Diary Of A Busker Day 135 Friday July 22nd Winchester High Street (1. opposite Card Factory, Time: 10:33-12:40pm, 2. opposite Phase Eight, Time:1:08-1:38pm, 3. opposite Reflex, Time: 1:53-5:15pm).
For the first part of this – the longest day yet, I’m down a bit further from Debenhams and begin with a two hour set – to warm up with. A man who has clearly heard me before, walks by after my Third Man and says “I think that’s your best song”. “Do you?” “Yes, I think so”. Then, a deaf lady stops for a “chat”. I ask her if she can hear any of the music. “I can sense the vibrations on my tongue”, she says – very clearly, at the same time doing sign language… which I don’t understand. But I think she thinks I’m someone else, “You play with that other man, with the blue t-shirt, don’t you?” “No, just on my own”, I say. “You should”, she says, and looking at my bucket, “You’ve got enough money to have a business partner!” then walks away. I say loudly, “No I don’t, and anyway I would have to split the money!” forgetting that she can’t hear me.
This two hour stint has made me £27 which is an unusually high amount, and the weather’s holding up, which is good. I retire to the cathedral grounds for my packed lunch.
For the second part of this marathon day I’m at the busy middle part of the High Street. A man stops to ask where the St. Lawrence church is – there’s part of the guitar festival there today, and this guy’s booked to play some Spanish guitar at it. I’m not, I’m playing the The James Bond Theme out on the street. After 25 minutes Frank, along with his accordion cart and dog come by. I had seen Frank setting up at The Buttercross, just after 9 o’clock, when I had come into town to deposit my hard earned coins into the bank. I reckon he wants to set up here, “Do you want to play, Frank?” “Uh, yeah…there’s two girl singers down at Monsoon”. “You can play here if you want, just give me 5 minutes (time enough for an extended Third Man, just for Frank – who I’m nice to, despite the fact he didn’t give me his Third Man 78 record he found in a skip.
Fifteen minutes later and I’m back down the other end, quite near the outside tables and chairs of the posh Maison Blanc restaurant. An very tall old man approaches – smartly dressed with flat cap, canary yellow jacket, grey slacks with knife edge crease. “That’s real guitar playing – I see you’re doing the bass and the melody – none of this strumming stuff!” I thank him – it’s a great compliment being told I play “real” guitar. I ask him if he plays. “Alto sax. I used to play in the big bands”. “Do you still play?” “Oh no. I had a stroke, but I still blow through it, for twenty minutes every morning – still have the embouchure”, he contorts his mouth. “Right, and when did you stop playing in the bands?” “1960 – about. I’ve done my bit of conducting, too…(waves an invisible baton). I’m 93”. I’m amazed – I wouldn’t have put him past 75. “93! Really? You don’t look it!” “Musicians NEVER die!” I laugh and ask him his name. “Wally Marr – M-A-R-R”. I tell him mine and we shake hands and he walks off, “Toodle-do”, he says.
It’s been a long day, the weather’s been fine – I thought it was going to “start” at one point but it didn’t so I’ve been playing constantly for the whole day, apart from my break. And the money’s been steady, which is good as I needed a good day, what with all the rain stopping play (and pay) a lot recently. However, around 4 o’clock I’ve had enough and my hand needs a rest – I think I’ve strained something in my right thumb by all the hours it’s spent in contact with the back of the guitar neck. I noticed it a few days ago and it’s not gone away. I think it needs a few days rest – I’ll pack up soon but in the meantime, there’s a man who’s been watching me for a while at one of the tables across the way. He’s about 70, white goatee, blue blazer. Now he comes over and puts a £10 note in the bucket and says “thanks”. Of course I thank him profusely and ask if he wants some change – “that’s alot of money, you know!” He dismisses the suggestion with a wave and goes back to his seat. No one knows what it means to a busker to be given a £10 note. It makes the whole day. I was going to pack up but I reckon I owe it to him to stay a bit longer , which turned out to be a good decision, as ten minutes later a woman drops a £5 note in. Incredible – before these two notes, my hourly rate was about £11, now it’s gone up to about £13 – possibly better than Frank’s – he walks by and I ask him how he did. “Well, not bad, but I won’t be a tax exile, not yet”.