Late in the afternoon on a cold, frosty day, everything glitters and sparkles in the winter sunshine. The sun is having little effect on the bitter chill and I walk briskly to stomp on Jack Frost’s icy fingers.
I spot a busker, standing in the centre of the market place, unperturbed, it would seem, by the nipping and biting of Mr. Frost. He’s an old man now, stooped, lean and careworn in his appearance. He is devoid of scarf, gloves and overcoat; his clothing is reminiscent of an aging hippy – bell-bottomed jeans with frayed edges and a scruffy, black jumper, full of so many snags and holes, you’d almost think it had been made in the style of ‘knit one, pearl one, drop three!’
He’s a striking man, with his flame-red hair and his flame-red beard forming an incongruous backdrop to his face, the tip of his nose, lips and cheeks mottled blue and white with the cold wind chill.
His watchful, intelligent eyes are surrounded by the ‘crow’s feet’ of laughter lines, his mouth permanently upturned into a wry smile. His ungloved hands, succumbing to the cold, appear stiffened and white – and yet he plays the accordion strapped to his chest with a fiery flutter of speed and dexterity. He taps his feet in time to the Irish folk song he plays and sings, as he entertains a besotted crowd of shoppers and passers-by.
I jostle my way closer and peer into the baseball cap laying it his feet. It displays a splendid array of coins spilling gold and silver over the top to join the crystal-frosted ground.
The market traders are beginning to wind down for the day, hustling and bustling, struggling with box after box of garments and knick-knacks to open-doored vans. The accordion player bows a flourishing farewell to his adoring audience and the town hall clock strikes 4, confirming it’s the end of the day.
As I look up toward the sound of the clock, a wonderful wintery sunset beholds me. The sky has turned a stunning midnight blue and the sun bobs and shimmers like a big red balloon that’s strayed from a child’s fingers. I am attracted by ethereal wisps of cool, white cloud moving across the face of the sun providing a stark contrast to the red-hot glaring sun. I can almost imagine Icarus, glowing red and white, mirroring the burning ball of fire, flying nearer and nearer, back arched in pain, fluttering and flapping desperately as his wings singe and blacken.
A loud voice – with Scottish accent and a snort of laughter, breaks my reverie – “C’MON LASSIE, STOP YOUR DAYDREAMING!”
Startled, I turn toward him – and shriek in fright as I am confronted by a wizened, old, baboon-like creature, wisps of grey highlighted in a shock of red, matted fur. Coming back to earth with a bump, I’m kick-started into reality and recognition – I can breathe again. And with a sigh of relief, I exclaim,
“Oh hi there, Uncle Billy. Need a hand with that accordion?”
© Sheila Newton 2010