Albert Queensgate was born on a narrowboat on the River Avon in 1967. His mum was a firm believer in free love and the old religion.
Mindy Peabody chose to believe she lived outside of society—staying afloat, she’d laugh with bawdy wink, by bartering with what skills she possessed, but the truth was her dad paid the insurance and the licensing to keep her there. The situation was mutually beneficial.
An hour out from a drizzly dawn, some nine months from the night Mindy bartered herself for a pint, a Scotch egg, and a night on dry land, she pushed a squalling boy out into the world. Her friend, and sometimes lover, Posey, caught him in a Navajo poncho they’d nicked from an American who’d come back to the boat with them one night. Posey put on her favorite new record to celebrate, some psychedelic rock band from Australia. In the years to come, Albie would tell people with a wry chuckle and a scratch of his thinning hair, that his Aunty Pose chose his destiny.
Mindy never bothered to inform anyone in an official capacity that she’d brought another human into the world. She forgot to call her dad.
A gypsy taught him the violin one unusually warm summer. The old man’s daughter taught him to read. The gypsy’s granddaughter kissed him by the banks of the Avon. The boy was ten, living a near feral life on the boat with Mum and Aunt Pose, when he discovered he could be master of both words and music.
From the gypsy’s granddaughter, he learned he would never be master of his heart.
The Romani were run off at the end of the summer and he never saw her again.
At seventeen, he walked into the Royal College of Music with ten days of rough living on his clothes and under his nails. He carried a knapsack and his gypsy violin. He hadn’t any idea of math or geography, but he could quote Shakespeare and play Mozart by ear. According to public record, he didn’t exist.
“What’s your name, dear?” asked the baffled secretary. His mum had always called him Love.
A kind lady with puffy hair and a badge helped him to fill out some forms. When she asked him his name, he thought of the last two he’d seen: Prince Albert and Queen’s Gate.
“Well, Albie, you’re all set for now,” she’d said. Albert “Albie” Queensgate was born.
When his grandfather passed away , Albie was teaching at the RCM. After setting aside enough money to provide for Mum and Aunt Pose, he got a nice flat near the Underground.
If the lads at the pub thought him odd, it didn’t stop them raising a glass with him. If his students were confused by his disconcerting lack of social niceties despite a generally cheerful constitution, they recognized the mad twinkle of genius in his watery hazel eyes. If his landlady was flummoxed by his bachelor life, she couldn’t complain about his promptly paid rent.
When the houseboat burned, taking Mum and Aunt Pose in a great billow of patchouli and muscatel, Albie took a train north. So much closer than on foot, he mused. I should have thought to go back. The gypsy’s granddaughter, who’d written to inform him, met him at the train. She lived in a house outside the village now, with her mother and her gypsy grandfather, who’d gone blind but still played the strings.
“I don’t imagine you remember me, Love.” She smiled sadly.
“I do,” he replied.
Albie Queensgate never turned in his return fare. Albie Love stayed on with the gypsy’s granddaughter, and a village of children learned to play the violin.
I gave kgwaite this prompt: “I’m dead now. ‘Long with faith and chivalry.” — from Faster, Sooner, Now by David Gray
This is inspired by the BeeGees 1967 song, Craise Fenton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts. It is, for me, the soundtrack of Albie Queensgate’s life.