Diary Of A Busker Day 102 Friday May 20th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Phase 8, Time: 12:55-1:45pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 1:50-6:05pm.)
Frank and his accordion have settled down near where the market ends, halfway up the high street now, so I set up between him and WH Smiths. I play for almost an hour but get only £3.80p. I wave to Delia, the nice old Italian lady, mid-song but if she blinks, she’ll miss it. She’s on the other side of the street – the sunny side, walking down towards the market. She waves. I don’t blame her not coming over, she’d get trampled – there’s loads of people about. Just then Frank comes up, and as he wants to play up at The Buttercross which is too near to me, we agree to swap places. It’s a quick change, in fact 5 minutes after I stop playing at the first place, I’m playing at the second. This is also the same amount of time it’s taken Delia to walk from the first place to where I am now, for she’s again opposite me! This time she comes over, “I was going to say, there’s a man who looks just like you up there!” she says. Delia likes the dress on the manikin in the shop window behind me. I say she should buy it. “Oh no, that’s for a 19 year old.” “You could still try it on!” I say. There’s alot of comotion here, it’s at a crossroads and the market’s a few yards away. I see most of my regulars such as Henry in his motorised buggy, “Can you play me Over The Rainbow?” No I can’t – only the single note main part of the melody. Maybe I should learn this for him. He tells me he’ll be 100 at the end of the year. I remembered he said he was 99, but when he came over I couldn’t remember his name and had to ask him, which was a bit embarrasing. He’d forgotten mine, but that’s OK – he’s 99!
Another regular comes to say hello, the old man who thinks I should get a box of hats and change them to suit whatever I’m playing – a Homburg for The Third Man, a Fedora for As Time Goes By. He tells me funny anecdote about Tommy Cooper who he met when he was a cabbie in Southampton (my man, not Tommy Cooper). “I picked him up and he said (adopting gruff Tommy Cooper voice) “Take me to a restaurant, I must have some food, it’s all I eat, you see.” Later…”Dangerous” Dave pulls up on his bike, he thinks I should go to New York, I’d do really well, “…with your music, your look” (he thinks I look smart). And Mick of the cheeky smile asks me again if I’ve heard Limehouse Blues. I’ll look into it tonight. Anthony, the old guy learning the guitar says his fingers can’t stretch to do the “C” chord so I go over all the tips I gave him – angle the wrist… I get a bit impatient with him – I’m doing more talking than playing today, “I can talk for a couple more minutes then I’m going to have to start playing again, OK?!” He goes off. Then my camping stool collapses and I sort of crumble to the ground. The material has torn away on one of the leg joins – I’m not surprised, all tolled up I must have sat on this for weeks. This is a major busking disaster for me. I try and sit on my small amp but it’s too near the ground. I have to stand up but this feels very strange and I feel self concious, however it has to be done, so I stand up for an hour until my regular, the ex-cabbie returns and suggests putting my soft “gigbag” on the stool, and it works. Good, I can sit down again. Another old lady comes up (I’m a real hit with them today) and says she doesn’t like all the miserable faces she sees in the street today and informs me that “It takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. My nan told me that in 1952 and do you know, it took these scientists years to figure that out. Well, my nan told me that and she wouldn’t lie to me, would she – my nan?” (With me it’s the other way around, it takes more muscles for me to smile).
I get a crisp £10 note from a young guy, early 20s and say “Wow, thanks – dou you want some change?” as I always feel guilty whenever this happens – £10 is a lot to a busker. He shakes his head.
This has been a long, noisy day and my ears, due to my hearing problems, sometimes play tricks on me. In fact I don’t even notice that the batteries in my amplifier have conked out and all I’ve been hearing for the last ten minutes is the sound of my unamplified semi-acoustic guitar. Time to pack up and go to Sainsburys where they have a used battery bin. I see Frank outside and tell him about the £10 note guy. “Was he French?” Frank asks. “I don’t know, he didn’t say anything. He had brown hair, early 20s.” “Yeah, so was mine – he gave ME a £10 note, as well.” We ruminate on how life changes when you can be busking for two hours and hardly get anything (except depressed), maybe just £5, and then suddenly there’s a £10 note there. It changes everything, straight away! “You occasionally get these little angels that come along.” says Frank.