Diary Of A Busker Day 137 Friday July 29th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Zoo Jewellery, Time: 11:58-1:58pm., 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:55-5:35pm.)
I return to the High Street after a break of 5 days – to give my thumb a rest, however it doesn’t seem to have been a long enough break but I can’t not play – I need the “dough”, however little sometimes. I head on down to the far end to warm up, which will take a couple of hours today.
A man with a camera starts filming me – at first I think he’s just taking a photo and can’t get it right, but it’s taking a long time. I keep my head down, as it’s becoming quite annoying. I’m also frustrated as I haven’t had any coins – not from him or anyone else for sometime, but I’m trying to ignore all this. After a couple of more minutes I can see he’s still there, out of the corner of my eye. I don’t mind someone doing this but I think they should ask first! I look up, he says “I’m just filming you for five minutes”, it throws me off, I lose concentration and make a mistake which makes me very angry – “Yeah, and now you’ve made me forget what I’m playing!” He disappears.
A man who I’ve seen before – not often enough to be honoured with “regular” status, has been listening to my Yellow Bird from across the street. He comes over, “What’s that?” he says, after he hums the melody to not Yellow Bird but Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring. I tell him what he’s humming. He says “I can play it with one hand on the Joanna, but I’m not ambidexterous – I can’t do the other one. I heard you play down there (points to Marks And Spencer) the other day and you were f****** brilliant.” I’d rather he didn’t use a swear word alongside a complimentary adjective but thank him all the same and say I’ll play it for him. I need to lower one string…”OK, I’ll play it now.” “I’ll go over there (across the street) to get the full effect (he raises his hands to his ears)”. I play for about a minute, with my head down, but when I look up he’s disappeared into the distance! Talk about a short attention span.
For whatever reason (maybe I’m not playing too well) the money’s not coming in – when I go for my break in the Cathedral grounds I count £10.88 for 2 hours playing – that’s terrible. Heading back to the High Street after a longer than usual break of 45 minutes I chat to Marie-Therese, the old French lady and we watch a couple of 6 year olds breakdance (I believe it’s called) in front of The Buttercross. There is a crowd of about 30 watching them.
After this amusing distraction (they’ve got more money than I’ve got today) I decide to brave the more populated middle area of the High Street, near the top end where there are thousands about, mainly French, Italian and Spanish students it seems. In fact, they’ve taken over, and they’re loud. They’re so loud I even turn my amp up a notch. So, thousands of people – students, old folks, young folks, people visiting, people who live here. Thousands, yet hardly anyone donates. It’s weird, like a collective miserly cloud has descended…then the saviour of my afternoon, an old lady who gives me a £5 note. I’m eternally grateful and tell her how hardly anyone’s given me anything. “Oh well” she says, “I’m a Londoner, you know – I’ve seen you alot, I always give you something. My dear old mum used to play the piano – played for Max Bygraves.” “Really?” “Oh yes.” “Well, thank you very much – what’s your name?” “Lilly – like the flower.” “I’ll remember that – it was my grandmother’s name, one of them.” “Yes, Lilly – Lilly Wilder, like the movie chap.”
Mick, my “end of the day Waitrose discount food vulture” drops by as I’m finishing off The Rain Song. He thinks it’s quite nice and had no idea it was by Led Zeppelin. “It’s a strange tuning” I say. “Yeah, ‘course alot of Polynesian songs are in a different tuning. It’s all major 7ths and major 6ths, y’know. All that steel guitar music, they tune to a major 7th chord…” I tell Mick that I learnt The Rain Song off a youtube video. Mick says he learnt a bit of Tarrega’s Requerdos de la Alhambra off youtube. I interrupt, “Whoa! You mean you can play that?” “Yeah.” I almost said I’d like to hear him play it right here but the thought depressed me – I can’t ever see me being able to play this – one of the greatest pieces of music. “…but I can’t do the stuff you do.” “If you can play Requerdos, you can play anything I do, Mick!” He gives me a tip for keeping the fingernails pliable for classical/Spanish guitar playing – “Rub on some melted cheese – smear it all over them, really rub it in. It’s a bit smelly but it works, trust me.”