Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old John Again

When Maurice phoned the other evening to remind me that there was a meeting on Sunday, I had to ponder how it is that someone in his mid eighties can take time out from building banjos, teaching ukulele (and building one for his wife), while working at the community radio station and doing a thousand other things, to keep tabs on someone who is thirty years his junior and clearly incapable of planning ahead much beyond breakfast time each day.

I try not to miss the Musical Instrument Makers meetings, not because I have an great aspirations in that regard, but because of the inspiration that group provides. Most of the attendees are a generation ahead of me, and I never tire of hearing how one gets from Redcliffe to Russell Island via public transport and electric wheelchair, or the best way of fairing an aircraft propellor, or being showed how to stop the keys for a Nyckelharpa jamming.

Today though, I had to confess to John.

I told him I'd painted his portrait, and that he was hanging in a bank in France, that Sebastian, the "owner" of the office in which it hung was fascinated by the way the jazz filled the room whenever he walked past. I told him that Sebastian saw in the painting an old Jazz player lost in the music, and how the hair on my neck stood on end when he told me, how the hair on his neck stood on end when I showed him John's website, the picture of him at twenty and again at eighty playing one of his guitars, and then I waited.

He looked at the photo, then at me, then at the photo again. I apologised that we couldn't get him up to our place to see the real thing before it went to France, we both would dearly have loved that.

He chuckled and asked me for a copy of it, then showed me the dies he'd been making to fabricate the wing of his latest aircraft, and I wondered if I'll stop making guitars while I build an aeroplane when I'm eighty-two.

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