Honor researched the Portugal book in 1953, travelling on a shoestring with eight-year-old Robert and his older half-sister Prue. «We travelled by bus a lot of the time,» remembers Prue, «although sometimes we were lucky enough to get a lift in a truck or cart or something like that. We slept wherever, in blankets that my mother had stitched up – they were old army blankets of George’s. We were just camping, but we had no tent. We’d sleep under the stars: in woods, in florests, wherever we could.» Robert also remembers the trip with affection. «I absolutely loved the place,» he recalls. «Dirty poor, I now realise, but magical to me at the time.»
Though he hides it well behind the beard and avuncular grin, Wyatt is a worrier. When in Portugal with Honor and Prue, he had been so embarrassed at the poverty he witnessed that for a period he refused to wear any shoes That empathy has remained: it’s almost as if he failed to develop the so-called compassion fatigue with wich the rest of us slowly become inured. Alfie describes Robert as missing a layer of skin, and that quality is perhaps what makes his music so affecting. But it also left Wyatt, as a human being, vulnerable, and quick to blame himself when things go wrong. His constant self-effacement is not merely English ‘after you’ etiquete.
Marcus O’Dair, Different every time: The authorised biography of Robert Wyatt