Chapter 20

A Dove Tail Joint

The lewd and highly erotic way with which Slingsby simultaneously wielded his saxophone and gyrated his hips made many an admirer go weak at the knees. His rugged good looks, his musicianship and his carefully cultured mystique encouraged a huge number of admirers to try to get under his emotional armour. But when approached he would curl up in his shell like an aardvark under attack.

©Barbara Wüllenweber

Only one person could truly coax him out, and that was Sally. Where Xero had a tendency to be brusque, she was charm personified with a welcoming, reassuring smile. If he was often oblivious to the feelings of those around him, Sally was compassionate to a tee. They both kept themselves very busy: She was a dab hand at making sequinned costumes, while Xero preferred bashing holes through walls and doing "renovations".

They moved in together fairly soon after meeting at a Leeds party and their complimentary natures became ever more obvious as their home life developed. The one major bone of contention in their relationship was how to find enough days when they were simultaneously at home. She worked with a magician who performed all of his tricks particularly ineptly - The act revolved around her being the one in control. She played the stunningly beautiful archetypal magician's assistant but was forever having to rescue situations. Art imitating life, maybe. She and the magician were very successful, performing on a cabaret circuit that took in most of the UK and a great deal of Europe.

What Sally brought to Xero's life were poise, reliability, refinement and humility. Xero brought her chaos, wildness, wackiness and a vulnerable genius. He was hopelessly devoted to her. Before I left on that evening when the Bedford died, Sally took me on one side. I'd already thought that she'd been looking a bit worried.

" Don't let anything happen to him."

" He'll be right Sally. Don't worry. You know Xero, he's built like a brick shithouse - he can even get hit by a bus and leave the bus with a dent."

" Yes, but I know his self-destructive streak too and I want you to keep an eye on him. I'm relying on you. You know what he's like - he'll finish a gig and go from one end of the optics behind the bar to the other, and then turn round and drink his way back again. I want you to keep on his case. Make sure nothing awful happens to him"

With that Xero came back from the toilet, poured another bottle of lethal home brew and picked up an album cover to roll yet another joint.

" You two are conspiring about something aren't you? I can tell something fishy is going on"

When he was with Sally, that open smile appeared more often. Her spiky, punky beauty reflected off him. It was as if there were two Xero Slingsbys: the abrasive one that the public saw, and the sensitive soul who hid crouched inside his stocky frame. The women he encountered on the road stood no chance of getting under his shell. He was "spoken for", as they say round Skipton way.

©Barbara Wüllenweber


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