Friday, October 18, 2013

Bubbles, Beatles and Matthew Valentine

Trafalgar Square, 3pm.

While casually walking along my usual route back to Northumberland avenue, I see a crowd gathered around the National Gallery. Standing in the middle of  a half circle is a tall man with messy mad-scientist-like blonde hair talking through a microphone and and making people laugh with his witty humor. And the best part, I arrive just in time to hear him announce the removal of his shirt, confidently stating "you are about to see the best specimen to walk on this earth." After much anticipation, neither me nor the crowd gathered could help laughing when finally he took of his shirt to expose a pot belly and a tattoo across his back that said "showbusiness".

Who is this strange entertainer you might wonder? He is Matthew Valentine, a street performer and one of the many acts stationed outside the Galley.But everyone knew that Matthew wasn't out merely to show off his flexibility (he stuck his whole body through a tennis racket); he was there to make people happy, and he made sure of it.

And that's the beauty of it. In a city where entertainment comes at a cost, with elaborate theaters and expensive shows, London will find a way to bring a smile to people's faces. Kids, lovers, tourists, locals- everyone is invited. A few feet away, a young musician was singing and playing covers of hit songs on his guitar. No one was gathered around him unlike the other performers, but I shyly walked over to him and dropped a few coins into his guitar case. He was in mid-song but he managed to squeeze a "thank you very much" into his verse, flashing a smile as I walked away.

Bubbles. Gigantic life sized bubbles floating in the wind and bursting into nothing. I heard a character once say in a movie that he wished he could love anything as much as kids loved bubbles. That was what I felt at that exact moment as I watched little kids (and adults) run around to catch the bubbles, being blown by a guy with a bucket of soap and a string attached to two sticks. The music, the laughter, the sun reflecting off the bubbles; all happening separately but affecting the same people as they walked from one end of the square to the other. It was a man made symphony.

And now as I'm seated writing on the steps facing the fountain, the musician's voice drifts through the air, even though he is now out of my sight. And to put the cherry on top of a perfect afternoon, a line from one of my favorite Beatles songs catches my ear- "come together, right now, over me."

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