It's 8am and the guitar player, one week into running his new gardening company, is cycling up to the lofty heights of Clifton with a back-pack full of compost, a spade lashed around him and two large trugs strapped to his handlebars. Anyone who knows Bristol will know there's nothing gradual about these hills; they're sharp and sudden and very steep. By the time he arrives in Westbury-on-trim he's completely exhausted and sweating buckets in the heavy heat. He dismounts and greets the elderly lady who's waiting in her nice neat garden, forcing a smile that masks the crippling pain of 3 miles of hills while carrying twice your weight.
"You cycled here?" she looks amazed.
"Yes, the van's out, we've got a big job on in Clifton." This is a lie; there is no big job and there is no van. There is also no 'we'. He's alone on this venture, but by decorating the truth it makes him seem more professional, certainly less of a novice, less of a risk. Despite a healthy CV, his business is brand new, and it's a gamble. "Also, I prefer to cycle as it goes with my conservation ethos and lessons my carbon footprint!". She seems impressed. "Let me fetch you some coffee."
By 6pm he's one bag of compost lighter and zooming back down the hills into Bristol with the cool breeze in his face. He parks up somewhere in Redland, spends an hour doing a paving and fencing quote for Mr. Smith and hops back on his bike, arriving home just before 8pm. It doesn't stop there, after wolfing down some dinner he spends an hour in the make-shift office answering emails, writing quotes, scribbling addresses into his filofax while trying to remain present to his girlfriend as she talks about her day. And then I phone him asking about a gig in Wooton-under-Edge and if he can transfer some money over for the latest round of artwork. And if he's free next february for a tour of Sweden and whether we should do a third Merry Folking Christmas at The Acorn? All of which he answers with unwavering patience despite the trials of his day. A day which he will repeat tomorrow and the next day, and the next day, until he once again teams up with us for another round of gigs!
-- ~ --
The piano player's in McColl's newsagents attempting to send a suit and trousers to Cornwall. He hands over the clothes to the cashier and is met with a look of astonishment. "Errr... you'll need a parcel!"
"Oh, I thought you could do that for me?" he chances.
She fixes him with a stern look and he retreats back into the shop, but finding no parcels trots off down the Highstreet to the stationary outlet to find a suitable wrapping.
Back in front of the stern lady at the counter he is told he needs to write the address on a piece of paper and tape it to the wrapping. He once more retreats back into the shop, but unwilling to buy a large pack of paper when all he needs is one sheet, he opens the packet and stealthily slips one out. Leaving the shop for one minute to avoid suspicion, he then re-enters and returns to the cashier.
"Where did you get that paper from?" she probes.
"Oh, I bought it next door!" he stammers. She narrows her eyes but says no more so he continues to write out the address and tapes the paper on to the wrapping. He exchanges money for a stamp and is just about to make a hasty exit when there is a tap on his shoulder. A large security guard towers over him.
"Where did you get that paper from?"
"From the sweetshop?"
"Funny that they sell paper saying McColl's on it in the sweatshop!"
"... Yeah, ha ha..."
"Where did you get that paper from?"
"... from the packet over there. I didn't want 200 sheets I just wanted 1!
"Right, come with me to the backroom, I'm calling the police, now don't make a scene sir, we're just going to follow protocol, no need to make a scene!" And the security guard firmly escorts him through the shop full of eager onlookers as though he is a seasoned criminal finally bought to justice. There follows lengthy investigation where the police are thankfully not required but he is banned from all McColl outlets for one year. He is even handed a certificate to confirm this. The piano player is then escorted back to the shop, forced to buy the remaining 199 sheets of paper and his parcel is finally sent. Just as he leaves the post office for the last time, an onlooker says, "you didn't need the paper mate, you could have written the address on the wrapping!"
-- ~ --
Life goes on behind the scenes; every time we see you we're in a state of flux about to go on stage, or prancing around singing Whisky Drunk, or sipping ales and kicking back; but we have real lives too, our lives of crime and 3 mile hills. The boredom of the bills and the deathgrips, feeding Timothy the kitten, picking litter at Glastonbury, facing redundancy, cycling to work with a shovel strapped to your back, or stealing a piece of paper. So often left unsaid, but now here's an insight, a little fly on the wall, behind the scenes of The Odd Folk.