Buskers: we walk past buskers every day. Sometimes we step around them as if they are a nuisance in our busy lives. Other times we pretend they are not there. Occasionally we put a coin in a hat or a guitar case. And sometimes we enjoy their music or whatever other entertainment they are offering us.
Unfortunately, we rarely see the person behind the performer. This is our loss.
Dave & his Dog
A Busker with his dog
Rosie lay beside the open guitar case, pretending not to notice the people passing by, but the flicker in her eyes notifies that she never misses a trick. Dave, with his mop of unruly dark hair under a battered bushman’s hat, sings his songs with meaning, his soft blue eyes also watching. Just another busker? His voice and guitar skills hint of more.
Dave was born in Maffra, near the Dargo High Plains. One of five boys, he taught himself to play the guitar when he was young. At 15, Dave was working in the saw mills. No easy job for a youngster, but he is a survivor and it was not long before an adventurous spirit saw him on the move.
He arrived in the city, working in factories in Fishermans Bend. From there he graduated to working as a Flyman/Mechanist, which is a highly skilled job carried out in the wings behind the scenes in theatre productions. It’s not by accident that complicated scene changes occur precisely and silently.
In the theatre world, Dave met a wider slice of humanity than had rubbed shoulders with him in the mountains. He worked on such varied workds as the “Holiday on Ice” show and a selection of operas, as well as some complicated ancient Japanese productions, involving the Noh and Kabuki traditional works. Some of the masks used here are up to 800 years old. Handle with care.
A smattering of French comes out now and again in his conversation, hinting at adventures further afield. I get a strong suspicion that there is a learned man underneath the rough exterior. And not surprisingly, find there is a lost love somewhere in the mix.
When the “Holiday on Ice” show moved on, Dave followed his dreams with a one way ticket to Paris, via Tokyo, where one of the top ice skaters in a show had danced into his life, and into his heart. His eyes light up with memories as he recalls the unique Scottish border accent of his skating ballerina. The boy was now a man.
But there was no happy ending. The show moved on. Dave discovered that dreams can be elusive. Sometimes they dance out of our lives when we need them the most. But the memory of the dream is never erased. Nor should it be.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said it in 1850, referring to the death of his beloved friend, Arthur Henry Hallam:
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’
When I first met Dave, he was singing “Me and Bobbie McGee”, as I trudged up the ramp from the Safeway car park. I stopped for a chat. We exchanged itinerant stories. After his dream died, some of his jobs were picking fruit in France. I told him of my fruit picking days and other itinerant work further afield. As my friend Barbara and I hitch hiked around the country moving from job to job, we were known by our nicknames, ‘Bobbie’ and ‘Billie’. And in between we danced. Yes there were hard times, but we survived, and the good times provided a balance.
Acland St, St Kilda
Eventually we grew up and settled down, but we carried the spirit of ‘Bobbie’ and ‘Billie’ with us into adult land. We both started families, which saw us living in different states.
Then one day, Bobbie didn’t survive. She disappeared, believed murdered. How and where has never been solved. Where she lies is believed unknown. But somebody must know. There is no closure in these cases, but the wonderful memories remain, mixed with grief.
Somehow, “Me and Bobbie McGee” is ointment on the wound. As I told Dave my story, his expressive eyes filled with tears. He told me his story and we cried together. Whenever he sees me coming, he sings our song – and he calls be ‘Billie’. Through our tears, the world becomes a brighter place.
People walk past buskers, sometimes noticing an unkempt appearance and clothes that have seen better days. Most have no understanding of the paths that these entertainers may have trod, the despair they may have known, or how easily someone can fall off the rails. But that is their loss. Hiding under the ragged clothes you might find a gem like Dave if you stop to look.
Rosie understands. She has also known sadness. Rosie is a rescue dog. Just like a child that has been abused, Rosie is wary of strangers who rush towards her, not sure of their intentions. Dave finds a sunny spot for her to sit. Wherever he is, she is home.
As Dave sings, Rosie’s terrors fade, and the world is a better place. For all of us.
Busking in Acland St, St Kilda
Written by Brenda for ‘Port Phillip Writes’ 2015