I heard him long before I saw him – the unmistakable sound of a saxophone, playing a popular tune. The playing was nuanced and well phrased. I was returning to Oxford Street after visiting the Photographers’ Gallery, and as I turned onto the main street, there he was.
Sprawled a little awkwardly on the pavement, propped against a shop front, eyes closed – lost in the music. Oxford Street is one of the busiest streets in central London and the pavement was crowded. Few people stopped to listen. I paused – there was a photo opportunity. I waited for a gap in the human traffic, and my eye was drawn to the sheet of paper propped up in the Saxophone case. It reads: ‘This is her chance to survive. I am doing this for my sick wife.’ And then there is a phrase in a foreign language – Spanish or Italian?, I wasn’t sure, but I was pretty certain that the first two words ‘La Vita’ meant ‘Life’. I took a number of images as he played on. Not once did he look up. I dropped a donation into the Saxophone case and moved on.
I’ve thought about him a lot since then. How many days has he occupied that space? How is his wife? Has the money raised by his music helped? Is she improving? So many unknowns.
I typed the phrase ‘La vita è una ruota’ into the computer and up popped the answer: ‘Life is a wheel’. Always turning. It conjures up so many thoughts.