Diary Of A Busker Day 163 Friday September 30th Romsey (market, Time: 10:37-12:40pm, 1:45-3pm), Winchester High Street (1. opposite Winchester Bus Station, Time: 4:05-4:35pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 4:45-5:45pm).
Finally, after months of pondering, I decide to take up Bertie’s (formerly flower seller of Winchester, now flower seller in nearby Romsey) suggestion of busking in his new patch. This involves getting a coach from the train station, then a half hour coach ride through the countryside, arriving at Romsey at 10:25am. The centre of Romsey is compact and I have no trouble finding Bertie – his stall’s about 30 seconds from the bus station. He and another stall owner have a discussion about where the best place for me to set up would be. They reckon next to the door of a department store a few yards away – all the stalls are very close. The Georgian facade of the Corn Exchange is diagonally across. As I haven’t played here before, I’m a bit nervous and as noted, I’m very close to the market stalls – something I’m not keen on.
…I begin (rather meekly) with a very quiet Edelweiss. and…I need not have worried – people are friendly, and generous. There are a lot of old people – no young ones apart from a few children with parents. I soon settle in. One of Bertie’s stall mates comes over, “Do you do requests?” I show him my song list, “This is all I know – what’s down here.” He wants me to play a song by Killing Joke – he’s a joker, this guy.
Bertie comes over and holds up a pound coin, “I’ve got a coin, it’s got James Bond written on it.” “I was going to miss Bond out today, Bertie – it’s more quiet and mellow than Winchester, but…since you’re going to pay me…” Two ladies with a child (each) come up and I’m sure I’ve seen one of the ladies in Winchester. They want me to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I did this a few weeks ago. There’s about five notes in it and I think I’ve almost memorised it – it’s the simple things that are the most difficult. I play it slowly – halfway through, the kiddies start singing along. “What’s your name?” I ask the boy. “It’s David, he’s Spanish – Da-vid, and Victoria”, the lady says. “We’ve seen you in Winchester – you do a samba, do you?” “A samba? Hm…oh yeah – Deve Ser Amor!” – a song I never get a request for. I play it then ask if there’s a park where I can have my lunch. They tell me there’s Romsey Abbey with a green bit in front, just around the corner. Before I go, I meet another Winchester person – the lady who keeps giving me the faulty DVDs of the guy who was stung by Five Box Jellyfish. She’s suddenly there in front of me. “Oh, hello – I’m sorry, I haven’t seen it yet, but now I’ve seen you, it’ll remind me – I’ll watch it soon.” She hands me a pamphlet – New Age, from a Biblical Viewpoint. “Do you read things like this?” she says. “I’ll read anything. I’ll read it on the coach back home.”
After two hours I pack up. I reckon I’ve done alright – I might go home after my lunch and do a couple of hours in Winchester. I see Bertie and say they’re nice people here. “Yeah, very old-fashioned. This is what Winchester used to be like – mind, if you’d been blasting out with the guitar, they would have given you the heave-ho.”
I find the abbey, sit down in the middle of the grass bit in front and count the money – £33.90, take away the £6.10p bus fare, £27.80p – not bad for two hours. I have my packed lunch, during which the bells start up – there’s a wedding on – a banner nearby says “Good luck Mary Beard and Neale Turner.” I bet she’s relieved she’s changing her name. After my lunch, I stand up and look around. I see some strange shape just above the horizon – about two miles away. Some kind of machinery which looks like it’s floating, not making any sound. I think it might be a UFO. After straining my eyes for ten munutes or so, I realise it’s a spotlight mechanism from a sports ground – I just couldn’t see the pole holding it up.
I walk back to the market and decide to get another (short) set in before the next coach. I see an inscription, by William Waller on the pavement –
“Aloof, Lord Palmerston looks down.
Upon the ceaseless traffic in the town.
Inscrutable as the Egyption Sphynx.
I sometimes wonder what he really thinks.”
I say hello to Bertie and set up in the same place as before. After awhile a man comes up – a local “character”, I reckon. “I like what you do”, he says, bending down with his hands on his knees. “I play a little myself (I thought he might)…Country and Western, though – not what you do. D’you mind if I just do a little something?” As I’ve had a good day and I’m in a good mood, and he’s a friendly bloke, I let him have a pick (plectrum) and he sits down and strums through some old country number. “That’s good – what was it?” “The Sunny Side Of Life – The Carter Family, now they really WERE hillbillys, y’know? – like Jed Clampett and that lot. You come here often?” “I’m from Winchester – it’s my first time here.” I ask his name. “Bob – Bob Patience, as in the virtue.” “Bob Patience – that’s a good name for a country singer.” Bob Patience goes off…and returns half an hour later (I’m still here – I’ll have to get the next bus). “I’ll be lookin’ out for you!” he warns me. “Yeah, I’d like to see alot more of you”, he says, reiterating the threat.
After a bit more playing – and Bertie’s mate asking again for the Killing Joke song – I decide to pack up. I don’t want to outstay my welcome, as it were, not on my first visit anyway. I say goodbye to Bertie and a lady stall owner waves goodbye. I get the 3:15 back to the big city, and half an hour later I’m there. I’m like Phil Collins at Live Aid – the X66* is my Concorde. On arrival, I walk up the High Street, and it’s full of buskers, and beggars/drongos blowing into harmonicas. Even the Debenhams spot – where there is never anyone – is taken – by a guy who I’d said to just the other day – “no one ever goes there, apart from me.” Now he’s there! And with a loud amplifier. The only place I can go is opposite the bus station entrance – where I’ve just come out of. I start up and an old woman walks by, pointing to her ears then holding her hands up. Am I too loud? Is she deaf? After a few minutes of no one giving any money, I look around and see alot of people gesticulating – somewhat manically – at the top of the steps, outside the front of the Guildhall, to my right. I look…and realise they’re using sign language, as are most of the people walking by. There must be some conference for the deaf today. No one can hear me! No wonder I’m not getting anything. I pack up – after wiping a load of bird droppings off my song book. What a triumphant return.
Walking up the street, I manage to bag the busy spot at the crossroads, opposite the Vodafone shop. But people aren’t giving. Some grubby kid, about 8, with a blonde “mullet” leans against the wall next to me. “Is that a rock star guitar?” he says. “What?” He says again, “Is that a rock star guitar?” “Well if I was a rock star, it WOULD be, wouldn’t it?” He touches the vibrato arm on my guitar. “What’s that?” “It makes it sound wobbly, see…”, I play something and wobble the arm. He goes around to the other side and gets hold of a tuning peg (machine head), “What’s this?” “NO! Don’t touch that!” Then his mother turns up and drags him off, not bothering to compensate – by a small payment – the annoyance her little pikey brat has caused me.
Earnings: £56.55p (£47.18p – Romsey + £9.37p – Winchester = £56.55p)
Expenses: £6.10p (Bus fare)
* “Seating 45 or 44 plus
1 wheelchair user
Standing 25 or
42 seating 34 standing”