Magic is many things to many people. When I was little, magic lived in our house in the shape of a friendly, four-legged, three-eyed monster. His name, which was tattooed on his wide forehead, was Decca. On many days, Decca sat silently in our living room, his presence curiously ignored by a roomful of furrowed faces. But sometimes, my big sis would open his wooden mouth and feed him a huge round black biscuit with a coloured centre. And suddenly, Decca would sing with the voices of Pinky and Perky!
When I was older, they let me feed Decca the discs myself, as long as I was really careful. By then, Pinky and Perky seemed rather silly. My big brother’s California Girls and their Good Vibrations seemed to make me far perkier than those squeaky little piglets ever did. But often as not, it wouldn’t be the sounds of sunny California I would choose, but a record from big sis’s collection instead, which was a funny old ragbag of tunes and songs by a band called the Ripley Wayfarers - from nippy Ripley, just up the road. And suddenly, I was dancing merrily on the village green, listening to the blackbird’s din, as happy as a king with a ling dong dilly dong Cairo me - whatever that was. I never did get what a hey-fo-lairo was, either. Or why mum always stopped me singing the song about opening the tin of Birmingham broth.
But I remember one of the singers the best. He had the voice of a great big grizzly bear – only this bear sarnded rate proper Derbyshire. One year, we went on holiday to Whitby, where people played squeezy boxes and danced and waved hankies all over the place. And there, my Dad introduced me to the man with the bear’s voice! He shook my hand, and said, “’E’s got hands like digger buckets, just like his Dad.”
Then the man with the voice of a bear shouted his commands to the dancers, and people obeyed! “Left hand star! Basket!”
No-one ever dared get it wrong.
Best of all, Mum and Dad, my big brother and big sis and I all laughed, along with everyone else who was there. Worldly cares, aching backs, wheezing chests and familiar frowns all flew far away. And it was all because of the man with the bear’s voice and laughing eyes. We will always remember him. His name was Mick.