I didn’t possess an overwhelming desire to frequent the establishments I’d visited with the Rastafarian, apart from The Folky Pub. I had pre-Rastafarian (a bit like Pre-Raphaelite but really different) memories of The Folky Pub and I didn’t wholly associate the pub with him. However, I still needed some time to recover and so I let things roll at The Folky Pub without me for a bit. I’m certain that no-one noticed my absence. But I noticed my absence and after just a couple of weeks I was back there.
‘It’s good to have you back,’ said Original Blues.
‘It’s good to be back,’ I smiled and pushed him away as he tried to turn that inch I’d given him into a mile.
‘The Call?’ the guy that ran the Open Mic leaned over Original Blues and was looking right at me.
‘I’ll learn it and you can sing it,’ he continued.
I looked at the profile of Original Blues because he was making a sterling effort to not look at me, but I could see his cheeks puffing out like they do when someone is wearing a MASSIVE smile. I laughed, defeated and said that yes, that would be great.
‘What have you done?’ as soon as Open Mic Guy Mark II (I named some other Open Mic guy Open Mic Guy) had leaned back to continue doing Open Mic stuff I rounded on Original Blues.
‘I knew you wanted to do some Open Mic stuff and he’s here to support you, so he’s gonna learn that song you said you wanted to sing.’
‘I did? I said that?’
‘Well, I asked you what you would sing if you sang and that’s what you said.’
So that was it. I had to learn it. And I did learn it. But when I went the following week, he apologised for not learning it because he’d forgotten it. Which was fine, because much as I loved that song, I figured it was a challenging initiation into Open Mic, so I gave him a different song to learn. And when I went the next week, with the song learnt, Original Blues wasn’t there and Open Mic Guy Mark II failed to mention anything about a song, so I failed to do so too and it didn’t get sung. I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. I had such a good feeling about this going well, but it was out of my comfort zone, not having done Open Mic before.
But there was an audition coming up and so I let the Open Mic ambition slide for the time being and concentrated on preparing myself for this audition that, if successful, would propel me back into the theatre.
A few days previous to audition day, I’d gone out in town and parked outside Browns (a restaurant). I was aware of a homeless-type person in a doorway bang opposite my parking space and when I got out of the car, and was generally adjusting my attire, he said, are you alright? I looked around, to check that he was actually addressing me and as I was not sharing this particular patch of pavement with anyone else, I figured he was talking to me. I smiled and thanked him for his concern and said that yes, I was fine. Curiously, he said that he thought I looked like I was going to an audition. I said that that was very strange, as even though I wasn’t, I would be in a few days. He was very interested in my forthcoming audition and wanted to know the whereabouts of the theatre, so I told him, without a second thought. Maybe I should have given it a second thought, because then he said that he used to work in special effects and lighting and that he might pop along there on audition day. Eek! Before you judge me, one does not just ‘pop along’ to a theatre group in the middle of the city on audition day and expect to be taken seriously. So, when audition day arrived, the thought of a vagrant turning up and mentioning my name probably contributed towards my decision to swerve the auditions.
If you’ve read my blog entitled ‘The Theatre’, you will know how important the theatre has been to me for most of my adult life and so the decision to renege on my plan to audition was a pretty momentous one. I realised that I actually didn’t want to go. For a few hours I was pretty down . . . It was a strange feeling of acceptance and sadness. I reflected on all the plays in which I had performed and I was so grateful for the memories, but slightly mournful for a passion I’d lost.
Then The Dude messaged me. We’d resurrected communication but just as friends and I’d told him about my Open Mic plans. He was enquiring after my plans and so I told him the situation.
‘I can learn a few songs for you,’ he offered, ‘if you give me the titles.’
Wow. I had something to look forward to.
Then another message came through. Would I like to sing in a forthcoming play? Everything went a bit wobbly; the very day I was mourning the loss of a huge part of my life, was the very day when two more opportunities popped up and introduced themselves. Yes, yes, yes. I was ready for all of it. I’d covered all the performing arts: dancing . . . From the age of three and into my twenties; acting . . . From my teens and up to a couple of years ago; singing . . . Kind of all my life but apart from a brief sojourn with a band, always alongside one of the other performing arts or as a member of the chorus. Acting had received most of my attention and I felt like a change, a challenge. This sounds cliché-ridden, but I needed to move on. Acting wasn’t a challenge anymore, but singing was. I had done plenty of it, but acting had been my bag so now I had a new venture; a new adventure.
Meanwhile, I had attempted to maintain a friendship with the Rastafarian which culminated in my driving him on a 40 minute car journey to work. To date, this is the last time I saw him. It was a Friday night after a particularly tiring week at work. I drove him to Haywards Heath and then began the journey home. He had commented on the way that he couldn’t find his gloves so he must have left them at home. I offered to return home, but he would have been late, so he cut his losses and I continued on to Haywards Heath. Just to clarify, when you’re working ‘on the door’ as a security officer in the coldest part of winter, warm extremities are important. So anyway, I began my journey home but on stopping to fill up with petrol, I noticed the elusive gloves by the side of the passenger seat. I returned from whence I’d deposited him and gave the gloves to a smiling Rastafarian. He was visibly grateful and kissed me as I pulled away. The journey there and back took 1 hour 20 minutes. Originally, he had said that he finished at half past midnight, so I planned to leave at around 11.50 to collect him. But he messaged me at around 10.30 to ask me to come at 11.30, so I left at 10.50 instead. I arrived bang on time and he came over to the car. I could tell by the immediacy with which he approached the car, without his bag or coat, and by the way he came to the driver’s side and not the passenger side, that he wasn’t ready.
‘Come in and have a drink,’ he invited, ‘for an hour because honey, I don’t finish till 12.30.’
‘No,’ I replied, ‘you come in the car now and I will drop you home, or I’m going.’
I won’t bore you with the next several interchanges; I’ll just give you a few key phrases and words like ‘honey’, ‘what am I supposed to do’, ‘come on’ and ‘the boss say’. My replies included key phrases and words like ‘no’, ‘for a whole hour?’ ‘I’ve driven all this way’ and ‘I’m going.’ Then one key phrase started to stand out which was ‘I have no money to get home’ so I grabbed a tenner from my wallet and held it out of the car window, whilst advising him to enjoy the last bit of money he would ever extort from me.
I had driven for just under 3 hours for him that night, yet as I arrived home, having left him there to (perish the thought) slum it on the Bedford train, 40 minutes later, a message pinged onto my phone saying he’d finished and could I possibly pick him up?