Where is he now; the small man in the dark suit – on the sweltering day?
It’s such a worry. People up and down the country, indeed, around the world, are having to think about how they are going to pay the bills, feed their families, feed themselves. They are wondering whether or not they will have a job to return to when Covid-19 has finally been defeated, and if not, what happens next? Over the past weeks, different groups of people have sprung to mind that are probably now struggling to keep their lives on track – to keep their heads above water. The groups of people I have thought about have mainly been in more common work categories such as medical, retailing, the self-employed, education, entertainment and so on. Occasionally, like today, other areas of earning a living come to the fore.
Before I go any further, I want to tell you about the small man in the dark suit – on the sweltering day:
In the middle of a July day, I was walking in the coolness of shadows caused by the tall buildings to my right. The ornate, creamy-coloured Georgian buildings of the wonderfully named Quiet Street sheltered me from the relentless heat. I headed towards the blinding brightness of Milsom Street in the centre of the city of Bath. But ‘Quiet’ by name was not quiet by nature. As I ambled along the street, suit jacket (I was working) slung over my shoulder, the melodic sound of an echoing trumpet reached me. The easy music seemed to drift towards me like a welcoming summer breeze; it bounced off the Bath stone buildings and lured me forward. After accustoming my eyes to the light of the stifling sun, I turned right and headed towards the entrancing sound. And there he was, stood alone in the centre of a wide-open paved and pedestrianised area. The blazing heat rising from the pavement was like being stood in front of an open oven.
The black suit seemed totally inappropriate as it hung from the frame of the short trumpeter. The front of his scuffed shoes poked out from beneath the surplus material of his trousers, the sleeves of his jacket were only unable to cover his hands due to his trumpet being held up to a puckered mouth; his cheeks taught with the effort of blowing the instrument. A crumpled white shirt with a loosely worn black tie almost completed this multi-musicians non-summer attire. The midday sun seemed to single out the small man that had, what I was soon to discover, a big voice. The sunlight shone on him like a theatre spotlight. But the jauntily worn trilby hat, also black, at least offered him some protection. At the conclusion of the, unknown to me, trumpet instrumental, and the applause of the sparse audience, the musician revealed greying black hair, stuck flat to his sweaty head as he lifted the trilby in appreciation. A second hat, this one tomato-red, lay upside down on the baking pavement waiting for an occasional spectator to venture from the shadows to drop a few coins into it. The little girl in a pony-tail who walked over to the small man, received rapturous applause as she handed him not money, but an opened bottle of cola. She ran back to the sanctuary of her mum’s arms. The man took a long swig from the bottle, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and let out, an involuntary burp. He paused, smiled at the girl and cast his gaze around the square. With renewed vigour, the small man in the dark suit with the big voice – on this sweltering day, burst into a swinging rendition of ‘Fly me to the moon’. I walked on, feeling hot and drained, but with a smile as I dropped a few pounds into the bright red hat.
The reason for this story? How are all these talented buskers earning their living now. I am sure they are making wonderful music somewhere, and I hope they are able to entertain audiences all over this ever-changing world in the not too distant future.