Diary Of A Busker Day 182 Monday November 21st Winchester High Street (1. opposite The Body Shop, Time: 11:20-1:27pm, 2. opposite O2, Time: 2:22-5pm).
A lady says her husband’s got a guitar just like mine. I bet he hasn’t got a tank top/jumper like mine – unless he’s a hundred years old. Five young guys come by while I’m playing Mr. Sandman, and wait. At the end, one asks if I can play James Bond. Actually, he doesn’t ask, he just says “play James Bond!” He must have heard me do it before, and they seem friendly enough so I oblige…and they give me some money and I tell them a joke I heard the other day: Q. Have you heard about the new 007 Viagra? A. It makes you Roger Moore. They don’t seem to get it – I reckon they’ve never heard of him, being an old Bond.
A man – another bloke who I’ve seen a few times but don’t know his name, comes by with his son(?). He thinks I’m really good and has remembered me telling him about my hand condition – Focal Dystonia – which has rendered two fingers practically useless. He’s got a good memory – I don’t remember telling him! Well, apparently the darts guy, Eric Bristow, had something like that. He couldn’t let go of the dart.
In my break, I visit the toilet and notice, yet again, there is no soap in the dispensers. I must have “a word” with Mr. Budd – the “cheif sanitary supervisor” about this. I reckon he’s paying more attention to the habits of his female clients (Day 138) than the upkeep of the facilities in the Gents…
…after the toilet, I take a walk up to The Buttercross – the area where I’m thinking of doing my second session. The saxophone busker is packing up. I could just about hear him during my first set but he wasn’t half as loud as some sax buskers I could mention. I chat to him for a bit. His name’s Ian. He used to busk in Bournemouth which happens to be where I was, ahem…born. But it’s rubbish now, he says. All the old people go out of town now, to the big super/hyper/mega markets. There’s just alot of mobile phone shops in the town now. Like here, I say. “The demographics change – you’ll have to learn some drum and bass”, he says. We talk about how unpredictable busking is. I say one of the few things you can count on is that no one gives money when it rains. Then Ian says that one of his best days was when it was pouring down! So there you go. Ian’s a friendly bloke and not an “in your face” busker, which I can’t abide.
Just after I start my second set, a lady comes up and asks if I can play Happy Birthday to her husband who’s in some shop nearby. I say OK, but “it’ll have to be instrumental only – I don’t sing, not even Happy Birthday.” She says OK, she’ll be back (with him) in an hour “so you’ve got an hour to rehearse it.”
…I’m momentarily annoyed as I notice someone’s put some chewed chewing gum on the top of my amplifier. Coward. …”Play James Bond!” – it’s those blokes again, in fact they come back later on, shouting the same thing. …I meet Grace, who’s old and heard me many times before. “I’ve never given you money but so enjoy your music. I never seem to have any change…but (rumaging around her purse)…I’ve got some now.” She goes on about Edmundo Ros (I was playing Yellow Bird): “He was wonderful. Half and half, you know. A lovely man, must have been…” “Early 1950s, wasn’t he?” I say. “Oh yes, before The Beatles…and all that bang bang music, you know.” And Grace remembers Alfie, the piano busker who died not long ago: “Oh!, he was a real gentleman. He played at (some “do” she helped organise), and afterwards he wrote us a letter – a real gentleman’s letter. And he wasn’t like some of these beggars.” “No – he was a good player.” Alfie wasn’t a beggar/busker, he was a musician/busker – two very different things. “…always friendly and said nice things – commented on my clothes…a real gentleman.” “Yeah, he was.” “He collapsed, I think”, she says. “Yeah, he had a stroke or a heart attack.” “Oh, and he had a brother…oh well, it’s nice to meet you, what’s your name?…” Grace is very chatty, but seems quite nervous. I reckon it takes a bit of courage for some to come up and talk to buskers. I bet she’s wanted to come up for awhile.
…a High Street Drongo looks in my bucket. “How’s it goin’?” he says. “Yeah – OK.” I say. “You couldn’t buy us a beer?” He’s right – “No!” Old guy Anthony, who’s learning the guitar drops by: “So you only strum the strings you play the melody with?” “Yes, but you don’t strum them, you pick them – the strings, individually.” “Yes, and you strum, or pick, only the strings you fret?” “Yes, and the open strings, if you’re playing some of the melody with them.” “So, I can’t get how the two hands correspond with each other.” “Well, if you fret a note with your left hand, you have to pluck it with your right – not like the piano where you’ve the two hands operating independant of each other: each hand can sound a note on it’s own. That’s what’s confusing you, isn’t it?” “Yes.” I feel sorry for Anthony – he’s really trying. I reckon I’m going to have to visit his house and give him a private lesson.
…at about 4 o’clock I’m starting to wonder what’s happened to the lady who wants me to play Happy Birthday to her husband…and at 4:30 I’ve had enough of busking – my hands are losing concentration and I want to head off but I don’t want her to turn up and not be here. She eventually appears, with her husband (who doesn’t look like he’s enjoying his big day), so I launch into Happy Birthday. He looks really embarrassed and not at all amused. Anyway, she puts five pound coins in my bucket, which is brilliant, so I play it two more times but he’s not into it at all. I don’t blame him. “He’s seventy years old”, she says. “Oh well, I’M getting there, you know”, I say. “Are you? How old are you?” “Um, forty-nine.” After they drift off, I play for a bit longer but I’m pretty well all “busked-out” by 5 o’clock, when the girl from the bakery comes out to shout “pound a pasty at Presto” – she doesn’t shout it, so much as mutter it, in a normal voice – not like the young bloke (who could have been a town crier), he’s working behind the counter at the Post Office at the back of WH Smiths now. For once I go for it, and get a “traditional large” one – just what you need after a hard day’s busking.