Diary Of A Busker Day ~ 115

Diary Of A Busker Day 115 Wednesday June 15th Winchester High Street (1. outside Debenhams, Time: 1:22-2:50pm, 2. opposite WH Smiths, Time: 3:10-4pm.)

        It’s “drizzling” today, but I decide to risk it – I’ll come in to town and make for the covered part. There is a 4 piece military brass band at The Buttercross and further down, just out of earshot is Guy with one of his “folk” ensembles – today consisting of himself and two women. I walk back up and on further inquiry (I ask two uniformed army men handing out leaflets) discover the band will finish, (promptly I imagine, with military precision) at 1:30, over an hour away. I aim to return, but for now my only refuge is far away from both these conglomerations – at the arse-end of the high street, down at Debenhams.

      Walking down to Debenhams I stop to chat with Bertie the flowerman and Frank who’s in his light blue boiler suit. I can see Frank’s home made cart with his accordion nearby so I know he’s looking to do some busking. He says, yes, he’s seen the military band but doesn’t know when they’re finishing so I tell him – half past one, and knowing he wants to play, I say he can have the spot! It’s a selfless act, yes – but Frank’s a good guy and I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for him lately – what with his recent vet bill of £200 and the polices’ dithering, not to mention their appaling comunication, being “go-betweens” for Frank and the attacking dogs’ owner. Frank’s also said a couple of times that he thinks “Winchester’s had enough of me.” – he’s been busking here for 16 years. Sometimes I think Winchester’s had enough of ME, and I’ve been here less than a year. There was also a letter* in the Hampshire Chronicle last week which, if Frank had seen, wouldn’t have helped.

       At Debenhams I manage to get through an hour and a half but it’s going slow – I count out £8.10 in the bucket which is OK for here, but the drizzle is dampening my guitar, hands…and spirit. A man talks to me about wanting to start busking – to supplement his pension! “I keep saying to myself – next year, then I never do it!” I tell him he’s just got to take the big first step and get out there, just once. I tell him it’s difficult – setting up in broad daylight with hundreds of strangers walking by. I only started when I had no choice (I relate my “hard luck” story – I’m getting pretty good at this by now)…couldn’t play in groups anymore due to hearing problems…couldn’t even do bar work…due to hearing problems… I had no choice… He asks me how I do out here, money-wise. Today, not too good, I say. He says that if I looked more scruffy I might get more sympathy, and more money. What? Have my bank balance blossom but at my dignity’s expense? I think not, sir.

     It’s a miserable day and I make to go home but, as so often happens, I stop off for a “short one” on the way back. A lady comes out of WH Smiths, sees me and comes over. “I have a drawing of you!” Me? “Yes, in my house. I saw you and thought I recognised you.” Now I remember – this was one of the ladies I posed for (fully clothed with 12 string guitar) a few years ago in an adult life drawing class, made up mainly of women of a certain age. I have one of the other scetches at home – presented to me at the end of the hour, along with my £10 fee. Not long ago, I recall someone else involved with the class came up to me and said they were still doing the life drawing – if I’d like to pose again, for the same fee. I haven’t…yet.

         Before I leave here, Mick (he with the cheeky grin, always at Waitrose at 6 o’clock Fridays for the discounted food) stops for a chat. He asks me again about playing on the cruise ships “Bloody good money, y’know!” Again I say it’s not for me – being stuck on a boat, probably having to share a small cabin, having to associate with other musicians. “I’m a bit unsociable!” I say. “Yeah, I can see that – mind, I’ve met some weird people (Mick played alot on boats)…there was a guy, a Russian pianist, brilliant he was, very tall, carrot hair, from the Russian Conservatoire, played Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, everything and American jazz “when no one was looking” he used to say. he once gave me a transcription of Art Tatum – wrote it all out himself – “can you play this?” he said! Then we ‘ad a girl singer – never said a word to anyone, apart from her boyfriend. Not to anyone.” Yep, some strange people, I tell him about one of the ones I’ve met. “I knew a drummer – we only did a couple of gigs with him. He used to wrap himself up with that cling film stuff (or Saran Wrap, as they call it in the US.) before he went on. His legs, all around his body, his waist. There was some medical reason. It was bizarre!” “Maybe he thought he was a saamwich (sandwich)!” Mick says. “I tell you, a sandwich has more brains than some of the musicians I’ve met.”

Earnings: £15.65p.

* Mediocre Music (heading)

   Sir – All your respondents (Chronicle, May 26) believe the buskers in Winchester High Street to be good entertainment. I personally rate most of them somewhere between mediocre and dreadful, although Marvin B. Naylor, featured in the same issue, is quite the exception and a pleasure to hear. But there is one regular box squeezer (piano accordionist) that I have listened to many times and I cannot remotely recognise any of his “music”. I don’t know of anybody who can. Perhaps he thinks he’s the late Eric Morcambe, who played all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.

Peter Collings,

Off Church Lane,

Martyr Worthy,


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.