For the last six years I have been a busker. My parents put me to the violin at a tender age, but it was boring so I gave it up in favour of sports as soon as I could. However, when my legs took early retirement about 15 years ago I had to find a substitute for the sporty stuff, so I tried the violin again and it took.
At first, fiddling was structured therapy. As I improved it became my social life, and in 2003 when busking became legal on the London Underground, I was able to turn my new hobby into a job. I practice every day, work every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for myself, and also busk for a number of charities. I have a regular routine, meet delightful people, feel that I’m making a contribution to society and get money thrown at me. That can’t be bad.
I don’t do it all by myself, though. Masha, my wife of 50 years, is absolutely essential to the whole enterprise. I try and do what I can around the home, but with my limited mobility that doesn’t amount to much. Masha’s a wonderful cook, but when it comes to baking our bread I do the ‘skillful’ bits sitting at the table, and she carries the heavy stuff and does the oven thing. On work days, she packs my rucksack on my wheelchair and sees me off the premises. We’re a team: that’s how we got four sons and eight wonderful grandchildren.
I can get grumpy at times, especially at Transport for London’s idea of wheelchair accessible buses. Their publicity suggests that London buses are a wheeler’s paradise. Well they’re not, but I’m working on it with letters and campaigns.
A spinal cord injury closes some options, but once the daily maintenance tasks are out of the way, the world is still full of opportunities. Like anyone who has come through a life-threatening situation, I have been offered another bite of the cherry. I’m not going to sit around waiting for things to happen. I’ve been able to indulge a passion for music which I would never have known about. It doesn’t have to be music for you, but where there’s a passion there’s a way.