Banjo Crisis

Added on 28 October 2008

I’m waiting on a banjo. I could say sweating on a banjo, but that might be overstating it.

For most of the last forty-four years I’ve had the same view of the banjo as everyone else. They’re ok in very small doses and when Billy Connolly plays one, but otherwise, best left unheard. The word banjo is better used as a verb, as in, If you don’t stop that I’m going to banjo you on the napper with a brick...

Then I started listening to Dylan’s second version of You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, with the lovely banjo part, and I thought, hmm, maybe I could get a banjo... The beauty of the banjo on this song is that it’s not one of those hundred miles an hour banjos, you know the way they play sixty notes a second and you listen to it and think, how do they do that? This was a more sedate banjo, the kind of banjo which you listen to and think, I could play that.

Then in one of those serendipitous moments that life occasionally throws up, during the summer I got the chance to play a banjo for the first time. Open-backed, four and a half strings, tuned to an open G, banjo for beginners. I was hooked.

There don’t seem to be too many banjos in the music shops of Warsaw. I went on-line to order one from, the Polish eBay, Amazon and everything else combined equivalent. The order process was tortuous, including at one point apparently receiving verification in the mail which would take ten days. I had one of those frequent why did we let these people into the EU moments. (Given that I was going through the process with my Ethnic Polish Friend (EPF), I kept the thought to myself.)

In the end we gave up and called the shop directly. No problem, they said, no ten days waiting for verification, no phaphing about with Polish bank accounts, send us an e-mail with what you want and we’ll deliver it on Monday. This was a Friday, so we’re talking about one working day. One working day. I went from wanting to eject Poland from the EU to thinking they should be given the permanent presidency... (OK, I never actually thought that for one second.)

I spent the Monday sitting with my nose pressed against the window. It never came. EPF called the shop the next day, there was an apology and it’ll be there on Thursday. On Thursday I sat with my nose pressed against the window all day... It never came. Another call, another apology. (And why would they have called to say it wouldn’t be coming, so that my nose needn’t have been pressed against the window all day, because that would have been customer service, and there’s little place for that in this blighted country, which ought to be ejected from the EU forthwith if my banjo doesn’t turn up this week...)

So this is how the matter rests. Still no banjo. It is due tomorrow. The world waits on tenter-hooks, the financial crises of the planet suddenly thrust to the inside pages.