I sauntered through the bar on my way to dinner. My casual approach belied what was really going on in my head. Mr K was warming up the crowd singing a few karaoke standards. After dinner, as the Elvis impersonators started, I made my way up to the bar, sat on a tall stool, picked up the song book and asked for a shot of raki.
If I was looking for support – there was none to be had – so I just had to get on with it: I approached Mr K and put my name down.
He introduced me as a karaoke virgin which got a round of applause and then, tentatively at first, I sang: Hopelessly Devoted to You.
I did it! In a place where nobody knew my name – let alone anything about me. I was so proud of myself. I headed back to the bar stool and perched. My bravery was the catalyst for sociability from some of the guests: ‘What’s your name, Love? You’ve sung before, haven’t you? said a twinkly blue eyed man to my left. ‘Well, just my local choir – but this was a first for me and I was really really nervous’. ‘Well, you did well, you need to learn how to use the mic though – doesn’t she, Mr K? You can sing. If you’d just projected your voice a bit more there, that would have been really beautiful’.
This was high praise indeed coming from G, 83 this year, an infamous ex sailor about town and himself a singer all his life – from the Welsh valleys no less. He felt my pulse: ‘You’ll live’ he said.
Mr K approached. ‘Oh I see you’ve met my father. People do wonder how we’re related – me being Scottish and him being Welsh – it’s a long story’. G harumphed: ‘I should have drowned the bastard at birth – look at him with his teeth and his hair, you can tell he’s not mine – because he’s so ugly’. Mr K was unperturbed and went off with his ‘son’ to sing a Julio classic – ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before’. G wowed the crowd, his mic control put everyone to shame.
Afterwards we talked politics, religion and Ireland and he told me how he’d been stationed there in 1946. When I told him he was inspirational he said ‘Bugger off’.
Constantinas (Costa for short, unless you were talking about him – in which case it’s Costas), previously a contemplative bartender joined in: ‘So what do you do at home?’. ‘I work in communications’. ‘Oh’, he said ‘ ‘You’re on the phone a lot?’ as he picked up a bendy straw and held it to his ear. ‘Yes’ I replied. ‘Oh yeah, I understand, I can just see you doing the phone sex’. I couldn’t stop laughing. ‘You make much money?’ he continued. ‘Not as much as I’d like’. ‘OK, I can tell you what you need to say to make more’.
The evening continued, drinks and invitations were forthcoming. Mr K asked me to sing a duet with him as the closing song – ‘Endless Love’. I love Lionel, but this is one tune I never sang in my life before. He clearly had though. G felt my pulse again – ‘You must be excited, your pulse has gone up from 96 to 107’
As the night drew to a close, Mr K and I sang the final song. He held me (a bit too) tightly around the waist. More applause.
I tore myself away from the bar and headed for bed, but couldn’t sleep for ages. I felt alive in a way that only putting myself really out there gives me – that and singing – and thought about how, when I do that, my heart and the world opens up.