Diary Of A Busker Day 140 Friday August 5th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Card Factory, Time: 2:15-5:01pm, 2. opposite Reflex, Time: 5:40-6:05pm, 3. opposite Clarks, Time: 6:12-7:15pm).
A long session – 5 hours, but fortunately financially lucrative, in that the hourly rate worked out at just over £12.
My first visitors are two ladies – Janet, a quite glamourous well preserved specimen, early 60s I reckon and her friend Penny, a few years younger. Janet is the “widow” (girlfriend) of the recently departed Shadows man Jet Harris. I met her mother recently and she asked if I knew any Shadows songs and now her daughter asks the same thing. “No I don’t. It’s mainly because you need a backing group, really. I just do solo instrumental arrangements – for one guitar, although I do try to work out things, if someone mentions a song.” I’ve just thought – I know the riff to Move It, a good bit of early 60s “beat” guitar, so I reel this off – all 5 seconds worth. That’s OK, she says but she would like (and expects) to hear Apache next time. Sure, I’ll see what I can do. These ladies are both from Yorkshire (Barnsley, I think) and althought they like it here, they reckon the people up there are generally more friendly.
An old lady chats to me and asks me “what sort of music would you call that?” “Um…I don’t know. I do a few different styles, you know. I do some Spanish things – the easier ones, a bit of Bach, a lot of Chet Atkins – it’s called fingerstyle.” “Hm, yes” she says, “but I mean it’s easy to listen to – easy on the ears, isn’t it?” “Yeah, I suppose it is. I suppose it’s what they call Easy Listening music. You haven’t got to concentrate on it.” “Well, not Easy Listening, maybe easy-to-listen-to.” “Yeah, like elevator music!” I say. I need one of those Victorian shop signs above me saying Marvin B Naylor – Purveyor Of Easy Listening Music.
The “sad man” from way back at the beginning of the year crosses the road with his son on his shoulders. I’m playing the upbeat, elevator sound of Wheels. “You’re usually playing something cheerful when it’s raining!” he says, as it’s a very bright day. “Yeah, I’ve got it the wrong way around.” “I’m just having my gin and tonic.” he says – he’s holding a Schweppes bottle. “Right, is that a weak one?” “Yeah…oh yeah.” I wonder.
My 64 year old regular Colin arrives with a huge bouquet of flowers and a box. “For me? You shouldn’t have, Colin.” “These are for my housekeeper. I sacked her two months ago, then she came back and did a brilliant job, so I bought her these and a computer, so maybe I’ll get lucky – you never know.” No you won’t.
After almost three hours playing I take a break – to count my money and have my snack in the cathedral grounds…after a few minutes a rough looking man comes up, bends down and says “Are ye the gey ‘oo pleys in the High Street? – ah ken see yer guitar.” “Yeah, I busk there.” After looking at me for a few seconds he says “Yeah, actually I thought ye were someone else but…d’ye mind if ah tek a luuk at yer guitar, ken ah jest pley – ah only know a couple ‘o chords.” It’s plain he’s Scottish and he’s friendly and doesn’t seem drunk, or isn’t much, anyway – he offers me a can of something from his bag, which I decline, so I take my guitar out and hand it to him and say “OK, for a couple of minutes, then I have to go back.” He strums a couple of chords, a C and a G “Ah’ve go’ a daughter, Eleesha…” he says then he sings two lines whch I can’t make out, then “The best thing in this world…is my lettle girl, Eleeesha!” “Yeah! I like that – it’s a nice little tune.” I say. He gives me back my guitar and walks off.
My second session sees me a few yards away from my first – I want a slight change of scenery but I don’t want to be too far away as the money was so good…however I soon decide to leave as I get no money – barely £2 and the noise from all the buses and vans (parking to load all the stuff from the market stalls) seems to be getting louder and louder and I’ve had enough of it.
Although it’s a short stay, it’s long enough for a breif encounter. A guy comes over from across the road, from the Maison Blanc restaurant. I’ve met him twice before, a few months ago. His name is Doug and he’s a dead ringer for the English disc jockey Tony Blackburn* although not quite as old…or as handsome. The first time I met him he was slightly drunk, thought I was great, made out he was an entertainment entrepeneur and promised to “make me”. The second time, he was, as they say, “paralytic”. It was the middle of the afternoon, his face was red and blotchy, he was staggering about, trying to lean against the pillar next to me and making obscene remarks about – and sometimes directed to – young women walking by, all of which he thought would find him attractive. He really thought he was something. Again he promised to make me “a star” – “You know, there’s two ways of making a million (hic)- rob a bank…or get (hic) a million people to give you a quid each…(hic)” He gave me his card, I contacted him, sent a link to a video of one of my singles, he replied saying he’d “get on to it”, then never heard from him.
Now, he’s shaking my hand and asking how I am. “I’m OK. I need work though – I don’t want to be doing this in the winter. Not again – I’m too old!” “You’ll be alright – you’re a survivor.” he says, walking off. Not even contributing a penny. Well Doug, if I had to survive on YOUR contributions, not to mention your promises…I wouldn’t survive long.
Up at my 3rd spot I hope to do better. An old couple walk past. He gives me a coin, they walk on, she comes back, gives me a coin and stops for a chat. Meanwhile he carrys on walking. They’ve just come from hearing a choir in the cathedral, “It was marvellous!” she says. I say I can see her husband disappearing in the distance. “Oh he’s alright…well, God bless you.” “Thanks, um…you too.” She goes off to rejoin him – I reckon he probably doesn’t even know she’s not there.
Marie-Therese, the generous old French lady who never smiles is sitting on a bench nearby. She comes to see me, “I was talking to some people on ze bench. Zay were speaking French, it was (she looks up while cupping her hands) heaven!” She shakes a bit, “I have an incurable…people ask why I shake…I’ve been to confession, I go every three days.” “Every three days? That’s a lot isn’t it?” “Catholic” she says. “Hm, what if you haven’t done anythng wrong?” “You confess your impure thoughts.” “Well, what if…” I start then I decide not to continue with this. She then talks about her son. “My son said to me “Mother, I thank you for my wonderful childhood”.” “Really? Isn’t that nice?” Again I promise to visit her to tune her guitar.
* I once played at an outdoor summer festival with Tony Blackburn compering. He came out, went up to the mic and said to the several hundred festival-goers “How does it feel to have finally met your god?”