Mulatu Astake

I first met Mulatu Astake when I had mistakenly bought a copy of Steve McFadden’s autobiography(Being Phil, ghost writer unknown, 2014) in lieu of Steve McQueen’s biography(Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Hero, Greg Laurie, 2019) and was trying to explain my mistake to the man behind the counter at Waterstones who seemed to be particularly unhelpful and said I needed a receipt and also the dustcover the book came with. 

If it had the dustcover, I said, I would have seen that it was Steve McFadden’s face on there and not bought it.

We don’t sell it without the dustcover, he said. 

You must, I said, because this copy has no dustcover.

You must have lost it, he said.

What are you accusing me of? I said.

Excuse me, said someone behind me, but I may be able to help.

I turned to find myself confronted by a sprightly young man carrying a vibraphone in one hand and a copy of Where’s Wally Now? in the other. My name’s Mulatu, he said, and I was looking for a copy of Steve McFadden’s autobiography as I’m interested in reading about his time spent on Bergerac. If you can’t return the book due to a lost dustcover, I would be willing to buy it from you for the full cover price. Y

ou can’t sell your own books in here, said the man behind the counter.

Let’s go outside, I said.

Let me pay for this, said Mulatu indicating Where’s Wally Now?.

I’ll be on the pavement, I said.

In time, Mulatu joined me in the cool, autumn air outside Waterstones and I sold him the book.

I can’t help noticing the vibraphone, I said. Would you mind playing it for me?

No problem, said Mulatu. He played an early version of his seminal Ethio Jazz composition Chifara from Mulatu of Ethiopia(1972).

Did you know Steve McFadden was also in The Bill? I asked when he had finished. 

News to me, said Mulatu.

He was also in Kevin and Perry Go Large, I said.

That’s my favourite film, said Mulatu.

Me too, I said, and we’ve been friends ever since.


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