My dad has a friend called Burr. They didn’t start out as friends but were thrown together due to their shared love of music. Burr is 92 years old and as fit as a fiddle. Originally from Wyoming, Burr was stationed on the park when he was a GI in WW2. He, like many other American service men at the time, met and fell in love with the young women of the area and stayed. He never actually got round to getting married but never went back to Wyoming. Dad and Burr met at the Friday art class that the aging parents both attend. However as it is a bit ‘old school’, the ladies sit in one room with their trendy colouring books and the men sit in the other room with the biscuit tin. Burr thinks that my dad is not a serious musician as he used to play the alto sax in a dance band in the 1960’s- which in Burrs opinion isn’t classed as being a serious musician. Burr used to sing in a Barbershop Quartet – he still would but the other three are long since departed- a Barbershop onette doesn’t have the same sort of ring to it. So dad and Burr rub along at the art club, dad moans about Burr to whoever he can and Burr moans about dad to everyone else. They do, however, share a love of malt whiskey and dogs. But lets not discuss what Burr thinks is a real dog and what he doesn’t as they are bound to clash!
Rocksey is dying to meet Burr. He thinks Burr will be ideal for his latest video which involves a Barbershop Quartet being ravished by scantily clad Zombie gogo dancers. But Burr, being 92 has his set routine. Every morning at 7am he takes his dog Beau for a walk around the park. He passes a younger man who jogs around the park in the opposite direction at 7.15am. Burr thinks that if the jogging man doesn’t see Burr, he will think he is dead and call the police. The police will break into Burrs apartment and find that Beau has eaten his face. Burr doesn’t want this so rain or shine he takes Beau out for a walk. It hasn’t occurred to Burr that if he didn’t go to the park , even if jogging man noticed, jogging man doesn’t know what Burrs name is, or where he lives and so Beau would probably end up eating more than his face if he was laying dead in the apartment.
Burr also goes to Bridge Club on a Tuesday night, short mat bowls on a Wednesday afternoon, swimming on a Thursday morning, art club on a Friday morning, book club every second Monday evening and for a drink at the Club on a Friday night and Sunday lunchtime. Saturday is the only day that Burr doesn’t have anything scheduled in. Saturdays, Burr goes to the market in the morning, stops for a cup of tea at the allotment society shed ( even though he no longer works an allotment) and then goes home and potters in the garden or plays chess on his ipad. Burr, like I said, has never been married although he does say that he had so many lady friends ‘back in the day’ that he couldn’t choose just one. At 92 years old, Burr thinks he is now too old to change his ways.
Rocksey finally sets up a ‘meet’ with Burr. It means having to attend the art club but Rocksey has been watching Landscape Artist of the Year on Sky One despite his loathing of Frank Skinner and now considers he has some idea about art. Rocksey goes along to art club with a new packet of pastels and an A3 drawing book under his arm fully expecting that he will be called upon to produce something during the 2 hour class.
Burr is never late and has arrived at 10.30am on the dot. Art club is held in the converted stables of the manor house witin the local park. The park had been bequeathed by the (very) late Lord of the Manor and the park is a fine example of 18th century estate – formal gardens and parkland surrounding the original grand house. It is still very pretty despite that it is completely surrounded by a 1930s housing estate which has seen better days and better tenants. Angela, the art teacher, has opened up and the kettle is on. It is a fine Autumnal morning in October , the remains of a mist hangs over the trees and there are still enough leaves to screen the rotting mattresses, wheelless kids bikes and overturned bins in the front gardens of the houses opposite.
Hello you must be Rocksey, Angela beams at Rocksey handing him chipped mug mug full to the brim with tea. Rocksey graciously accepts the tea despite the fact that he loathes tea more than Frank Skinner and puts the mug down on a shelf behind him. My dad is next in the door. Despite being 84 himself, he has cycled up and still has his bike clips on over his trousers. Angela nods at them indicating that he looks a bit foolish and dad swiftly removes them depositing them in a pocket of his big anorak, picks up Rockseys tea and helping himself to biscuits disappears into the room beyond. Rocksey follows and dad is standing beside Burr ready to make the introductions. . Rocksey finds himself looking skywards up at Burr. Burr is still around 6’2″ and about the same across the shoulders – I don’t know what Rocksey was expecting – some shrunken shadow of a man possibly – but Burr fills him with awe.
Hello Rocksey – Burr holds out his big paw of a hand for Rocksey to shake. Now Rocksey isn’t a small man by no means but his hand in Burrs looked like a childs. Nice to meet you finally – you are a tough man to pin down! Says Rocksey.
They go to sit down and Rocksey sits down in the middle of the two men. They in turn whip out their art work from their satchels and the next hour is spent in great concentration as Angela has set down an Autumnal display of vegetables, a pumpkin, various gourds and squashes for them to draw.
Your attempt isn’t bad for a first time – Burr tells Rocksey at the break eyeing Rockseys rather childlike interpretation of the vegetables on the table. Roy tells me your a musician? I hope it’s more serious than your father in law?
Well actually, I quite like Barbershop – says Rocksey -and this is what I wanted to talk to you about…..Burr is all ears, he hasn’t has anyone. – not for a long time anyway – actually admit to liking barbershop. Rocksey tells him about his new video idea and where Burr would fit in. It would all go to plan as long as the three other actors would be able to mime along to the words whilst running away from a pack of zombies. Burr would be able to lay down his track in the studio and Rocksey would be able to pitch this at different harmonies without the need for three other individuals – the Barbershop Onette was being conceived.
Although Burr couldn’t quite grasp how he would become 4 different voices or why he would then have to run like the clappers away from a pack of zombie GoGo girls, he patiently listened to Rocksey who as always becomes more animated when talking about one of his great ideas. Angela has to tear them away from their discussion to continue with the art class. But the seed has been sown and Rocksey leaves the class an hour later with Burrs mobile number and his smeary pastel rendition of a pumpkin.
Burr now fits in an afternoon a week at Rocksey Towers. The track was laid down in a few hours thanks to Burrs professionalism and insistence that he sang all 4 harmonies which Rocksey could then join together seamlessly. The scene. – using Burr himself was altered and green screened so that Burr only has to pretend to sing and run without actually having to do it – or meet the GoGo girl zombies ( who if he was being honest he would have quite liked to have met). Rocksey has introduced Burr to the word of Bourbon and they now play chess together on a Saturday afternoon ( when they can) which allows Burr to beat someone real and not just the computer every time.
Burr still takes Beau to the park every morning at 7am – jogging man has not been seen for a few weeks. Burr sometimes wonders whether he is dead in his apartment somewhere with his face chewed off by a pet cat perhaps, but he figures that the Police wouldn’t take his phone call seriously and he now has Rocksey in speed dial just in case anything may happen to him.
Rocksey framed his pastel rendition of the pumpkin. It hangs in pride of place amongst 2 framed gold records. He has never been back to art club but still watches Landscape Artist of the Year. He remains in loathing of Frank Skinner.