14.4.16

Squeezebox Encounter #1



Over the past six months, on many occasions, I've cycled home from working in Soho along Guilford Street in Bloomsbury. There has been a Syrian, possibly East European man who has been playing the accordion outside Coram's Fields at the foot of Lamb's Conduit Street. He's usually fluently performing an ethnic folk piece. I've often thought as I pedal past that he'd make a lot of money if he knew how to play the hornpipe.

It stands to reason doesn't it? Anyone aged 35 or over will instantly think of happy times, of the old children's TV, and Captain Pugwash. And they'll gladly dig deep in their pockets. It'd put a smile on the meanest of faces. I mean, he wouldn't have to play it constantly, that might be annoying; but only now and then at opportune moments. Time after time as I rush home I've thought this, each time promising to myself that next time I would stop and tell the chap. I would impart this useful insight into British customs.

This evening, after a pretty taxing day, I was heading his way along Great Russell Street and the thought came into my head that he might be there, playing his concertina. And if he was, this time I would stop and speak with him. It could be awkward, and it proved to be as such. Yes. He was there. I mounted the kerb on my bike. Instantly I started routing round my pockets for a pound coin or two but I didn't have even a penny. I noticed that the busker, a small slightly wrinkled man didn't look up. I realised that the guy was blind.

Undeterred, I thought if I was gentle and polite I could still try this. Did he know the hornpipe? He'd make a few bob if he knew the hornpipe! No. No he didn't. So I sung it: "Duddle de da, duddle de da, di da, di da, di da, di da, di duddle de da, duddle de da...." No. "Ah. English!", he said. And pretty skilfully, he made an attempt to play it back to me. But to be truthful it didn't really bear much resemblance to the hornpipe. Although he didn't seem at all bothered or insulted I felt really bad and a bit embarrassed. Also rather like a bully. I didn't even have any money to give him. I told him I'd bring some money with me next time and wished him the very best.

On the way home I was pondering how I could play him the hornpipe properly so he could hear it and, as I've only just figured out, YouTube would do the trick. I think I'll try again another day.