What’s the matter with young people today, eh? Well, if it’s a good enough opening sentence for the Daily Mail it’s good enough for me. On Saturday I encountered three different buskers along the Cliffe. Outside Forfars a boy no older than thirteen accompanied himself on guitar as he sang surprisingly accomplished Beatles covers. They weren’t copies so much as interpretations, which as a purist I normally can’t condone, though obviously I make an exception for Brian Sewell’s masterly version of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ (or rather, ‘I Want To Be’; Brian would never use lazy colloquialisms). Yet as the lad re-imagined ‘She Loves You’ as a melancholy torch song, I found myself clapping my hands on the off-beat, as once did Princess Margaret at a Beatles Royal Command Performance.
On Cliffe Bridge sat two young women, aged about fifteen perhaps, though I’m lousy at guessing ages, they could have been fifty. In careful harmony they sang ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’, which even the X Factor would reject as too uncool. Then at English Passage another young man played olde Irishe annoyinge jigs on a violin.
Surely these young people should be off being menacing instead? If you believe what you read on the internet – and I do, faithfully - you’d think Lewes was overrun by marauding hoodies, who shove old ladies into the Ouse or run them over with souped-up Ford Escorts. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but whenever I patter along the pavement, clapping in time to some inner beat and doing my best impression of a gin-soaked raddled old royal, young people scurry to get out of my way. I’ve always found them to be very polite whenever I’ve approached them for a favour, such as to get something down from a high shelf, or remind me who the Prime Minister is again.
When I returned from an appointment an hour later, all the buskers had all gone. Swept off to reformatories I imagine. The only musicians still playing were an elderly jazz trio. I tried to clap on the off-beat but they threatened me with the sharp end of a double bass, on the spurious grounds of distracting them. So rude, these older people.
The young builders, currently bashing the ceiling over the room I’m writing in, are also unflaggingly respectful. I don’t know what they’re teaching in building school these days. Shouldn’t they be sticking Nuts pin-ups over the house and saying ‘It’s gonna cost you’, if I so much as offer to make them a cup of tea?
The worst thing that’s happened so far is having to listen to them singing along to the radio. I don’t think Brian Sewell would approve of their listening choices. Only a minute ago one of them warbled, ‘Your sex is on fire’. I tapped on the ceiling with a broom and said, ‘Long as it’s not my flue, young man.’
They’ve gone pretty quiet since then.
Beth Miller, 23rd February 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, March 2013