This post is part of an on-going series where I tell random stories from my life. Names are changed to protect the innocent, unless given direct permission to publish.
Two of my summers in college, I spent six weeks in England (that’s twelve weeks over two summers, if you’re counting). I traveled with a group of students and an older couple as sponsors to three different cities, where we performed at schools, town squares, and other community places in order to get a name out for the local churches. We worked most of the week and then had a couple of free days. Two of our free days involved London. We traveled there by train, and we could spend the day doing whatever we wanted.
On free days, I usually hung out with my friend Andy, mainly because Andy and I could sit on a park bench anywhere on earth, do nothing but watch people, and laugh hysterically for hours. Andy is super smart and hilarious, a color commentator for all of life’s happenings if you will. And I’m an easy laugh. Seriously, it’s one of my best qualities. I laugh at everything. He used to play this game where he would rapid rapid fire a list of words to see how soon I would start laughing.
One particular afternoon in London, Andy (a fellow English major) and I spent time at Shakespeare’s Globe, ate lunch near Trafalgar Square where we chased the pigeons, touched all the graves of famous poets buried at Westminster Abbey, and read John Donne poems on the steps of St. Paul’s. You know, book nerd stuff.
Then, we decided we wanted to see Charles Dickens’s house. It was out away from everything. We walked forever, thinking, “Wow, OK, maybe we didn’t like Great Expectations all that much.” We finally arrived at Dickens’s house, and, of course, it was closed for renovations or just closed for the day. I really can’t remember. We were bummed.
So we ceremoniously touched the doorknob of Charles Dickens’s house, and headed for the nearest entrance to the Underground, our favorite method of travel because the announcers said things like, “Mind the Gap” (which to obnoxious American tourists like us, sounded hilarious.)
I might also mention that Andy wore a neon yellow shirt and carried a backpack that could store Charles Dickens. No kidding. The top of this thing reached almost above his head and the bottom of it hung below his knees. Ginormous. I frequently sang the yodeling song from that mountain climbing game on the The Price is Right, just because I’m a good friend.
Right, so Charles Dickens wasn’t at home (and we didn’t stuff him in Andy’s backpack.), and we headed back to the Underground. As we snaked our way through the after work crowd, very touristy-looking amongst the black & gray of the office world, we heard a faint tinkling sound. I asked, “Is that a tambourine?” Andy replied, “I think it is.” We kept walking. In time with the tambourine though, we heard a trumpet start playing a jumpy melody. I said, “Is that a trumpet, too?” He nodded .
After about a minute, Andy added, “I think that’s ‘Part-Time Lovers.’”
I replied, “Like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Part-Time Lovers’?”
It totally was.
We chuckled a little about that and kept walking. As we reached the mouth of the Underground to board our train, we saw “the band” at the bottom of the escalators, a crowd of commuters walking around them.
Two men played a trumpet and a tambourine.
They played “Part Time Lovers.”
In cat suits.
Like Andrew Lloyd Webber, Magical Mr. Mistoffelees Cat Suits.
Yep. Cat suits.
As in, “Hey Nigel, it’s about that time, do you want to head to the Tube today?”
“Well, I can’t really play anything. I only have this tambourine.”
“That’s OK. The only song I can play on this trumpet is ‘Part-Time Lovers.’”
“Should we change out of our cat suits?”
Although we didn’t get to see the Charles Dickens house that day, I like to picture Dickens himself smiling and tapping his feet with the two gentlemen we saw on the Underground. They would have felt right at home in the pages of one of his novels.