I get off the bus in town and head into the bus station, pushing my way through the crowds of kids hanging about in the doorway, smoking cigarettes and happy just to be bored rather than take the effort to find something to do. My connection home isn’t in the station yet: so I stand at the overcrowded stop and watch as the previous bus loads up and rolls out. The time-table on the wall is telling me the time in bizzaro world - which bears no relation to life as we know it on Planet Earth
My bus pulls in: as its rush hour they have, of course, put on a single-decker – which means I have to put my bag on my lap and sit there hunched up for twenty minutes whilst a never ending array of strangers catch my shoulder as they brush past.
The bus pulls out of the station and up the street, passing the usual array of two-bit public houses, employment agencies, mini-supermarkets and Luxury Apartments (for luxury apartments read “Luxury Rabbit Hutches”)
Then, just before we pass the next bus stop, I see it. Sitting in the window of the local Cash Converters is a battered looking Banjo. I can’t read the price from here, but I know from looking the other day that it is £79
This is the third or fourth time the shop has had a Banjo for sale and the price has ranged from £50 to £100 on each occasion. I shoot it a wistful look; thinking that if I just had some money spare…
I already play the guitar. Well, perhaps play is a strong word to use. I know my chords and can produce a song, but put me in a room with anyone else who plays and I suddenly look like a toddler bashing away at a Xylophone.
But the reality is that it’s too late now. I don’t have the training to be a banjo player. You probably need three years and a BSc in Banjo before they’ll even let you change a string. Even if I bought the banjo and took classes I would be up against younger, more agile-fingered players. Besides, with bills to pay and cats to feed I can’t afford to give up my job and dedicate my life to Banjo study for a year or two in the hope of one day finding that dream Banjo-spot in the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.
There are so many demands on my money and time. Though I dream of a Christmas No 1 of Banjo-related-songs CD the truth is that I have already taken two jobs I didn’t particularly want just to keep a roof over my head and will probably have to do the same again and again in the years to come just to pay the bills. At the end of each month, when all the bills have been paid there is little spare for dreams of musicality. Sometimes I feel that I am sleepwalking. Sometimes I feel that dreaming is a luxury I can no longer afford. Sometimes I feel that everything I have just said is a load of cobblers and that actually, all things considered, it's not so bad. After all…while there’s life…and besides, i'd probably get bored with the banjo and want to learn the Saxaphone instead
I slump into my seat and turn away, my hope fading as another passenger bumps into my arm. I try not to listen to the argument between the teenage mum and her prison-proud boyfriend.
My thoughts turn briefly to a lad I knew, some years ago. I’d guess we first met at Junior school when I was about 8 years old – and that I last saw him when I was 17 or 18. We were never particularly close – but he was always friendly and full of talk of joining the army when he left school. He never did: all of it was talk – same as the rest of us, just dreaming of becoming something more.
He died: right about the time I was 25. A friend of a friend told me he’d been living rough, taking Heroin.
Such a shame: all that potential in life – coming to so little.