Diary Of A Busker Day 134 Wednesday July 20th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Card Factory, Time: 10:45-1:15pm, 2. opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:05-4:57pm).
I need a good day’s busking, as the last few days haven’t been too good, money-wise. It’s early but Guy and a couple of his folk “franchise” have already been set up at The Buttercross since 9:30. I say “hello” and find out he’s had to take an unwanted break for half an hour because there’s a service in the St. Lawrence church, which is practically next door, in the alleyway. Someone must have come out and asked him to stop banging away! Guy’s money, like mine and all the other buskers, I imagine, has suffered because of the rain and he has to at least make back his £20 train fare from Portsmouth. I tell him I saw Caroline with her violin the other day. “Next time you see her, call her Doodle – that’s what we call her”. “Why’s that?” “Have you seen her tattoos?” “No”. “Next time, ask to see her tattoos, she’s got some in strange places…on second thought, better not”.
Down at my first spot I manage to play for 45 minutes before it rains. This is a bit further down from Debenhams – there’s a loud busker nearby, so I’ve had to move down a bit further. I play When I’m Sixty-Four and a very old lady says “Brings back memories” and I wonder if she means – memories of 1967 (64 isn’t as “old” as it was in those days) or memories of when she was 64! I take refuge in the fire exit doorway and count my money – £8.83p. Fifteen minutes later, I’m playing again…an old couple say “You could have played at our 80th birthday party!” Oh well, what about their 81st?…I give them my card. It starts raining again. I decide to take it on – I put my stool just inside the fire exit so I can keep relatively dry and still play. All anyone can see, approaching from the sides, is one foot on the pavement and the end of my guitar neck. I start with my recent addition, Led Zeppelin’s (or rather Jimmy Page’s) guitar bit for The Rain Song, naturally. Unfortunately, my nigh on 10 minute rendition results in not one coin in the bucket. I don’t get it, I think it sounds nice – obviously no Jimmy Page fans about. A couple stop and ask me where the Post Office is. I tell them, it’s in WH Smiths. They’re not from here, I tell them where Smiths is and ask them where they are from, “Belgium – lots of musicians there!”
Money-wise, this session goes badly, so badly that, when I decide to leave, the total is £15 – that means less than £7 for the hour and a half I’ve just done…and it’s raining again. I walk about for a bit, come back and find two young buskers – a guitar player and another banging on a suitcase, “doing” (in) A Hard day’s Night. My former spot isn’t far enough away so I head down still further and find quite a cosy little doorway of the building on a street corner – I think it’s called The Mission House and there’s a Bible window(?) with the big book opened, so you can look in the window and read “today’s page”, if you want. Opposite is the Maison Blanc restaurant, with some tables and chairs outside.
In this set I am visited by Harry, a young singer/guitarist who I’ve seen at some of the open-mic nights at The Railway. He’s been spreading the word about Love Your Ears (which I initially mistake for DUFF Your Ears), a sub charity of Action On Hearing Loss. It’s purpose is to educate people, especially young people, on the danger of loud music. A difficult thing to do – no young musician wants to wear earplugs – they want to hear it loud! I think if someone gave me a lecture on that when I was in my 20s (and 30s even), I would have ignored them, or laughed. Young folks, especially musicians think they’re indestructible – I certainly did, in my pre-Tinnitus/hearing aided, pre-Focal Dystonia days. However, it’s a good cause and I wish young Harry the best of luck.
A friendly chap named Kev (short for Kevin, I’m assuming)from the nearby Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society pays me a visit in his lunch break. He’s often heard me and likes the old fashioned style I play. In fact he’s read the Hampshire Chronicle article about me and The Third Man Theme, but amazingly, he’s only ever heard ME do it. He’s never heard the original – and best. I assure him that although the Chet Atkins version is a good one, it’s no substitute for the original, played on the zither and strongly urge him to check it out.
Just before 5 o’clock, a couple about 30 walk by. She stops, “Beautiful sound my lovely – do you know Charmaine?” “Charmaine? Mantovani – no. I mean, I know the tune in my head but I don’t play it”. I should have left it at that, but, ever attempting to please my public, I fumble around for the notes in the descending run. “That’s it! – play it, my lovely”. She starts singing and I attempt to follow and get as far as the second line, “Sorry, I don’t know it!” “Yes you do my lovely, you play it, (sings) La La La…”. I try again but stop at the same place, “No, sorry”. Her boyfriend’s bored and wants to move on but she sits down next to me – she’s holding a flower with a long stem, wrapped in transparent film. She thinks of another song, “Do you know I Love You Because – Jim Reeves? I love that”. “I know the song – I used to play it years ago when I was in this Country and Western group. I don’t…” “Play it, play it my lovely”. “No, sorry – I don’t play it, only instrumental guitar music”. “You DO, you can play it, my lovely…or what about Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely”. Her boyfriend says “Come on, let’s go!” “Yes” I say, “and I have to go, too”. “I love music – all Gypsies do, y’know!” “Oh, do they? What’s your name, anyway?” “Charmaine”. I should have guessed. She gets up and they wander off. I notice Frank, without his accordion, standing nearby. Frank, being an old pro, has a tip – “Whenever that happens to me – like if I get some drunk Irish bloke come up, I always play something they don’t know”. Or something they won’t recognise – in other words, a large portion of your repertoire, Frank.