Diary Of A Busker Day 130 Wednesday July 13th Winchester High Street (1. outside Debenhams, Time: 11:25-1:15pm, 2. opposite Phase Eight, Time: 1:42-3:15pm).
I walk past a guy doing big coloured drawings on the pavement in front of The Buttercross, and a bit further down there’s Frank the accordion man who tells me he’s just had an argument with the “pavement artist”. Apparently, this guy took great offense when Frank turned up and started playing a few feet away, the guy accused Frank of “stealing his trade” – he obviously wasn’t going to budge so Frank moved down a bit – about 30 feet.
Further down, a tall, middle-aged lady violinist – one of Guy’s folk band people is playing her violin through a Roland Micro Cube – the same as I use. I say hello, she stops playing, “How does it sound?” It’s fine I say, not too loud – but any louder and it will be. I ask her how long she will be here. “‘Till 1, then I pick up my son…and my arm will ache – I only do a couple of hours, I’m in Guy’s group.” “Yeah, I know, is he around?” “No, not today.” “Good.” “Oh, why good?” “‘Cause if he’s not anywhere else, I can go down there (I nod towards Debenhams). What’s your name?” “Caroline. What’s yours?” “Marvin.” “That’s a good name – sounds like a country name.” (I’m assuming she means country as in Country and Western). “Right, well I’ll probably see you at 1”, I say and head off to Debenhams…
…where a regular I haven’t seen for some time turns up – it’s George, who promised to get me some gigs. “Hey! – where have you been, I haven’t seen you for weeks!” He’s pleased (almost emotional) to see me. “I’ve been here, George! I haven’t seen YOU for weeks.” “I know, how are you getting on? Done any gigs – proper ones?” “I’ve done a couple of things – a Strawberry Tea, a wedding and there’s a birthday party on Friday, one of my regulars.” “Well it’s great to see you – hey, I have a leaflet on the Guitar Festival – and you’re not in it! I couldn’t believe it – why?” (George seems very hurt by this). “I don’t know, George – I can’t be everywhere! Where is it?” “Here, in Winchester. Well, how are you getting on?” he asks me again. “OK, but I’ll have to sort something out soon – I’m not going through another winter doing this (busking).” “No, you’re NOT!” agrees George – where are these gigs you promised me then, George? “No, I’m not! I don’t know what, but I’ll have to sort something out.”
Some grandparents with their grandson in a buggy chat with me. The grandad used to play a guitar, his son does and the grandmother says she wants to get a photo of all three of them playing guitars.
At just after 1 o’clock I pack up, take a short breather in the cathedral grounds then head off to rendevous with the spot where Caroline was but when I get there – she’s just finishing packing up, I find Frank there also. He’s beaten me to it! Oh well, fair enough – I expect he wants to be as far away from the pavement artist as he can get. And he’s still going on about it – “Yeah, I’ve had a run in with him.” “What – another one, since I saw you earlier?” “No, same one, just the once. He wants to watch himself – if he’s gonna mess around with anyone in Winchester, he doesn’t want to mess with me. I’m the ONE person he doesn’t want to mess with – I’ll get all the drongos and druggies on to him, I tell you.” I must remember this, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of Frank or he’ll get all the drongos and druggies on to me. He’s the one man in Winchester I don’t want to mess with. “…and HE’S too loud”, Frank says, nodding towards a young busker up the road. “…I think I’ll tell him “you’re too close, it means no one gets any money”, buskers too close together.” “Hm, are you going to have a word with him, tell him off, Frank?” “Yeah, I might do that.” Frank’s in a fighting mood today.
I end up setting up alomost out of earshot of the loud strummer Frank’s going to have a word with and on my left side, the pavement artist isn’t too far away, but he doesn’t come down to hassle me. After an hour and a half I’ve had enough of all the noise so head on down to do an hour or so at Debenhams but when I get near, there’s a bandana wearing blues guitarist with an amp just across from Debenhams. I decide to call it a day. I walk back up the High Street and find myself 50 feet behind Frank, who’s just coming up to the young guy he said he was going to tell off. He slows down a bit, and when he’s right in front, turns to look at him (glaring, no doubt), but carries on walking. “Yeah, you showed HIM, Frank. You let him know you’re the one man in Winchester NO ONE should cross. In fact, I’m thinking maybe they should replace the King Alfred statue and put one up of Frank Williams instead, playing (an undecipherable tune on) his accordion, faithful dog Kazoo by his side.