Diary Of A Busker Day 184 Thursday December 1st Winchester High Street (1. opposite Card Factory, Time: 12:10-1:45pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 2-2:30, 2:45-3:15pm).
I’ve had a week off – it’s been cold, windy and wet most days, but today’s fine. I head on down to Debenhams – to warm up (I reckon the sound of the buses will drown out my mistakes), then maybe do a session up the road. It’s a long time before my first “customer”, about 15 minutes in, then…Otto arrives. Otto – ex-army High Street “drongo”. I have to say he’s looking a great deal more healthy than usual – and there’s no war paint on his face. He certainly looks better, he doesn’t smell it, though. He sits down on my right, produces his harmonica and blows into it (while I’m playing Yellow Bird), but I can barely hear him. “I’ve had a drink – I ken hev one af ah feel lak it, can’t ah?” “You sure can, Otto!” “Pley Chuck Berry!” (I was waiting for that). “Oh, alright…” I switch on my treble pickup and do the usual Chuck Berry intro. “Yeah! Pley it!” I play it again…and he wants to hear it again. “I’ve got to play something else, Otto, OK!” “O-key…play Albatross.” I played it at the start of my set but I can play it again, after I tune two strings up…then “Pley Chuck Berry!” “You just said Albatross!” “Chuck Berry, rock ‘n roll – give us a blast!” “Right, for the last time, then I’ve got to do something else, OK?” “Chuck Berry!” I start it, then after the riff, “Wey down in Louisana!, close ta New Orleans!…” he belts it out. “OK, Otto! I’ve got to do something else, OK?” “Yeah, yeah…sorry.” “No, you’re alright.” “Hey, d’you want a drink, pal?” “No thanks, I never do, not out here.” “Wha? Don’t ye like ta drink?” “Yeah, sure, not out here though – I’ll forget stuff!” “o-key, see ya.” He’s off.
I play As Time Goes By – an old man crosses the road and gives me a coin. I thank him, then leaning in real close, like a lot of old men seem to do, he says “That’s As Time Goes By” – big smile on his face, just to remind me of the name of the song I’m playing, in case I’ve forgotten! “Yep”, I say, confirming it – “from 1931” and as I’m about to say something like “but it only got really famous after Casablanca, in 1942”, but he’s off, down the street.
I’ve had a fairly good hour and a half – made £16. I pack up and take a break…and find there’s still no soap in the dispensers in the “gents”. I decide to complain – to Mr. “John”, cheif sanitary attendant/officer. He’s in his little office on the ground floor, just next to the entrance. “Yeah, it’s on order.” “On order?” “Yeah, on order – they keep sayin’, I know – it’s been like that for a month. They’re a cheap company.” “Ah, right – says it all.” “They’re rubbish – and everyone complains to ME!” “Yeah – they will. Not your fault, though.” “Well, no.” Occupational hazard, Mr. “John” , cheif toilet guy.
I walk about the High Street for a bit. There’s a man covered in silver paint, taking a cigarette break in a doorway at The Buttercross. He’s a “street artist”, and I don’t reckon the word “artist” can be used in a more abused way – his “art” requiring him to stand very still for some minutes at a time. …I set up at the crossroads, two young blokes come by; “Can you play Cavatina?” I’ve been lazy with this one and haven’t played it for a long time -I tell them. One says he’ll give me a fiver – he’s got it in his hands. After a while “umming”, as it were, he puts it in the bucket. Right, I’ve got to play it now! I apologise for the mistakes I’m about to make, then do it…and manage to get through it, apologising again – while playing, for missing out the weird, somewhat discordant middle bit, which I never do anyway – because I haven’t learnt it! Actually, I’m pleased they asked for it – I needed to do it just once, and a fiver is a fiver. And afterwards an Italian lady who was listening somewhere, comes up; “You good! You sell cds? No? You make seven thousand pound! People buy for Christmas! But no cds – too late now! Listen, you play in Italy – you get famous! You play Carnegie Hall!” “Carnegie Hall?! That’s in America!” I say, interupting her incredibly embarrasing praise for me. “You play there – you play everywhere – in Rome – you play like that in Rome, you good!” It wasn’t that good.
It starts to rain, I pack up and head up the road, past a loud saxophone busker who’s taking some shelter just inside the covered bit – a bit further on from where I was. He’s playing Fly Me To The Moon over a backing track – the sod.
Earnings: £30.27p (plus a US nickel – 5 cents, and a Jammie Dodger from a High Street Drongo)