The Songwriter - Chapter Six
The Dark Night Of The Soul
I awoke to a new day , the sarsaparilla sky hung suspended over my head and I cleared my throat of the dryness from the previous night that lay locked in my larynx just like a waterless well . I couldn’t refill it , I couldn’t quench it , I couldn’t quell it .
I thought I may as well head back on into the town and do some busking with my six string guitar . As I walked along Hackney Road I jumped on board a 253 red double decker bus to Bethnal Green underground and I took a tube to Charing Cross then I got to Trafalgar Square like a lion looking for a late lunch . I sat next to the lions with my guitar and played my way through gut churning blues to the crowd feeding the pigeons and I could see it was having no effect on the tourists, although I think the pigeons enjoyed more than they did . I continued on regardless , even though my bank and belly were empty . The blues became more like a gravel rock as my voice was so but dry as it was it seemed to echo into the well to do ears of the people nearby . A couple of girls cheered me up , they stood and danced to my music . They seemed to enjoy themselves .
I left Trafalgar Square penniless for my effort and walked all the way to the West End with a hunger I had not felt before and a hunger I could not quite satisfy . I hoped the West End would be able to raise me the urgent funds I required .
I arrived in Covent Garden an angry busking man . I was amazed to find a Kung Fu festival had stolen the show all through the West End . There was Chinese dragons dancing and symbols clashing , drums banging and bashing and Eastern fashion was the flavour of the day in the West End of town . A party pack of oriental passion ran wild through frantic panic on the pavement . Police tried to keep an orderly control but they had their hands full .
I decided to give in to the streets . It seemed my efforts to bring music to the streets was wasted expression in a place I thought was the pits of the world . I once thought London was the brightest tourist attraction in the world . I wasn’t impressed .
I was drawn to write a piece of poetry called , all I want for Christmas.
The fog stuck to the rooftops of London , mist swelled before tears in my eyes, ‘’I can’t see another Christmas through alone .
I wish there was someone I could surprise, you see all I want for Christmas is some company wrapped up in my arms or even a smile to warm me up when Christmas comes around .
I’m thinking of the old folks and the little ones as well and I’m thinking I could be dying here in this lonely prison cell, Santa all I want for Christmas is a little company as Christmas cheer is almost here and the heartaches have begun .
I’m stuck under a rooftop in London and the sky is overcast .
I can’t fly like these birds up in the sky and the snow is stuck to the rooftops in London . I can’t hide the tears that slide from my eyes as the winter sun slips a sad kiss my way .
It’s days close to Christmas and I’ve got no one to surprise , if you’re passing this way Santa would you please drop in on me and put me in your sack then put me on your back like a pack of presents then I’ll be free to party on with cheer and see in the new year just another prisoner on the run .
My note’s stuck on a rooftop in London and its cold here under a sarsaparilla sky and the snow comes falling down . Santa if you find my note , could you write me a little message in a card for its a lonely spot that I have where many of us hide . The outside world is frosty and snowmen never cry but here on the inside snowmen melting and wishing for Christmas day .
All I want for Christmas is a little thing you see ,If you could somehow swing it to break me out and set me free and get me across the sea to the old land where I come from .
For now in my head I was dreaming of the green fields of Ireland and making an escape from London . It was the only choice I had left .I was near to the point of selling my six string for forty quid , just for a bite to eat .
I started to look for a job but I didn’t have much luck , it had left me .
It was the day before I suppose, Christmas eve and I sat there alone in the park round the East End of London .So far from home and alone . Welcome to the cold cruel night of the soul , to a city that I had travelled half way around the world to bring my songs ,to bring my talent and the midnight hour was still ahead . I wished myself a happy new year before it came and hoped that things would be better in the year to come . I had to prove a point , that my talent alone could carry me from town to town and could get me around and could somehow make a difference in my life and other people’s lives and I wasn’t giving up . There’s no comebacks for a songwriter , there’s no turning back . I had to live with my decision . It was now up to my music, up to my courage , to foot the floor and pay the cost and get on with the job .
I was lucky in one sense having no ties . No wife , no children .
Nobody missed me. I had no money , No family, no car, no job , no friends, no home . Well that’s was more of the comforting thought that I carried with me ..
I closed myself to the thoughts of negativity and started to dream about the possibility of finding work . That night I went to bed in the park , near the Oval tube station . On a park bench with no one around , you start to think a wee bit differently with the cold snow falling down over your head . I heard the sound of someone walking through the park and I sat up and opened my eyes . A fella asked me
“Have you got a light Mac?”
I looked at him . He had a Belfast accent . I fumbled around in my inside pockets and found the old petrol cigarette lighter tht I had and I gave him a light for his cigarette and I said , :There you go “
He looked at me and says .
Where are you from .”
I said ,
“The same place as you .”
He smiled and said .
“Where are ye living ?”
and I said “ Well you’re stepping into my lounge room at the minute “
He said , “Come on with me .“
I followed him to Lambeth and within twenty minutes he took me to a block of flats where we went up to the thirteenth floor and he put a key into the door and he said ,
“You’re living with me now . I’m Pat “
and I looked at him and said ,
“Pat thanks very much . My name’s Paul”
Then I proceeded to tell him during the night about the things I’d been through since coming to London. He was intrigued and he told me that he had a wee problem with the drink and a wee problem with the drugs, when he wasn’t having one he could have the other and the problem is that he wasn’t having much of it these days and he was on edge .
So I told him about my plans of finding work and going back to Ireland, to the old country . The next morning after a good nights sleep with a roof over my head we went for a walk and he introduced me to some of his friends around the Oval . They used to sit there during the day . If one of them had a bottle of vodka or a bottle of scrumpy wine, they would sit and they would share it and they would talk about their dreams and the things they had come through . I told them it was my birthday . just for a laugh . They all wished me happy birthday and to my surprise one of them handed me some money inside a little card , He said he was keeping it for his Father but he couldn’t get home for Christmas so he give it to me . So that afternoon I took the liberty of purchasing a little guitar . A six string Yamaha , just in case and I left it there in Pats bedroom .
I left it there in the hope that I could take it to Ireland and sure enough the next week came and as I was walking around Kennington Road I noticed they were renovating a pub . I went in off the street , cold canvassing and asked if they were looking for a French polisher because I knew in my head I could still do the work .
He said “How much do you charge”
And I said , ”Fifty pounds a day .“
Why not I thought , I’m worth that .
He said , “Give me a moment .“
He got on his phone and spoke to someone . He came back he said
“When can you start ?”
I said , “In the morning if that’s soon enough ”
I couldn’t wait to go home to Pat’s place and tell him I got a job and when I did he was delighted for me and the next morning I started at 7am .
I told the foreman at the job site the materials that I needed , some crystalized shellac , some methylated spirits , some sandpaper , some stain and polyurethane and stripper .
We got into the work van and we went to the hardware shop and we bought the products that I needed . When we got back to the pub I started to strip off the old polish and sand paper the timber and I applied the base colour then sealing it with shellac and rubbing it up and giving it coat after coat and the people watching were amazed and they were wanting to buy me drinks . I told them I couldn’t drink as I was working .
“Ah come on”
they sad ,
“One drink won’t hurt you.”
In a matter of weeks I had enough money to go to Ireland and I had a new guitar to boot .
I said goodbye to Pat . I told him ,
“We will not be strangers , I’ll be coming back . I’ll be looking for you .”
Because it was his help that I got through the dark night of the soul and now I was able to get myself on board a boat train .
I had the thoughts of starting from County Cork and making my way , busking with my Yamaha guitar .
I told Pat I would leave my Fender guitar in his flat for when I got back and he was happy with that .
End Of Chapter Six
Link to Chapter 7