Diary Of A Busker Day 166 Wednesday October 12th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Phase Eight, Time: 11:20-12pm, 2. opposite Card Factory, Time: 12:25-3pm, 3. opposite WH Smiths, Time: 3:45-4:25pm).
I’m feeling brave – I start the day in the busy part of the street. Not long into Ol’ Man River, a man, about 60, walking by says, “Mind if I join in?” He looks OK so I say “Sure – if you can do it in this key.” I’m not good enough to adapt my key to him, and it’s too early in the day for all that – it’s too difficult! He’ll have to fit in with me. He joins in – he does a few lines. It sounds alright. I have to slow down a bit – he’s trying to do it Paul Robeson style. After a minute he thanks me and wanders off. I’m here just under an hour – I decide to move somewhere else when some dope-smoking students – one, dressed as a tiger, deliberately tries to annoy me (he succeeds) by strumming over me as he walks by – make camp on The Buttercross.
…a few minutes later, I’m back at the other end of the High Street…and soon joined by local “drongo”, Otto, who’s wearing face paint and a scarf tied around his head with two feathers sticking out of it. “Hey! Pley some rock ‘n roll!” “I don’t play rock ‘n roll, Otto – you know that.” “Yeah – pley Chuck Berry!” He’s out of it, more than usual today. “Here, I’ll play Albatross, OK?” He sits down next to me for ten minutes, then goes off.
A couple see me from across the road and come over. They’re down from Liverpool, for three days. Like every Liverpudlian bloke between 65 and 70, he used to be in a skiffle group in the late 50s. I ask him if he knew The Quarrymen – John Lennon’s group. He says he knew them all, including a guy named Odie Taylor, who had an all black skiffle group. This man’s group was called Tonto. “Tonto means “idiot” in Spanish”, he says, then tells me a joke – “Tonto and the Lone Ranger were surrounded by Indians. The Lone Ranger says, “We’ve had it now”, Tonto says, “Speak for yourself, white man!”.” During this, Otto returns and again plonks himself next to me. After the joke, he says, “Hey! I have a joke, yeah? There once was a fellow from Itchen, who pulled out his balls in the kitchen. His mother said Jack, if you don’t put them back, I’ll stand on them an’ squish ’em.” With that, my scouse couple look at him in a strange way, then, to me. “OK mate – it was nice to meet you. Keep playin’, yeah?”, and are off.
A man comes by, “Do you do requests?” “If it’s on my list, I can do it.” He wants Perfidia – so…no, but I write it down. He asks alot of questions – how long have I been playing? Does it pay – doing this?… Fifteen minutes later and he’s annoying me…then he says “Are you retired?” This really DOES annoy me – I don’t look THAT old, surely. “Look, I’ve got to start playing again and, no, I’m not retired – this is what I do!” He wants to know where I drink. I tell him I can’t afford to go out drinking – I’m still recovering after paying £3.65p for a pint last week – I can’t afford that, I say. “Sure you can!” he says. “What? NO, I CAN’T!”
My Third Man prompts a womn to cross the road – TO me, not away. “We were there when they filmed that (The Third Man, filmed in Vienna), my husband was in the air force.” “Really? In 1949?” “Yes, when the film crew was there. Just hearing that (my rendition) brought it all back.”
I take a break in the cathedral grounds, plonk my bag down and soon after notice an obnoxious odour. I’ve plonked my bag on some dog poo – freshly laid, it seems. I spend awhile dragging my bag along the grass, trying to get it off -and it’s on my shoes, as well…
I was going to go home, but after counting my money – a poor hourly rate, decide to do another session. A few minutes in and it’s Otto again – who I’d passed in the alley way just around the corner. He’d obviously heard me start up and decided to join me. “Hey – pley some rock ‘n roll!” I’m not in a very good mood – I can still smell the dog poo, it’s still there on my shoes and bag, the money’s not been good, and I’m tired of busking today. “No, Otto! No rock ‘n roll!” Just then a man turns up – the same one who said “Don’t mess with Bach” after my Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring rendition recently. He works with the Salvation Army and knows Otto. “Come on, Otto – leave the man alone. Come on, we’ll go up the road, shall we?” After a bit, Otto stands up, pulls out a load of change from his trouser pocket. “Well, Otto – the price of beer gone down, then?”, says the man. Otto holds his hand well above my bucket and lets the coins drop. “I don’t want your money, Otto!”, I say and I pick it out and give it back. The man leads him away and comes back on his own a few minutes later. “He’s alright – Otto. Not like some of the others, who’d have that (my bucket) away, no problem.” “Yeah – I know Otto. I see him alot, especially today! I know he wouldn’t do that.” “He’s ex-army, alot of them are like that – they fall apart after they leave…”
The end of the day, and after 45 minutes, it starts to rain, and the idiot stoned students return – plonking away at The Buttercross, so, after an unusually loud James Bond Theme, I’ve had enough and head home, in the rain…