The Pied Piper
By Roslyn Hames
The Buddhist doctrine of finding true happiness via making others happy holds true for Patrick Buckley when, two years ago, music threw him a life raft.
Patrick Buckley sits crossed-legged in the middle of the floor of the restaurant he co-owns, in the middle of dinner, pacifying a baby with a lilting air on his flute. A child crawls behind under tables and chairs to get closer, and another toddler pulls on his father’s sleeve to be air lifted to the feet of the Pied Piper. Another little bald head emerges from a parent’s arms, as though entranced by a charm. In response, Pat is raptured by the children’s attraction and concentration.
For Pat there is nothing better then playing something that moves an audience. Flute packed away, Pat lounges in one of Phill’s Café’s booths, eyes sparkling and ever ready for a giggle, like the kid in school who looked to the class clown for laughs but soon developed his own routine. ‘I remember the first time I was playing and someone got up in front of me and started dancing. Music has an amazing power over people – but it is a good power.’
An ex-police officer, Pat is familiar with the powers that come with the law and society. ‘You have powers in policing, which I had conflict with. But with music, you encourage your audience to let out what is inside of them. It is selfless. It is very Buddhist.’ He peels off into laughter, satisfied with the Eastern arrival of his thought.
It was only two years ago that music cast a spell over Pat after ‘a massive nervous breakdown’ following eleven years in the police force. The power of music illuminated a bearing through the patterns and shapes of improvisation towards recovery. ‘When I went on leave, I bought myself an Irish whistle. I used to pick it up, try to learn to play something and finish up flinging it across the room. Then one day I decided that I really wanted to learn. So I sat down with a Doneagle Express CD. One of their tracks had a relatively easy whistle track on it, so I worked at it constantly until I could play it.’
Not content with the whistle, Patrick picked up his wife Lisa’s flute. ‘I was sitting there looking at it thinking ‘this is a good quality instrument that is not being used, so I should really try and do something with it. I then read a book, I taught myself scales, and it just happened. It was really odd, but it just happened.’ Pat was on a current towards recovery. As the momentum built, Pat joined in at the Irish Murphy jamming sessions. ‘I started playing more and more. It was a really involving and positive thing to do. While I was playing, nothing else mattered.’
Pat and Lisa bought into Phill’s late last year, and Pat sees the change as a part of his rehabilitation. ‘I got into this because I wanted to do something really positive after doing something I was unhappy about for so long. In policing, you don’t get to tell people they’ve won Tattslotto.’ While Phill’s doesn’t sell lotto tickets, it allows Pat to offer something positive to society. For Pat, life is now all about having fun. Before joining the police, Pat worked as a cook for three years and applied his study of martial arts to security work around Geelong. ‘Having fun is really important. Like here, I say to the staff as long as you do what you have to do, have fun, relax and enjoy yourself. It passes on to the customers. It has got to start somewhere.’
Perhaps a sense of fun is the Pied Piper’s secret. Pat’s positivity also passes on to the musicians who want to play at Phill’s, sometimes for a nominal fee or just for the joy of it. Pat’s group, the Stonecutters, also plays at Phill’s but often play at other venues. ‘There is some cross over between the restaurant and music, but if we have a gig, we’ll go and do it, no matter where it is. It works well here, and it works well for my sanity to keep it a separate thing, to go anywhere and do it.’
Through smiling eyes Pat says, ‘I think music saved my life, really. I can’t think now what I’d be doing or where I’d be if I hadn’t got involved in music. It is a strange thing to wonder about.’