I was on holiday in Surfers' Paradise
in the (Australian) summer
of 2003. We had just left the beach where the sky turned from teal
to black and the stars had come out and the waves had washed our souls
in a way that we could not talk to one another about it. It was my first time
in the sea in a decade.
So we left the beach and walked up towards the dancing lights around the restaurants that promised succulent prawns and crispy fish and chips, near the colourful shops and the hotels. Almost everyone there seemed to glow that night. They all wore things like red surf shorts, polka-dotted slippers and purple bikinis, though this is not why the place was aglow (I describe the above in detail because it was in that precise setting, and could only have been in that specific atmosphere/communal feeling of that night, that the following was somehow wrangled into existence by the cosmic forces of the Universe). And then I saw the most extraordinary thing. In the middle of the walkway, there were four people playing music, more magical than anything I had ever seen before but I could believe it then because of that glow that night. There was a father, a sister and two brothers. They played radiant and delightful music that snaked through the night, mingled with the prancing lights and eddied through the sandy feet of the people gathering round to watch. They sat on a multi-coloured woven carpet, crowded with their four bodies and their instruments. A huge suitcase that lay in the middle was brown, glossy and had the words 'The Persh Creek Family' on it, with daisies round the curly words. This was how I saw each of them:
The Daddy had a red beard and brown suspenders. He had an elegance and funny sad brown eyes upon his weathered face. He strummed the lacquered guitar and sang with some spirit, blew his silver harmonica and tapped his leather-soled feet. He was their leader.
The sister, the oldest of the children, wore a sunflower sundress over a white puffy blouse on her pale skin and sat cross-legged right in front. Her golden pigtails shook with her head. Her freckles pranced as her mallets danced upon the glockenspiel and the tinkles seemed to spill out of that silver shining instrument and dance around the audience's still legs.
The little brother was no more than eleven and sat on a short wooden stool. He had a prosthetic peach-pink leg. He wore a farmer boy hat with a straight, sullen and young face that made us wonder. Suddenly he stood up and walked and blew a horn, with such gusto he shook his body with the rusty old horn and we were swept away by the odd boy and his little brown horn.
My favourite of all was the young teenage son. Proud ringmaster was he, adorning a black top hat, red-and-white suspenders and thigh-high black pressed shorts. The drummer, round-eyed and rosy-cheeked, he sat on an old leather chair and clanged away on crumpled golden cymbals, plastered queer drums and pots and pans. The snare drum was tapped lightly and the jolly beats of his white drumsticks got our fingers tapping.
They stood out that night and gave off a peaceful glow of their own as they played their music, a surreal band of four. My heart waltzed with their folk magic music that specific wondrous night and I was enchanted. I hope you saw why. I wish I knew them, but then again I don't. I can't forget them, and I wonder where they are now.