best of every moment while we're still lucky enough to be here.