24 March 2008


My happiest blogging is always off the cuff: the turn of the kaleidoscope, the jog of the jigsaw and suddenly there is a perfectly formed tale.

I have an enemy and we are most wonderfully mis-matched and destined to keep sparring in this small Greek isle.

He is Australian with all the brutal craggy good looks and shoulder chips that antipodeans possess and hone in their struggle to succeed in the Mother Country.

We met at a country club 'do' where he and his band were playing and I was air-guitaring along to a song, not by way of enjoyment but to correct or improve on the chords he was fumbling in the song.

"You also play guitar?" asked a voice and when I turned it belonged to the sort of face that makes my head spin. She was Belgian and married to the Fumbler. Yes, I told her and she said but I must play to which i replied no, no and she said nothing more.

In the break she introduced me to her husband who gave me that 'look' that real men give flunkey poseurs. I moved away from the heat but in the next set he suddenly announced we had a guitarist in the midst and why didnt I come up and give them all a number.

I was actually ready to do so, so instead of faux modesty I smiled 'why not?' and inspected their guitars. The other two were playing wide-fret spanish guitars and macho Oz was on a steel string, not excellent but "This will do".

"Will *do*?" he spluttered but it was too late, I'd grabbed it and gone straight into 'Greenback Dollar', tight strumming and scratch-board tapping, etouffé damping on the verse and full rasgueado on the "Don't give a damn" chorus. For encore, I asked for a capo to do Lyle Lovett's 'Skinny Legs' but he didn't use one. I did Tish Hinojosa's 'Drifter's Wind' instead and then a medley of Sam Hopkins.

No love lost when I handed the axe back with a "Great guitar" which must have rankled with his wife cooing that she'd never heard it sound tellement si bien.

After that we kept meeting at various guitarless social functions where he'd ask me what I was up to and to which I would reply 'Damn all'.

"That's sad. That's really sad. I arrived here 9 years ago, no money no prospects, set up one company with a Greek: disaster; set up another, screwed by the bank; my wife went back to Oz, I went through two relationships before finally finding a woman I could live with ("Martine?" "Yes, she's special").

I built up my business and here I am. Listening to you, it's sad."

I tell you - undiluted chemical hostility at every level.

Three weeks back I happened to learn that Macho Oz and his troubadours would be the entertainment at the birthday party of the daughter of one of Corfu's top pols, a lavish affair.

Action stations: I tapped the local zeitgeistopoulos for songs that would impress, learnt them up, polished my own Greek compositions and readied for action.

The band played, the audience applauded. Break.

"Christo! Play something!"

I retreated modestly into the limelight, helped by Martine's "Vas-y! Barry - he can play your guitare, he was so good on it."

Then came the good bit:

  • His mediocre axe has pegs for a strap but he plays without one. Out of my jacket poche I took a simple strap that I slipped on.
  • Out of the other pocket I drew a capo
  • And from my shirt pocket, I slipped a thumb pick over la pouce.
  • Ready for action.

I played, I picked, I strummed ~ smiling and laughing all the while.

Do you remember how in "Mash" Donald Sutherland's 'Hawkeye' Pierce serves up a martini and Elliott Gould's 'Trapper John' suggests an olive might complete the package at which Hawkeye reminds them both that they're only a few miles from the front? From the depths of his jacket, EG produces a jar of olives and proceeds to drop one into his glass.

That how it was for Macho Oz when I produced the strap, then a capo, and finalement a thumbpick.

As for my launching into Greek stuff ...

Good times.


rwells said...

Wish I'd been there - either occasion. I would have pretended to be a Sony exec, and signed you up as the gal and her mate watched.

Busker said...

Too kind too kind. But LOL - the Sony exec would have been the final touch.
Also too kind because it was so appallingly told. I have trimmed a bit, but it still reads clunky. But the spirit is there.