The experience of that evening in the Conscience inspired a 'sort of' song. 'In the Conscience' was only a basic thing,
but Tom had played to Char and I a song called 'Blackness of the night' that he thought may be a Cat Stevens song, but he
wasn't sure. I felt my lyrics and the 'Blackness' lyrics complimented each other - especially in the light of recent events.
'In the Conscience' had not been intended as a full song anyway; it was more a
means to record the experience. It did,
however, strengthen the muscles of the Muse that increasingly awoke within me.
Tom bade farewell as he headed south for a two week period. Tom had proved the first true friend I could claim since
my exile. The bridge that had led to him had proved itself by leading toward the bridge that led to Char.
My conversational matter with Char tended to be based on humour or sweet nothings. Char had a very secretive nature and
she revealed snippets of her life frugally. Perhaps it was this that heightened mystery. I was always feeling there was much
I did not know about her activities, so, even though we were in relationship, I felt somewhat excluded from her in many ways.
I would see her, more often, during weekdays; the weekend she tended to reserve for that part of her that excluded me.
The whole thing made me a shade edgy.
Edginess gradually passed as my meetings with Char settled into some stability. At first, she would visit after work,
"Um...Pierre is complaining. He says I do not pull my weight with the housework. I will have to go straight
home after work."
So it became more common for me to visit her. But the stability remained.
There seemed to be no
complications. I asked myself, "Is it as easy as that?"
It seemed to be. A part of me even became blase and bored. But
even such brief moods as this heralded a vital change toward a vaunted goal of perceived normality.
Inspired by the overwhelming strength of our bond the cultural and circumstantial differences were blurred. Our minds
could look at the powerful, unexplainable magnetism of our souls and declare it as a signal of the hand of Fate.
this was digested, it seemed to speak of positive qualities within us that - in our overly zealous negativity - we had over-looked.
More succinctly, there occurred birth. The birth of a new hope. Within and without ourselves a hope of possibilities clung,
like a bandage, to our heart.
To glimpse the impossibly wonderful transformation of one part of us gives an assurance
that the despair dwelling oppressively over other embattled parts is not the inevitability it appeared to be. Instead, it
seemed possible to change by substituting despair with new positive resolutions.
Our bond restored the most essential
desire of all. The will to live.
Char told me she would be away for a few days, so we arranged an evening later in the next week for me to call in on
her. This left a sudden gap in my vision of the 'Fairy Tale'.
Soft, balmy nights were frequent...almost expected. It was easy to be fooled into believing it would remain that way.
But Antwerp was enjoying an unusually dry, hot Summer. I tried not to think too heavily on the future, but the bulk of my
income was supplied by the bubbling terraces. In fact, the exuberance around the Cathedral area was so great that I would
often walk with my guitar out of its case , because people would often stop me and ask me to perform. I would play a song
and the people would dig into their pockets and shower cash into my 'hat'. The take from such a thing would often exceed the
average of a medium sized terrace. I sang 'Nancy Spain' to one couple and the man gave me 2,000f. But he had his money's worth,
because he recognized me and remembered the incident to me a couple of years further on. He said it was a special moment and
thanked me once again.
But the parade into September warned me that eventually the weather would change, then it would be a hard Winter siege
if I planned to cling on to this new life in Antwerp.
The awareness grew sharper when the long, dry Summer was suddenly
interrupted by two days of rain... against a backdrop of cooler air. The Mediterranean feel was swept away and Antwerp transformed
into a dour, depressed city intent only on functioning. It served as a sharp reminder.
I was floating in a fairy tale
with Char, but the reality of my prospects looked grim.
I had come to love Antwerp. I had developed many friendships here.
The city had made me feel at home. It had become my home city and my growing affinity with many of its inhabitants made me
feel a love for Flemish culture.
Whatever I felt, within my fairy tale, I was brought down to Earth by the rain. The harsh reality reminded me I was a
stranger in a foreign land faced with a quandary.
How could I maintain myself in this city?
Char had instilled reason
to live after the apparent destruction of forty years of my life. But there were serious material obstacles to work through
if I was to attempt to stay in a city and country that harboured my emotional re-birth.
I was determined not to return
to England. The only incentive for heading that way would be to see me daughter, but even she would soon be living in Ireland
- even further away. Being unable to see my daughter was a running sore within my soul, but the land of my birth offered me
no hope. Only the grinding suppression of my spirit.
But Antwerp offered me fairy tales and a basis for aspiration. It
allowed me to follow my dreams, my ambition and my heart. I was not just another face ignored...alongside 55 million others.
I was in a community where it was possible to be heard. I had to be here in Antwerp, because I became real here....not just
another brick in the wall.
Ken, with his New Yorker tendency toward abruptness, was an ideal philosophical sparring partner. Our views were often
poles apart, but we shared visions and ideas when they were not. He tried to show the world a hard edge - but toward me he
often revealed an almost paternal compassion, shielded by hard edge advice (of course):
"Brian! Char is nineteen! Girls
change their minds fast at that age,"
She certainly fitted this assessment though I countered by claiming this was different...
because of our level of love.
But what level WAS that love?
Unless that love can be said to have elevated to unconditional...
and affirmed as such... I would be riding for a fall. With Char it always felt as though I was riding for a fall anyway. But
if I was not?
I needed to think practical.
A crashing flood had washed away my life and the only emotional rock I could cling to had been Char. But she represented
a slippery rock and the rapids would sweep me away the moment I lost my grip.
I had to think practical in order to survive.
I had to have an idea of how to swim before I lost that grip. If I did NOT lose my grip I would be more secure if my ideas
had been worked out.
Fairy tales are great, but when the frog transforms into a Prince? Is it simply seasonal? Does the
clock strike twelve and reduce the Prince back into a frog?
So think practical.
But I could not do this because I
had no idea of the problems I would face. How could I estimate my turnover capability without a grounding of how seasons will
affect such a thing? I had to contemplate indoor bar playing. But this represented a major block to me. I was not a finished
article. In fact, I was struggling through the early steps of learning my craft.
Someone once told me that in music there
is no other criteria than to be convincing.
I had an ability to convince... because I could feel my music and be aware
how to combine soul and mind to hone out advantage when faced by an audience. Before playing a terrace I would study its inhabitants
and do an on the spot assessment of them. I would estimate their ambience factor by placing the potential audience into a
category or 'box' within my mind. I would then use my radar to assess their mood, artistic openness and other matters. From
this I will select a set of songs to present before them.
Telepathic energy was a vital ingredient of the psyche to understand
for a performer like me, because I sought to capture and then project a mood.
It tended to be harder to assess indoor
audiences using this system. A failed assessment on a terrace was an annoyance, but no great deal... but a failed assessment
in a bar or restaurant could wipe out that place as an option, because the bar staff may remember that failure.
was much potential and much peril when it came to gigging or bar playing. I balked at the prospect.
But Ken had advice
for this as well:
"There's a bar near the Conscience paying 2,000f for solo musicians. I'm doing a gig there. Why don't
you ask if you can do one?"
I delayed doing this, but the rain reminded me I had to survive beyond the terrace season if I wished to keep Char in
my life. I forced myself to ask
the bar for a gig. They booked me for two weeks on. But my repertoire was still a limited
thing. At about a song a week I was trying to memorize
more songs. But to fulfil that gig - a full one- I would need my
music stand and my songbooks before me. I felt I was totally unprepared for gigs, but I had to go for it.
There was a large Pizzeria where I often ate at - and the manager approached me and booked me for a mini gig at the place
two weeks on. The theme would be Country Music and I felt I would need a couple of supporting musicians for this one. Sven
(mandolin) and Kevin (fiddle) were happy to join me for the gig - and both were excellent musicians. We would only have to
play 15 minutes or so in the restaurant proper, then we would play on in the cellar for awhile. So it seemed an easy enough
commission once Sven and Kevin were recruited to the cause.
It added up to two gigs in four days toward the end of September. It meant I could calm the trepidation caused by that
first Autumnal rain.
My future seemed unnervingly uncertain, but the immediate period upcoming seemed secure.
I had somewhere to stay.
I had friends.
I had a reasonable chance of financial stability for the coming
End of Chapter 11 of The Green Busker