The atmosphere was of chewing, rending of teeth on toast, the aah’s of good tea. My pen kept rolling off the wobbly table I had attempted to steady with a wad of toilet roll. I abandoned my pen, no longer wanting a close look at the floor neath the table of “Little Chef’, a roadside service cafe where, on my recent summer visit to Wales, I always met with Godfrey’s eccentric sister, Alice…
To my dismay, Alice’s partner “Nudge Giggleswick’ joined us, with plates licked clean, Nudge produced a disreputable sock, shook it’s contents of coins out on the table, (they rolled everywhere), to sort and count them, earnings from a mornings singing down the market. Alice rummaged in her packet of writings, casting aside sweet wrappers, and a partial portion of cheese. I asked Nudge, a peculiar little man, “What do you, Nudge, actually do?..”Why, I play the “LaughPan”, I created, some call it the “Absquatulate”, would you like to hear my story now we have ate? “Feh” said Alice, indeed, I replied, oh joy! the cheerful Nudge Giggleswick cried…
As a child, said he, I was pummeled by the boys, played jump rope with the girls, spent a great deal of time alone in damp cloak room dunce cap on my curls, which were umber colored and Ma let me keep quite long. As a little chap, I was known for out bursts of racous song.
“Had my old mans lungs, said Ma, twas dad who bellowed “All Aboard”, from the train rang the bell with a clang, echoed down the small Welsh valley, where all we Giggleswicks sang. Ma loved a story, and oft told this tale, how I was born elbows first, you see. Ma gave a firm “Nudge” and out I popped wailing, though they wished for a she not their 11th he”.
At aged six- was reported, “It is sad, but that lad appears, to have been made up of spare parts” Miss Fondliver it was, Batley town nurse, “From those freckles to the crab like way that he walks”, she peered down pink nose, through glasses quite thick, noted “I do not see a rosy future for you, young Nudge Giggleswick”
Alice chimed in- From the worn out photos Nudge has let me see, he stood wet and bewildered quite often, as did my late brother Godfrey. While Godfrey was a poet, Nudge sang and whistled non stop, his brothers stuffed his mouth with mashed potatoes, and claimed Nudge came in a sack from the charity shop.
“All Aboard”! called Pa, all aboard everyone, clutching his knapsack, nearly grown now, Nudge waved goodbye as he set out for far off London. No more mashed potatoes, no brothers nasty feet in his face, no more bally-hoo, no more having to hide his musical creations, back of the cold out door loo. Sun crept round the mist as his train clacked along, he reckoned the winter warmth a sign- “I have invented the “Dust Pan Flute”, soon it will be my chance to shine”.
In a hostel dwelt Nudge, in a room with twelve others, the warden’s signs hung in the hall. “Be ye unwelcome loose women, waifs and strays, the itinerant musician” Beware the pickpocket and mini cab tout- Do Not slam The Door on Your Way out. ” as he walked the big city, Nudge sang for his supper of chips and the coins tossed his way, he oft sat in the park thinking long, long thoughts, of home and the music he was learning to play.
He purloined a dust pan from the hostel closet, attached a pilfered rubber hose to it. He cut strategic holes the length and width, added an old tin cup so his lips would fit, Nudge could not sing as he played his Laughpan, but delighted in the racket it made, from the low drone of distant cow afar, building to crescendo of large herd of beasts, in a narrow corridor.
Nudge practiced in the streets everyday, the good folks of London soon paid him well to go away. “Free Music of Nudge” read his sign. Every night, over chips he told himself, indeed he was destined to shine.
Alice tells her version of events- Many years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band” we were booed off stage, we were chased off stage from Bristol to Finland…when dear Uncle Lou blew his last notes on trombone, I was cast to the streets on my own. “Let Inside Me Guffaw’ was a favorite tune, I sang ” Jack Neath The Pier”, sang the haunting “Old House Of Ill Repute I Called Home”.
“There she stood, on an apple crate, snow fell softly on her wooly hat, she sang as if straight to my lone heart, after wards I asked, “please join me, in the shelter of yon brewery cart”. She wore an old kilt over trousers, her boots were muddy and brown, her name was Alice, and she came from near my home in Skibbereen Town. Alice asked, “what ever is that odd instrument of mine?….then she joined me in song, oh how those cold coins did shine!.
Alice sang- “Rum Raisin The Tart” is what they called me, I wore no knickers beneath”. From aged 16 to 82, could be found down the stroll on Hampstead Heath”….”she stirred the stars in my heart, thought we could see naught for snow fell thickly”. “She strode, I waddled, walked Alice home to her hostelry’ . Twer much like mine- faded signs hung askew, “No trodding of mud or effluvium in, no singing oddly or loud, no cooking of Brussels Sprouts after 10:00, Beware Of The Curmudgeon.
Partnership did not catapult, Nudge and Alice to fame, she evolved into a prankster, rubbish filled their dust pan, the cops laughed at his funny name. Still counting his coins I asked again, besides creating a nuisance together, what else did Nudge like to do? “I awake with guffaw and a zest for life, spent morning looking out the window at folks below”. I play my “Absquatulate” in the bath tub, oft hours at a time”. Sing war songs with old Arthur Bosomsworth, thank Alice for my chance to shine…
Alice, never comfortable around words like “love” or “thine”, “Manners’ or “Couth” sat kilt hiked, inspecting a bony knee, her own. Nudge, who like Godfrey considered no meal complete without peas- covered his shyness by gobbling them through a straw..Peculiar old pair, not peculiar at all..