There was a storm in Kentish Town, the night the accordion fell. January 2017 it was. A cold night. The Luton van jolted into a flooded parking bay. 2am. The driver killed the engine. The music jolted to silence midphrase, an emotion cut off in an instant. He sat and balefully challenged the rain through his windscreen, all wild beard and electrified hair. Perhaps he could stop the weather by hating it?
But no. “Fuck you,” he muttered, as he pulled up his collar and threw open the door into the flood. He launched his tired frame into the heart of the storm. You would have seen him grapple with the shutters at the back of the van, clawing with his angry nails, all rage and spittle and exhaustion. You would have seen the shutters yield under his haphazard assault. You would have seen the accordion topple soundlessly from where it had been lying against the stubborn shutter.
In slow motion it fell, no faster than the rain around it. It turned a little, as dynamic as Trump on a trampoline. It impacted once, hard. You would have heard the final disgruntled vamp as the whole fucking thing stopped working.
Then you’d have seen the man’s face. What a strange expression, you would think. Almost empty of meaning. A moment of complete stillness as the rain speeds up around him. Too tired and too wet to care, an actor at the end of a job, his beloved instrument unceremoniously killed before his eyes in an instant, at the heart of a January storm in Kentish Town. You’d have seen him shrug, pick it up, drop off the keys and squelch to the bus stop in silence.
“It’ll be too expensive to fix,” Al told Brian. “Have you checked?” “No, but it will be.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, Brian, yes I’m sure.” “Shall I check?” “NO.”
*Your package has been delivered*
A Chinese accordion. Half the size of the dead Hohner. Delivered to my hallway by DPD. Not as loud. Not as versatile. But functional. Scrooge plays it every night throughout the next December. He keeps it in a hard case. When it’s in a van it’s on the passenger seat. He grows to love it. It comes to Oxford with King Alonso. Prospero plays accordion too. He tells the king of an accordion shop in distant Lewisham. “It’s the best accordion place in the world mate.”
This morning I woke up and got a Kapten to Lewisham. Kapten is like uber but the cars stink and they’re all driven by maniacs. Cheaper though. In the boot was the dead Hohner and the Chinese travel accordion. Destination Allodi Accordions. The best accordion shop in the world.
It’s a Mecca. Mr Allodi himself is there, just about to sell a brilliant mini Hohner to Naomi from Northallerton. The conversation in this shop is superb. He really knows his accordions. He really cares about them. So long as they aren’t pre-war. “There’s a beautiful looking old accordion on sale in Barnardo’s Brixton.” I tell him. “Oh yeah, like that one?” “Yeah.” “Pre-war then. What do they want for it?” “About £200. I took it down and it’s completely fucked.” “They all are. That room used to be full of them.
I sold them all to a Brewery for £30 a pop. About 200 of them. They stuck them on the walls in their pubs. Glad to be rid of them. They’re beautiful to look at but…” He shrugs.
He geeks out about my Hohner. “I could’ve fixed this in seconds if you’d brought it right in. Still, I can do it. It’ll just be harder. The wood has warped over time now.”
Shut up Brian. You were right.
He can’t really decide which of us to serve. Me or Naomi. He switches between us. He’s about to screw a foot onto the Chinese one when I remind him that she was here before me and she’s going to spend £500 so he should probably close the deal. Naomi wants to travel with her gorgeous little new Hohner. I covet it. I tell her she’ll need a bag like the one I’m in to buy. She gets one. We instantly hit it off. We add each other on Facebook and she waits for me so we can chat as we walk to Lewisham Station. She’ll be able to learn from my experiences as to the practicalities of persuading airlines that it’s a carry-on.
“Shouldn’t you be packing,” she perceives as I plan my route to Tottenham Court Road to pick up my contact lenses. “Yes.” (Even people who have JUST MET ME intuit that I locate my self-consciousness externally!) Dammit.
I’ll have a handy travel accordion and contact lenses packed for America, that’s certain.
I’m gone till November. I’ll probably have a suitcase containing nothing but socks. I wonder where my Kindle is?