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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Holed Up In Holmfirth.

The weather had turned out as predicted; heavy snow fall and I was holed up in a hotel in Holmfirth.  The previous day, in the morning before we set off, we were felling small trees under 66kv power lines in the warm muggy rain and commenting that the forecast was a joke - maybe some sleet on high ground at the most.  I should have known to keep my big mouth shut.

That afternoon we travelled south and got to the hotel in time for a shower, a meal then take in a few pubs; we noticed it was decidedly colder, but not any sign of snow.  The next morning was a very different landscape.  We were there for a windblown tree cutting course and in stark white contrast to the July like heat wave of the previous fortnight, all around was buried under a whole winter’s worth of snow.  We had an exciting drive up to the woods in a blizzard with the back end of the Hilux drifting left and right all the way.  There was no way we would be felling any trees in that so we got sent back to the Hotel and wait further instruction - keep phones on and don’t get pissed.

So what to do with nothing but a cupboard size hotel room, a small town under wet snow and daytime TV for entertainment?  I let the TV stare blankly at me and wondered why I hadn’t thought to bring a book.  I switched old square-eye on to see what its daytime offering was like - I don’t have a TV and certainly have never watched daytime TV.  Ten minutes of Jeremy Kyle was enough to reassure myself that nothing was missing from my life by never watching it again  There was little on the news I didn’t already know from my mobile phone’s internet where Twitter is generally always one step ahead of the mainstream; I knew of the shipwreck in Wales and the tornado in Texas.  I wrapped up and went out for a walk.  The lads had said there was nothing in Holmfirth but I wasn’t convinced.

I explored a plethora of charity shops and tried on ridiculous shirts that didn’t fit.  I browsed in bookshops and found everything from vintage Broons and Oor Wullie to Shakespeare and Tolstoy but couldn’t justify buying anything as I have a Kindle and a backlog of paper books to read.  I mulled around in a whisky shop with an impressive collection and free samples on offer and eventually dragged myself away.  I eventually found myself in yet another charity shop and walking in the door, I saw a wee poor scratched up cheap three quarter size guitar sat by an electric heater.  I picked up the guitar and gave it a wee strum; sounded quite sweet and remarkably, not too out of tune.  I turned around and realised the woman behind the counter was watching. I smiled.  Another strum and she smiled back.  I told her
“See this wee guitar, it might be better not by this heater; that could damage it.”
“Oh, thank you - it never occurred to me,  I don’t know anything about guitars, is it okay.”  I gave it another wee strum and tuned it up a bit and played a while before nodding and saying,
“Aye, it’s fine. Nice wee guitar.  How much?”
“It’s a tenner.  You think it’s worth that?”
“Oh aye,” I said, still strumming out a few bluesy chords “It’s ideal for someone wanting a first guitar.  I’m afraid I’m not gonna buy it - I’ve already got a house full of guitars, but I’m sure someone will have it - worth a tenner of anybodies money, this.”
I suggested leaving it up against the wall near her desk and I put it down.

 The shop door ding dongs open with a blast of cold air as a customer comes in, stamping the slush off his boots and at the same time, another lady staff member appears from a back room.  The lady behind the counter immediately begins to tell her of how I saved the little guitar from imminent destruction via electric fire and that I was playing it and was really good everything, and come on, would I give them another tune.  I feigned an impression of modesty but let’s face it - I don’t need much excuse to play a guitar.  The customer was a tall young man dressed in waterproof black and carried a bag that looked like it carried some important ‘kit’.  (It later transpired that he was a BBC cameraman who was filming the adverse weather conditions with all the road closures and power cuts, for the local news.)  Observing the situation, he mentioned,
“I’d actually been thinking of taking up the guitar.”
“Then you should buy this one ,” I immediately said as I nonchalantly knocked out some lazy blues, just for effect.
“I dunno… I play the ukulele, but think the guitar is more complicated.”
“Not at all,” I reassured him, “In fact this guitar is just a big ukulele, with two extra stings.” …another blues riff to show off;  “and it’s only a tenner.”

The lady behind the counter was enjoying the interaction in her previously empty shop on an unseasonably cold day and was egging me on to keep playing stuff.  After a quick Greensleeves I went into Take Five which is such a great tune and everyone knows it (that’s the theme tune for that programme, used to be on, oh what was it, you know).

“The thing about this guitar is,” I explained to the young man, “it’s only a tenner and very small. You could put this in your rucksack and won’t mind if it picks up a scratch when you’re sat around a campfire with some beers and your mates having a bit sing-song.”  I was now feeling like my salesman’s patter was flowing like warm honey in his ear.   “If in a year or so, you still like playing guitar, and you surely will, you can get a more expensive one and pass this one onto someone else looking for their first guitar.  You can’t possibly lose.”  He made a fumbling in his pockets kind-of gesture and said in a faux disappointed voice,
“Aw I don’t have any cash, I only brought my credit card.”  The shop lady could hardly contain herself and held up the chip & pin machine.
“That’s okay, we take debit and credit cards here.” She giggled and he smiled. 
“Guess I’m gonna have to find a book with some lessons then.”  The sale was made. 

The cameraman walked out happy with his purchase, the two ladies in the shop had made a sale and had enjoyed the distraction in an otherwise grey day and I had a spring in my step, happy that I had sent someone else on that journey that is the love affair with guitars, raised a tenner for charity, and it hadn’t even cost me a penny.  That was priceless.

1 comment:

giddi said...

I love this Alan. I felt like I was there with you. a bit o sunshine on a grey day :)

About Me

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up in the hills, Co Durham
tree climber, painter, stilt walker, musician. After 20 years of city life and all the late nights and fun, returned to my country-boy roots. Open fires, tranquility and muddy boots.