Diary Of A Busker Day 162 Wednesday September 28th Winchester High Street (1. opposite WH Smiths, Time: 11:08-1:15pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:40-5:20pm).
A warm, sunny day finds good citizens of Winchester in a collectively generous mood – for most of the day. The coins flow plentifully right from the start. One of my nameless old lady regulars asks if I know My Old man’s A Dustman and a Jim Reeves song, and I’m afraid it’s no…and no, although I used to actually sing(!) I Love You Because in a duo, many moons ago.”Oh – that’s my favourite! My and my husband’s – he’s not here anymore.”
Ian, my well-spoken/mannered regular drops by. “Your sound – it brings such joy to people”, he gushes. “I do my best, Ian. I really do.” “Know any Spanish music?” “Some of the easier ones. La Paloma – do you know that one? it’s quite “poppy”.” “Yes, but everybody knows it – yes, do play it.” During the course of playing it, Ian’s wife turns up. At the end, he says “You’re playing La Paloma – The Dove, about a bird, and now (looking at his wife), I’m talking to a bird!” “An old bird”, says his wife. I pick up the gauntlet, “Yeah, and now, as I’m in the right tuning, I’m going to play Yellow Bird.”
Later, an old lady gives me a pound and bemoans the state of people’s attire. “I’ve seen just one elegant lady today. I don’t mean to kvetch, but” “Hold on”, I interupt, “What’s that? What does that mean?” Kvetch. She has to spell it out for me and explain – it’s a Jewish word for moan. “I agree with you – people don’t make an effort. I was walking in Bath last week and I swear I was the only man wearing a suit and tie, apart from a really old guy in the supermarket.” “Well, I know you’re always smart (I am)…your shoes shiny (they are).” Burgundy brogues today.
After two hours I have a break. On the way to the cathedral, I come across Frank, opposite Vodafone. “How have you been, Frank?” “Yeah, I wasn’t going to come out today – but it’s a good day and it’s supposed to snow next week, so…I’ve made about fifteen pounds an hour – and a bit.” “How long have you been here?” “Just an hour and a bit.” A lot longer than that – I could see him already playing when I arrived up the road more than two hours ago.
During my break I do something I’ve never done before out here – I smoke my pipe. I have some mixture I bought from a tobacconist in Bath. And, for the first time, my snack includes a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a favourite from the childhood days in Canada. Indeed, I reflect that today is full of “firsts”. During my 1st set, I was given a donation by a member of the clergy – a clergywoman. A first, although many with the white collar pass me – only today has one given me anything. In fact I was beginning to wonder if it was something to do with the religion. And today is also the first time a woman has breastfed her baby – on the bench opposite, whilst I’ve been playing. And the first time I’ve brought along a book to read – a collection of short stories of Guy de Maupassant.
Purple God Woman Wendy drops by at the start of my 2nd set – to tell me she’s made a start on the tank top she’s knitting for me. “But it’s going to have a different design on it – not what you think.” It’s not going to have a huge cross on, I hope. Wendy’s not very purple today, apart from her shoes. She’s wearing a red cotton hat with a small metal badge with a strawberry on the front. I’m playing my Bach piece – Jesu, Joy O Man’s Desiring. Wendy likes classical music – it makes her go all tingly, she says. “All tingly? What do you mean?” “Well, it makes my legs and feet tingle. I have to sit with my legs apart – ooh.” “Oh my goodness, what? Anyway, what about Chopin – he’s my favourite composer, do you like him?” “Ooh yes”, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes! “Ooh, he makes me go all tingly and wobbly – I have to put my legs apart.” I think Wendy has been living on her own for too long, complaining to the local newspaper about the local council, and going nuts.
72 year old Anthony is here. The guitar I gave him has been tuned by a lady he knows and the notes don’t correspond with his piano. I offer to tune it. “Will you be here in an hour?” he says. “I’m not sure. I can tune it now, if you get it.” He lives not five minutes away. “OK”, he says…and fifteen minutes later he’s back and it seems the lady’s tuned his guitar two semitones higher than it should be. But fear not my good man, for I am Marvin – the street guitar surgery doctor and I shall fix it and demand no consultation fee…
Surprise! I look in my bucket and see a £5 note – wonders never cease today – but feel angry with myself for not noticing from whence this came – I would have thanked whoever it was and, of course asked if they required change. As I’m holding the note, a lady passing says “Well, you won’t get a fiver from me – but you’re too young for The Harry Lime Theme!”, as that was what I was playing – another result for the old favourite.
People are friendly today – even the guy who works in the Vodafone shop comes out and gives me a pound, “You play Albatross, don’t you?” “Yeah, I played it about an hour ago but I’ll play it again, now, if you like.” Many people like Albatross – it’s a real money spinner – always, apart from later on.
I was going to head off home after my 2nd set but decide to take advantage of the extraordinary generosity and return for a final set – after another break where I relax with another bowlful of Black Cherry while watching a beggar makes the rounds – going up to all the groups of people sitting on the grass and asking for money. He finally gets to me. “It’s a lovely day, innit?”, he says. “Yep, very nice”, I agree, taking my pipe out of my mouth. “Hey, you’re a busker! Got any change?” I look at him, my pipe back in my mouth, and I don’t answer. “It’s a good deed”, he says. “What is?” I say. He loses patience, “You gonna help me out or what?” he says. “No.” A few minutes later, I must have felt guilty, as, coming across another beggar, in the alley way, I give him a pound. I know him, “You’re Otto, aren’t you?” “Yeah, that’s right.” Otto put a pound in my bucket the other day, now he’s got it back.
Back on the High Street I’m hoping to rake in a bit more – I’ve got half an hour, then it’ll be 6:30 – after that, it’s a ghost town. So, judging by the day’s rate, I should make about £12. It doesn’t happen. Only one person donates – in the whole half hour. You never can tell what’ll happen out here. Nothing happens – apart from an Irish guy who comes up and says “What size is your wrist?”, then produces and offers me a bracelet he found on the street. I decline the offer.