* Listen to the song HERE *
My dad’s friend John P worked as a picture framer for much of his life and had a workshop in the basement of an art shop in Victoria. The shop offered a picture restoration service and proudly displayed an old guilt-framed painting in the front window which had a very neat line dividing it down the middle – the left side was brown and dull with age and dirt while the right side was colourfully bright and vibrant in its newly cleaned and restored beauty.
One day John walked downstairs to the workshop to see the restorer hard at work at his craft, scrubbing a canvas vigorously with a large wet sponge. By his side was a bucket of hot water and a box of Daz washing powder. On hearing John's footsteps he turned around and put his finger to his lips: “Mom’s the word - must keep up the mystique!”
I remember a story of one customer who came back extremely irate. After getting her seascape painting restored all the seagulls had disappeared.
John’s favourite music was jazz. My collection and knowledge of the genre is pretty thin although one of my all-time favourite albums is by Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau. I once taped a copy of the album for John but I don’t think he ever listened to it. I don’t know if it was because he had no faith in my musical tastes or whether he just didn’t have a cassette player to play it on. I don't think I showed him the record sleeve but if I had done that probably would have put him off - while the record itself contains such sensitive, expansive, intimate, extraordinarily lovely music so as to produce tears to the eyes in weaker moments, the record cover of the version I have is similarly eye-watering but for very different reasons: it’s a shocker.
The song Five O’clock Bells is the title track of the album and to my knowledge is the only time he recorded a vocal. It’s like some gentle anthem for insomniacs and irregular sleepers. I first heard it in Poland where I experienced the worse stomach ache I've ever known. If anyone ever tells you that Polish sauerkraut and vodka are ideal digestive companions don't listen to them.