Most people wouldn’t decide to carry around an 8kg instrument (9 if you include the case it’s snuggly nestled inside) of their own volition, unless they are off to an orchestral rehearsal. They definitely wouldn’t opt to lug around something so cumbersome if it was shaped as cumbersomely as a banjo.
But I’m not most people. I decided it was a good idea to haul the banjo down to the park to noodle around with bluegrass picking. Being winter, this probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, but thankfully the day was bright and warm. So we packed ourselves up; the banjo securely bungee chorded onto its’ granny trolley, me swaddled up in a poofy, green jacket-coat, and bundled away to the park in a little, blue, bug-car.
As I puttered into the idyllic greenery that is Centennial Park, I thought to myself; where would a nice place to set ourselves up in the sun be, preferably with minimal annoying children running around? As I trundled sedately along the park’s unidirectional roadway, the perfect spot presented itself – a little boardwalk jutting into the middle of the main pond, too far away from the ice cream truck for it to be appealing to the parents with children in tow, yet not so far away my arm would drop off dragging the banjo there and back again.
The little, blue, bug-car puttered sedately into a parking space. The poofy jacketed human hauled the unergonomically designed banjo out of the passenger seat, and away we trundled down to the isolated boardwalk, scattering ducks and curious children in our wake. Once there, I sat down picnic style, settled the banjo securely into my lap, transformed my fingers with metal and plastic picks, and began to pick away. The sound of the hillbilly soared confidently across the water … and attracted children.
A hoard of tiny, curious creatures scampered noisily across the series of pondside boardwalks and skidded to a halt directly behind me. Startled somewhat, the slick slides produced from beneath my picks sputtered unceremoniously to a halt as my attention was irrevocably drawn to the line-up of giggling monsters.
“What is that?” one blond haired girl asked, hands meekly clasped behind her back.
“ A banjo” I replied, hoping against hope once they had an answer as to why I was holding an unusually shaped instrument that was clearly not a guitar would satisfy their curiosity enough for them to scamper away again.
Not a chance. I was inevitably sucked into the usual children’s small talk, being told they had a teacher who had a son who was called Banjo. But Banjo didn’t play the banjo, because he was too young and instead Banjo preferred to play the pots and pans because he possibly wanted to be a drummer. Their curious minds wanted to know everything from what this is? (a metal finger pick), why there is a hole there? (that’s where the banjo sits when it’s not being played), why is there a nob just there? (because that’s where the 5th string ends). Finally, their interrogation over, they ran screaming back to their parents, yelling the whole way “That lady has a banjo! It looks funny!”. They were led firmly away by their parents, being chastised all the way for running off.
No sooner had peace and quiet settled back over the waters than I had another midget lynch mob descend on me. Except this time, they were accompanied by rangy, bearded man and were armed with fistfuls of breadcrumbs. They were following the flock of assorted water birds; ducks, swans, geese and the like, whom I swear were trying resolutely to get away from the exorbinate attention of the many youths and family groups spread around the lake attempting to fatten them up with picnic leftovers. These children had no attention to spare for me. They purposefully trampled all around me, running to the boardwalk edge and throwing breadcrumbs at the animals willy-nilly. Most of the crumbs landed in my face as the breeze blew them straight backwards. It was the most abrupt feed I’ve ever had. Eventually they ran out of bird food and wandered away with their adult.
Finally my only audience was the ducks, swans, a lone pelican standing guard on a pylon, and the occasional Chinese tourist peeking their camera through the marshland reeds planted solidly along the main gravel pathway. Eventually, the sun had receded enough to drag it’s comforting warmth away from the waters’ edge, leaving me in chilly shadow. Time to go. As I packed up a woman and her friend who had been unobtrusively watching from a respectful distance walked over to me; “We just wanted to thank you for the music. Could have listened to you all day. Keep up the good work!”.
And so ended an eventful afternoon.