THE rhythmic clatter of spoons rang out across Henley market place when a well-known busker paid a visit.
Click here to watch our video of the performance
Simon Spoons, as he likes to be known, entertained shoppers for more than an hour last Friday lunchtime by playing the spoons to songs blaring out of a portable amplifier.
The 55-year-old, who has been of no fixed abode for about 40 years, set up camp outside the former Chef Peking restaurant.
With his long, wiry beard and heavy nicotine stains on his few remaining teeth, Spoons’ appearance couldn't have been more out of keeping with genteel Henley.
That did not stop dozens of people taking his photograph or filming him on their mobile phones and leaving money in his jacket on the floor.
Some stopped to chat and shake his hand and one man, a tourist from Scotland, even stopped to join him for a spoon duet.
A man of virtually no means, Spoons travels from town to town with his equipment, clothes and sleeping gear in a rucksack.
He has achieved cult status on the internet thanks to the scores of people who have uploaded video of him performing.
A clip of him playing Insomnia by Faithless at Borough Market in London has been seen several million times on YouTube.
As he puffed on a hand-rolled cigarette, Spoons told me he had decided to visit Henley as he had not been here for about 35 years.
He arrived by train, which he paid for from the proceeds of his busking. He usually travels by public transport but sometimes walks.
He slept in the graveyard at St Mary’s Church during the night before his performance.
Spoons travels “wherever the wind blows” and spends much of his time in Ireland.
“I always sleep outside wherever I go,” he says. “I try to sleep in graveyards if I can because they’re safer — most people are scared to go into them at night but I'm not.
“I don’t believe in being static. If you’re static, too many people want to gossip about you.
“In places like this, everyone knows what you’ve had for breakfast before you've left the door. Henley hasn't changed much since I last came and I’m sure if I came back in another 35 it would be the same again.”
Spoons, who was born in Swansea, learned to play the spoons when he was teenager.
He typically travels with about half a dozen and when he loses one he is often given a replacement by café owners.
Spoons told me he had been married and ran an interior design firm in Norfolk before deciding to live on the road because he found it “boring”.
“I find what I do now far more challenging and interesting,” he said. “If I popped my clogs tonight, at least I would know I've lived a full life. I don't get ill — people who live in homes with central heating get ill. I get lots of fresh air so I stay healthy.”
He likes to see people dancing when he plays. “I don’t particularly want money,” said Spoons. “I just want to make people happy and if I can give them some good memories then that’s a good thing.”