Tall Tales No. 33
The fastest and shortest way to get to school is to cut across the park.
In the morning I’d munch my breakfast bar while hurrying through the park to get there the assembly bell rang.
In the afternoon, I usually took the same route, more by habit than by necessity as I wasn’t in such a hurry to get back.
Schoolwork meant textbooks and ring binders, pens and compasses and although their weight varied from day to day it was only ever a slight difference between heavy and extra-heavy.
Arranged around the fountain in the middle of the park were several benches and when it wasn’t raining, I’d throw my bag onto the bench, take out a book I’d borrowed from the library, and read a chapter or two before returning home.
The park was usually empty at that time. The mothers and their pushchairs had gone back home to prepare afternoon tea and the other kids were, like me, on their way home to change before going out to play.
One day however I wasn’t alone by the fountain. A tall weird looking guy sat on a bench opposite. He had a rigid guitar case with him and he sat the bag on the bench next to him, unzipped it, and extracted a jet black acoustic guitar.
It was late autumn and chilly winds gusted in the open spaces of the park.
The man with the guitar had come prepared with black fingerless woollen gloves.
While he was busy adjusting something on his guitar, I took a better look. He was all in black. Black coat, black trousers and long black hair which was unusual at the time.
I looked away when he noticed that I was staring at him, and went back to reading my book.
He started to play, warming up with chords, strummed up and down before letting his fingers pluck amazing arpeggios with ever increasing speed. I’d never heard anything so magical and my eyes were fixed and hypnotised by his fingers as they danced up and down the neck of the guitar, the notes escaping into the wind.
I was mesmerised and couldn’t help staring. He saw that I was looking, smiled, stopped playing, and waved me over.
“Do you know how to play?”
I stayed glued to the bench and shook my head from side to side.
He beckoned me over again, but even then, in the innocence of the sixties, children were taught not to talk to strangers.
“Come on,” he said. “I won’t bite.”
But I still didn’t budge.
“Suit yourself,” he said and he smiled and went back to his guitar.
His playing seemed effortless and the notes sang out loud and clear.
Transfixed I put my book back into my bag and just looked and listened as he played.
He started singing.
“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.”
His guitar playing was much better than his voice and it was as if someone else normally sang that song.
He stopped singing, but continued to strum and pick.
“Can you play?” He asked.
Finding my voice, I replied, “Just a few chords.”
He grinned, “I can teach you, if you like, I’ve got a bit of spare time.”
“Far out,” I said, looked at my watch, and frowned, “I’m expected home,” as I slung the strap of my bag across my shoulders.
“I’ll be here tomorrow, same time,” he said and added, “The name’s James but most people call me Jimmy.”
He played another song and started singing again.
“Ramble on, and now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song.”
I smiled and turned to go home suddenly realising who I’d been talking to and had just offered to give me guitar lessons.
He taught me every schoolday for six weeks, I was a quick learner, he said.
I became a lawyer not a musician but as you might have guessed, I’m probably the only lawyer to have been taught how to play the guitar by the legendary Jimmy Page.
If you get the occasion to hear me play you’ll discover that he’s an excellent teacher.
My wife loves my version of ‘Babe I’m gonna leave you’, but always laughs at my singing.
“Nobody can sing like Robert,” she says.
As you might have guessed todays my500 words challenge is to ‘Lie’ or mislead you but not in a dirty or deceptive way, but in a way that invokes imagination.
I had a good time writing this. I hope you enjoyed the tale. (720 words)