Diary Of A Busker Day 145 Sunday August 21st Winchester High Street (1. opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:45-4:35pm, 2. opposite Bellis, Time: 4:50-6:40pm).
I set up almost opposite the tables outside the “posh” Maison Blanc restaurant – I’m not normally this far down but today Frank (and his accordion) are outside Debenhams – he must have remembered me saying it was a good place to play, as no other buskers ever seem to go that far down the High Street.
The faith-healer drops by just after I start and proceeds to tell me about everything beautiful in Heaven and Earth and the Pilgrims’ journey from here to Canterbury – “you should do it sometime” and something about John the Baptist. I say I don’t follow any religion. Neither does she, she says – being a Methodist she can choose her own way… She stands next to me with her walking stick and hums along to Jesu, Joy Of Mans’ Desiring which I play for her as she wants something religious. All I know is they play this one alot in churches and at weddings and Jesu sounds alot like Jesus. She would like me to learn some Verdi – they’ve been playing it at the cathedral. Fat chance of that, I reckon, but I say I’ll look into it – she gave me a pound, after all. I ask her name – it’s Wendy – (she is now Purple God Woman Wendy). I tell her mine’s Marvin. “Yes, I know.” I don’t know how she knows – and I don’t want to!
Anthony “still struggling with the guitar” comes by. He broke a string on the guitar I donated to him and the guy at a local music shop charged him £3.75p to replace it – on top of the price of the string. I tell hm that’s outrageous – I’ll do it for nothing next time and I’ll show him how to do it himself. £3.75p – I ask you!
Money-wise, my first session is a disaster – just £10 in almost two hours. I give up/pack up when a market trader parks his van right in front of me to load his stuff in. He apologises, “Really sorry, mate.” I tell him it’s OK, I was going anyway. Session two is up at the other end of the High Street, near WH Smiths. Ther..e aren’t many about now but I do much better than where I’ve just been. I can hear someone on a harmonica somewhere but it’s not too loud. I play Albatross* – the Fleetwood Mac instrumental from 1969, which I’ve learnt for Brenda who I met with her husband Keith a few days ago. They’ll be back in Winchester on Friday. This Albatross is turning out to be a “money-spinner”, as they say, (which is something I could do with right now) and as it has an improvisatory feel, which lends itself well to the occasional extension – I manage to drag it on to the 10 minute mark – while watching a big brown dog run around frantically, it’s head to the ground, huge tongue licking up any bits of old food and God knows what else from the pavement, probing particularly the cracks between the paving stones, which I find quite sickening. Dogs can’t do this when there’s lots of people about so this one’s making the most of it, I reckon.
Near the end, the “Drongo” who I donated a chocolate bar to the other day (donated to me, earlier) comes out of the Cafe Nero opposite and sits down next to me. He has two paper cups of water with ice. “Had a good day?” he asks. “Not really. It’s a bit better up here, though. What about you?” “Terrible. I’ve made 6p in four hours.” “You should learn a guitar, or something.” “I have a mouth organ – I was playing around the corner.” It was him I heard earlier!
* Albatross – A good set addition. Most people know it, (which means money – whether it’s played well or not)), it’s not too tiring on the hands and can be extended, or shortened! to suit my “needs”. It’s also, contrary to what many think, not too difficult to play – most of the song is in “E”, which can be played with the right hand thumb (supplying the hypnotic bass end) striking the open low string while the other (higher) parts can be played with the right hand forefinger, striking adjacent strings. Technicalities aside, Albatross is one of those “songs” that I’m not sure if I like or not – mournful, hypnotic or tedious and annoying – I’m not sure – both maybe. However, I’m out here to make money. During my first session I was talking to a man who came across a saxophonist busker in Brighton. He asked how he was doing. The busker said not too well – no one was giving any money. The guy asked if he played Baker Street. He said “No, I used to but I hate it – I don’t want to play stuff I don’t like.” My man said “Just play it now, just once.” He did, and immediately the money poured in. Learning a few songs you may not like (or in the case of Albatross, are undecided about), but that everyone else knows, is a small price to pay. Musical prostitution is certainly acceptable – in moderation.