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Phil Norris finished college with straight ‘A’ results. His parents were all set for him to start university to become a Psychology teacher. Phil had different plans and his parents didn’t like  them. He told them that he wanted to go to the city for a year then go to  university. What Phil really had in mind was to travel the country earning money with his guitar and orating until he had enough money to pay his own way into university. His parents eventually and reluctantly agreed to  the ‘plan’ that he had fed them.

Phils parents waved him goodbye at the station. Clean cut, rucksack with 2 changes of clothes, toiletries and his trusty guitar in a hardback case. Instead of getting off at the next major city, Phil got off at the next town just 100 miles away. He walked the streets and looked for the busiest one. He got out his guitar and began playing his beautiful classical style music. People walked past with  their noses in the air and basically ignored Phil. Phil was disheartened and didn’t even bother orating. ‘If it’s this snobby here, imagine what the cities will be like,’ thought Phil. That night, Phil slept up a cold side alley contemplating the $1.20 that he had made.

The next morning Phil went to the next small town. His response was the same. As the months passed, Phils appearance became more derelict with a hobo look. He found that he was now earning enough money for one decent meal a day. Then it hit him. His Psychology training taught him that people would give to the poor (which is what he looked) and not to the more well off (which is how he used to look). Phil discarded his toiletries. People in these smaller towns still weren’t interested in his oration so he put it on hold for the cities.

The following night Phil was contemplating his plans. He could make enough money for a meal whilst playing guitar and looking like a hobo, surely he could make more in the cities with their larger population and there might be people interested in his oration. The next day Phil caught the 2 day train to New York.

When he arrived Phil was overwhelmed by the size of everything. Phil had pre-planned to find the biggest street and use it as his base but every street was big. He could take his pick. People paid him handsomely, many stopped and many listened to his oration. All the while Phil was getting paid….and paid handsomely. Every week he would take his loose money and put it in the bank for his university fees. Ever so slowly the amount rose. Cent by cent. He began to email his parents about New York. Their replies were all the same. ‘Come home and start University. The money’s here.’ Phil would email back that he was doing fine. They would die if they knew what he looked like.

After several weeks people would stop and talk to him and get to know him by name. The next day, some would bring a friend or two to hear him speak, play or both. Phil enjoyed New York that he stayed. He was now 29. His hair and beard were going grey from living on the streets.

The Winters were harsh but worked in Phils favour. He would find a sheltered spot and play or orate. The public would seek shelter there too so he had a captive audience and made more money. He was now almost a household name.

One day whilst playing a short, stout man listened to Phil playing briefly. He leaned over, handed him a card then kept walking. Phil stopped and read the card. It read Allan Ashby A&R. Phil stopped and read the card. ‘A&R?’ he thought. ‘That’s Artist and Recording. I wonder if they want to record me?’

The next day Phil went to the laundry and tidied himself up. He rang the number on the card and spoke to Allan Ashby. Ashby wanted to see Phil ASAP. Phil said he could be there that afternoon. The meeting was brief. Ashby wanted an album from Phil. Could he start next week? He would earn $3,00 plus royalties. “That’s where the money is. Royalties,” said Ashby. There was no time limit. Phil could barely contain himself.

So proficient was Phil that the only hold-up was the orchestra. The album was recorded in just over 2 weeks.

Phil, now tidy, returned home and told his parents all about his travels, including the album. Phil applied and was accepted at the local university within a month. He was going to be a Psychology teacher.

For the following 4 years Phil found that he didn’t have to study too much. He discovered that he learned more about the human condition whilst on the streets in New York. He passed with Honours.

Phil was lucky enough to be assigned a position at his old college. Due to his laid back manner, he found that the students contributed more to their own learning than he ever could. Irrespective, his first week was spent talking about his own life.

One Monday, Phil was mobbed by students wielding CDs. They were music students with his CD. It had been released on Saturday and they wanted autographs. Phil rushed to the class and told his students to talk amongst themselves for a while. He then returned and signed the CD and had selfies taken. His class was over by the time he had finished. His students walked past, smirking at him and making comedic “star” comments.

That Phil was speaking. Suddenly he felt an excruciating, crushing pain in his chest. He grabbed his chest and collapsed. He was whiter than white and his lips were blue. Nobody said anything. One of the students with medical training had  called an ambulance before Phil hit the ground.

Phil was taken away by the ambulance. The class sat and talked about how cool he was and what a life he had led. “Maybe that’s what caused it?” someone said. “Maybe it’s genetics,” said another. Someone else said, “I just hope he’s okay.” They all turned to the student who made the call. They said nothing. They looked at the ground twidling their phone.

20 minutes later the head of the school came in. He looked somber  as he began to speak in a quivering voice, “It is with great sadness that I must inform you that Mr.Norris suffered a….erm….a massive heart attack in the ambulance and couldn’t be revived. Mr Norris was declared Dead On Arrival at the local hospital. (Pause). Thank you.” The head walked awkwardly out leaving the class silent but half-knowing the outcome.

Phil Norris was 35 years old. He is survived by his parents John and Lydia. As he would often say, “I’m living the life.” This was  engraved on his headstone.

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