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CABBAGES & KINGS: Magic of music brightens the day
3:00pm Friday 13th April 2012 in Columns
IT HAS been a lousy year – so far,” said the distinguished-looking man, a former staff sergeant in the Royal Engineers with two tours of Northern Ireland under his belt.
He was looking for someone to talk to as we waited for the park-and-ride bus at Water Eaton. I’m never one to disappoint.
“Murders, disasters, fighting in the Middle East; newspapers and television are full of it.” he said.
“And what are we celebrating today? The sinking of the Titanic, where 1,500 died!” (It was Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of the liner leaving Southampton.) “You can’t switch on the box without some reference to it. Even twinkletoes Len Goodman from that dancing programme is at it.”
I agreed it had been a year where tragedy and evil have grabbed the headlines.
Those 22 children killed in a coach crash; 100 young soldiers engulfed by an avalanche in Kashmir; countless stabbings, gunmen running amok and murders too close to home for comfort.
But I tried the ‘devil’s advocate’ ploy.
“We have the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics to look forward to,” I said cheerily, but was cut short.
“Yes – and all we hear is the need for extra border controls and for police and Army to outnumber both crowds and competitors,” he said.
“That idiot who cost Oxford the Boat Race proved what one man can do.”
He pointed at the grain silos.
“And isn’t it time someone painted out that four-letter word? What an impression for visitors to our city!” he said.
On this point we were in agreement.
TWENTY minutes later, while walking up Cornmarket Street and wondering if anything could brighten the day, the answer was revealed – by a full-sized piano mounted on a make-do trailer.
Cheerful tunes that bridged age divides were hammered out by smiling busker Tim Valentine from Woodcote, near Reading.
It might have been cold, with a sharp wind making matters worse, but Tim’s performance warmed hearts and bodies alike, bringing smiles to the crowd.
What is amazing is that Tim doesn’t read music, but let him hear a tune and it’s filed away in an instant. Quite a talent.
My favourite musical, written in the mid-1950s and called Salad Days, tells the story of a young couple leaving university with no idea what they want to do.
A tramp offers them the chance to look after a piano for a month. It turns out to be a magic piano that makes people dance and sing in spite of their wishes.
Tim’s piano has that kind of magic.
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