Diary Of A Busker Day 179 Friday November 11th Romsey Market, Time: 10:20-12:20pm, Winchester, opposite Vodafone, Time: 1:25-3:05pm.
My bi-monthly visits to Romsey continue. Albatross is my third song in. A man approaches, “That’s my favourite song!” “Really?!” “Yes, you know, I’ve got a video – it’s just an Albatross, flying, and that music, and it’s spot on!” “Really?” “Yeah.” I don’t know what else to say apart from “I suppose it’s on youtube – your video. I’ll have to have a look.” “Oh yeah, it will be.” He then tells me everything known to man about the Albatross: it’s wingspan – 8 feet, how high it flies – 1ooo feet (although I did ask him this), habits – “it follows the contours of the waves – it’s flapping it’s wings from the moment it’s born – born trying to fly!” “Really? Be good if we could fly, wouldn’t it? Or maybe not.”, I say. “Oh, I’d love to be an Albatross”, he says. “You’re obviously the local authority on Albatross’s, then?” “Oh I love them, I wish I was one…” A nice man – The Albatross Man Of Romsey.
Today is Armistice Day and the lady running the jewellery stall near me is worried. She comes over just after Albatross Man goes off, or rather flys off. “Will you be observing the two minutes silence?” she says. I nod to the poppy I’ve stuck on the end of my guitar, “Oh yes, sure.” “Oh good”, she says and walks away. As if I’m going to blast out The Theme From James Bond while everyone’s stopped and it’s dead quiet. Do they think I’m some kind of heathen – these posh people of Romsey? Then a few minutes later the guy running the antique or “bric-a-brac” stall comes over. “Hi, at ten to eleven, or rather at ELEVEN to eleven, ahem…I’m going to blow this whistle (he’s holding what looks like an authentic First World War trench whistle – they really are going for it here), and, um, was wondering…if you could play something?” “Me? Play something?” “Yes, something like…um… Abide With Me?” “I’m sorry, I don’t know that, sorry.” “Or something, you know, um…warlike?” I think fast. “All I can think of is, um… As Time Goes By – you know, Casablanca? – the war?” “Hm (I thought he’d say that),…like The Last Post, or I suppose that’s not really for the guitar.” We decide I’ll play…nothing. So at ten, or rather eleven to eleven he blows his whistle – there’s loads of church bells going off, anyway, there has been since I’ve been here. People carry on walking around but I stop playing, just in case I offend him. I silently go through Greensleeves…then, at 11 o’clock a big cannon goes off somewhere and everyone stops what they’re doing and freezes – dead in their tracks. It’s completely silent. I’ve never been anywhere on this day when it’s been this quiet, with no movement whatsoever, anywhere about. It’s like in The Prisoner TV series when all the brainwashed inhabitants in The Village suddenly stop dead and the big white balloon (“Rover”) appears, to attack and smother the person trying to escape – the only person moving. I reckon that’s what would happen to me if I try to run off. Also, they’re all standing up apart from me so I’ve got to – sereptitiously and very, very slowly – lean my guitar against the wall and stand up. Tick…tick…I bet it’s not like tis in Winchester High Street, with the babies screaming and dogs and shouting and everything.
After two hours I pack up – I know I haven’t done nearly as well as I usually do so I’m planning to get in a session back home. I say goodbye to Bertie the flowerman, he asks me how I’ve done. “Not too well today.” “It’s the Armistice – they’re all in the churches.” They are – all the old folks, my bread and butter. I make just under £20. Take away the bus fare, leaves me with £13. But I might have got an “engagement” from it – two old ladies are having a party next April and they want me to play: “How much do you charge?” “Um…a hundred pounds?” I’m asking them when I should be telling them. “Oh, we were thinking you’d charge alot more (doh!)…we’ll give you a bit more, anyway.”
On my return to Winchester I’m able to set up at the crossroads – where Market Street crosses the High Street – always a popular spot. Just after I start, Purple God Woman Wendy turns up and stands next to me singing aloud, for twenty long minutes. A teenage girl walks by, Wendy shouts, “Ooh, I like the tassles on your boots – and they show off your nice legs! Ooh, she has nice legs, doesn’t she – I bet that’s why you like being sitting down, at that level, eh? eh?” “Yep, Wendy, you sure got me worked out. How’s my jumper coming along? ” – she said she was knitting me one. “Yes, it’s red though.” “Will it be long enough ? – this one’s too short.” “Oh yes, it’ll cover your bottom.” As she says this she looks me up and down then purses her lips in a naughty Frankie Howerd-like manner. She leaves, eventually – thankfully, then my nice old Italian lady appears. She met me son the other day and gave him £2 which he bought a black cap with. Now she’s bought him a little Christmas present and we spend a few minutes moaning about how people bring their dogs into town to mess up the pavement – and tie them to a post while they go into a shop for half an hour, leaving the dog to go raving mad, barking and trying to kill all the children that go up to pet it.
Earnings: £19.46p – Romsey, £19.48p – Winchester, Expenses: £6.10p – bus fare. Profit: £32.84p.