Jazz Professional



Continuing the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order

Jazz is freedom. Now, you think about that.
Thelonious Monk

Chapter Nineteen

Roads and Ways

When my Dad and my Uncle Frank were ever together of an evening they usually got into an argument about the streets of London. One would start by saying do you remember old Hopkins' furniture shop that used to be around the bottom of Lavender Hill where the horse trams used to turn right up Mysore Road and the other would say oh that's not right, they used to turn left along by the power station, oh no, you're thinking of the Number 8 trams, I'm talking about the Number 15 that used to go to Tooting, I don't think so, Number 15 never went to Tooting, that was the Royal Oak tram, you're wrong about that, oh no I'm not, remember that place up by Clapham Common where that man, what was his name, used to carve your face for you out of a lump of coal for a penny, very lifelike it was, too, no, no, you're thinking of that fellow down by the Dogs' Home....and so on. It was fascinating listening to them.

On one of the BBC radio Goon Shows they had two men sitting on the top of a bus talking about budgerigars, it's those feathers, you know, oh yes, the feathers, oh they are lovely aren't they, well of course it's because of those feathers, you see, well I'm telling you my Elsie wouldn't be without hers, oh she wouldn't would she, they went on and on about it—Wallace Greenslade said afterwards that the conversation you've just heard has nothing to do with the programme—we just thought you'd like to hear what two real idiots sound like. This was the same sort of thing. My sister's late husband Stan would have had a great time with them because all his life he was a postman, on foot, tramping those very same streets. He knew every house, every name, every paving stone, every cat and dog, especially dog, in that area. That would have made no difference to Frank and my Dad and they'd have argued bitterly with him as well.

I used to feed them, quite innocently with wrong information and they'd grab that and shake it about like two dogs worrying a bone. Soon I was forgotten while they strayed from Lambeth to Battersea over the Vauxhall Bridge to Victoria Station and back again. Most of our relatives emigrated to Canada after the First World War, and my family went to live in Winnipeg, where I was born. Now and again an uncle and aunt would come over from there to London on a visit, and then it was oh do you remember that shop in the street around the back of Eaton's where you could get a bottle of dandelion wine for twenty-five cents, oh no, you mean old Timothy Eaton's department store, it wasn't around the back of Eaton's, you're thinking of that place over by the Asssinaboine Park, oh no I'm not, oh yes you are...It was great entertainment, better than television.

My own memories of London are very sketchy. In the 1950s getting around to all the recording and film studios in the dense traffic meant using little-known by-roads and shortcuts. Driving to the north London television studio in Wood Green from anywhere south of the Thames was a real drag until Bob Adams discovered a school playground in Kennington where you could nip through and save a good twenty minutes. Don't know what kind of a school that one was, never saw any kids. We even found a bridge along there that was always empty of traffic and for God's Sake keep quiet about it otherwise everyone else will want to use it.

OK, so we knew all those roads and ways like the backs of our hands. I went over there a couple of years ago from Spain and couldn't even find my way to Baker Street. That's the famous Sherlock Holmes, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, London Planetarium and Rock Circus street. Only a short one but it was the place where all the British big band musicians used to board the band buses to go on tour back in the good old days of unheated buses and no motorways. I used to go there four or five times a week to get on one of those band buses. On this trip I had to stop my car several times to ask the way. No one could help me on that because none of the people I asked spoke English.

A digital version of all this just happened to me here in Spain. I've been sending scores over the Internet to a mate up in the north of England. He has been printing them out, scores, band parts and all, and giving them to another mate who has a big band, well biggish because it's an eight-piece. Well half a big band then, I'm not going to argue. Anyway, yesterday he sent me an email saying he couldn't print out one of the scores. Well it's not my fault, yes it is, no it isn't, it must be, no it's you, no it's your printer, press this, pull that, that doesn't work, well it does on my machine, well I can't help that can I, let's forget it, no it's your fault, no it isn't. Altogether we exchanged fifteen emails on this until I discovered that the links I'd put on my website for him referred back to my hard disk, so I could see the score and print it but he couldn't. When I fixed it he said yes, well I noticed that about the links but I didn't want to say anything. Oh so all the time I thought it was my fault it was really your fault for not telling me, no it wasn't, yes it was, no it wasn't, yes it was.

Chapter Twenty >>>

Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved