Jazz Mando

“Nice hat!”. The three of us all turned in response to this mysterious call across the sodden square, only to find it’s source standing firm behind us. “My boys, my boys! Forgive me! I had to stop you. That’s such a great hat, man. Is it a Stetson?”. Before I had a second to answer, he continued, “I have a good collection myself, but sadly my ex-wife took most of them with her…”. This unexpected and revealing conversation persisted for some time, with our contributions consisting mostly of awkward nods and supportive murmurs. In the space of ten minutes we had, in many ways, learned more about this “Jazz Mando” playing, Californian than we knew of each other. “And if you like hats…”. His vulnerable monologue had suddenly paused and as we watched him withdrawing into his thoughts, he slowly began to turn and walk away. “Hats in the belfry, hats in the belfry”, he then murmured — his final, cryptic words to us, as he wandered off through the rain. “Hats in the belfry”.

Alfred Wallace

As we trudged through the sideways rain, making the dark pilgrimage to our cottage, we came across a curious image that stopped us dead in our watery tracks — a lonesome, window-displayed painting of a boat, wrecked upon a stormy beach. Water poured in two distinct corridors from its broken decks, as the tempestuous sea relentlessly beat its foamy hands against the harbour arms. There, in all its Cornish brilliance, this sombre and weather appropriate scene rested against the glass, baring its soul between the faded curtains of this unknown painter’s street-facing window. For days following, as though in response to every fickle change of the weather, a new, nautical scene miraculously appeared in the window.  And with only these distinctively displayed paintings as the seed, an image of their creator began to grow in our collective imagination. Each pint of Guinness left us brimming with conversation,  hypothesising over even the most minute details of this introverted, outsider’s life — or so was the sad, yet romantic, life that we designated for this mysterious figure. He ate kippers.

Uncle Monty

Naturally, he greeted us carrying a glass teapot in one hand and a grey, absurdly fluffy, cat cradled in the other. And in a suspiciously casual manner, that had all the antithetical air of feigned surprise — performed flawlessly by the actorly old man — he longingly exclaimed “Oh, hello. Do come in.”
“Guinness?”
“Guinness”, I answered in approval. 
“Guinness?”, the exact same question, delivered with identical intonation, was met with uniform endorsement from each of my compatriots and immediately repeated by our eccentric host, “Guinness” 
“Do you like vegetables?” he asked as he handed each of us our drinks, “I’ve always been fond of root crops, but I only started to grow last summer. I happen to think the Cauliflower more beautiful than the rose”…”there is, you have to say, a certain je ne sais quoi, oh so very special about a firm young carrot”. I had to find a way to interrupt this absurd barrage of questions. We were there with an agenda, his cottage. I felt a slight pang, he was such a lonely character, and he did seem to enjoy hearing of our exploits. But we needed to get out of it for a while and Monty held the key. We were indeed, drifting into the arena of the unwell, making an enemy of our own future. What we needed was harmony, fresh air, stuff like that — an accidental holiday.

text by Woody Mellor
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