Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Driving Me Crazy

Last night I dreamed a wonderful thing. It was good news for musicians. Tucked away in the fine print of the Coalition Budget was innovative Arts and Culture legislation reclassifying the musician as a haulage contractor. Yes! We’ve known it for years and now it’s official. Music is a driving job.

I used to be a bass player, and now I’m a long distance Crotchet haulier. I’m excited just thinking of the service station perks - shower facilities, sleepover parking, meal deals. Mmm, I pondered, as I loaded the music into the Volvo this morning, I’ll definitely have the double gutbuster as a main, but what then? Shall I have the key lime pie, or the hunk of mature cheddar and biscuits, or the hunk of mature hooker in the lorry park?

Golly, look at the time! I wouldn’t be stopping at all if I didn’t get a shift on. So difficult to know what to take on these jobs. A country wedding, I was told, with just two hours on site delivery time, but no tempo variation chart or indication of repertoire was given, so I had no way of predicting what sort of Crotchets I’d need, or how many. In the end I took them all, just to be sure, making room by chucking out all the Quavers I’d already packed. Never much call for them, anyway. At the last minute, on a hunch, I squashed in a box of Minims and then a pair of G Pedals. You could never tell when you might need one of those.

It should have been an easy journey, ninety motorway miles in the middle, with fifteen miles of good A road at either end. But what with the speed restrictions, forty and fifty all the way down the M1 and round the M25, and heat-induced prangs clegging up the roadworks, and all the sat navs conking out in the heat so all the arses in the world were driving round in circles looking for their elbows, it was three and a half hours before I got to the lovely West Sussex barn.

“Where have you been?” shouted the vocalogistics person as I wrung myself out of the car. “Typical of you lot. Moan on and on until I put your money up, then you’re late anyway! I hope you’ve brought the right stuff, at least? Last lot of Crotchets we had were all different sizes. No use to anyone!”

I made some reassuring noises about commitment to vocalist satisfaction, ability to work with other contractors, and Crotchet quality control. “Hmmmph!” he declared. “There are plenty of Bulgarians out there who’ll do twice the Crotchets at half the price. Don’t know why I bother with you lot!”

Someone should tell him that the Bulgarians were cheap for a reason. Their Crotchets were in fact Quavers stuck together, and in odd numbers, to boot. If they set down a load in 13/8 you’d get 6 Crotchets, but you’d keep getting left with a spare Quaver. So it was a false economy, in the long run. Also the Bulgarians sped up uncontrollably, everyone knew that, so even if you thought you were getting twice as many, you were always running out.

Oh no! There was a vehicle I recognised, from a firm I dreaded working with. The lettering on the side said it all.
“Long Distance Piano. No Cluster too small. Specialists in Random Chromatics. Time no object.”

As I watched the bearded grunge unload his stacks of Upper Structures, my heart sank. Where would I put my long fat Crotchets? Then I spotted my old mucker Basher Bates unloading his Paradiddles and Skip Beats and I smiled, because me and Basher always had fun together, whatever interference we got from the piano.

How did the gig go? Well, it went. We all arrived late, but still started on time. There were enough Crotchets to go round, and I used every Minim in the box and both of the G Pedals. No-one seemed to notice the absence of Quavers, the vocalist calmed down, the clients got married and were happy, and we had fun and got paid.

It’s now 9.30 pm. I’m sitting in stationary traffic on the M1, thirty miles from home. How has my first day been, overall, in the haulage industry? Here’s the breakdown:

Crotchet Delivery at Venue...2 hours

Crotchet Loading(either end).2 hours

Time on Road (no stops)......8 hours (still counting)

Total..12 hours

Fuel Costs................. £30

Meal costs (no time to eat)..£0

Car Depreciation

(Vehicle is worth nothing)...£0

Job Fee......................£150


Heck, that’s £10 an hour! Nearly twice the minimum wage. I‘m doing really well. Of course I did have to work continuously for twelve hours with no meals to achieve this privileged rate, and in the Big Account Book in the Sky I’d have to allocate some of this profit to the setup costs, you know, the thousands of hours of training required for basic Crotchet delivery, but down here on the ground things look pretty good.

So I’m chuffed with the Coalition, overall. If my dream is anything to go by, I think they’ll make a real difference to the life of the Artist.

Tell you what, though. Tomorrow I’m leaving twice as early, so I can get some of those haulage perks. Might even leave the night before.

© Nick Weldon June 2010

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