The men beer in hand
Thumb tucked in belt loop
Trousers slung below bellies
Shirts and sports shirts, shiny nylon.
Polo shirts with ancient embroidery from the 1950’s.
Tan slacks made for men of a certain age.
And the raffle…
Arthur reads, “number 650 - the road to Leeds”
The band white shirted, white haired
Surviving heart bypass, divorce, WWII, conscription, rationing
Boom and bust British economy
The wax and wane of Trad Jazz
Until all that is left is this WMC in Bingley
A barmaid with blue plaits
A scattering of older people
Sitting in couples and groups of three
A semi-circle around the guys.
Trombone, trumpet, clarinet, double bass, drums, banjo
Most sit. The songs croaked
And cracked in brittle beauty
In fragile filaments
Saw tooth songs.
The audience takes up the refrain
“Down by the Riverside”
“Lilly of the valley”
It’s an old beaten drum
patterning the blues and New Orleans
Rhythms over and over.
I opened a draw and there was a box
I opened the box and there was an old battered book
A Set List book
Written in copperplate fountain pen
My Father’s book
“Down by the Riverside B flat”
Lists of numbers, chords, keys
With dates, jobs played when and where.
Not everyone pleased to see us
People are territorial
Have you paid your dues in beer and nights of your life?
Dad’s fans imagine scenarios of Bohemian fantasy
A carefree life of beer and wild music.
This is not our reality
Not our world
Ours is the world of silence and imposed quiet,
“shhhhh don’t wake Dad
He’s been playing all night."
Key in the door
The first sound of it and I’m off
Like a shot, upstairs don’t get caught by Dad
Angry, aggressive, interrogative
Or is it just plain bothersome?
Best keep as far out of his way as possible
Avoid stilted conversation
These people in the room – what do they know
They just see what they want to see
A beautiful illusion
Make believe jazz band
Every day it’s Student Rag
A Bohemian Ball
Re-live those student memories and make them last 50 years
I give it back to you - grey couples
It’s yours - not mine
This image is not my Father
It is someone else
Keep him yourselves.