Diary Of A Busker Day 189 Thursday January 12th Winchester High Street (opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:35-4:37pm).
For my first half hour, I’m largely ignored (these days, no one ever mentions the articles in the Chronicle – and it was only a few months ago. Instant celebrity, especially of the local variety, is a cruel mistress indeed…). When this happens, I gradually lower my head – in shame and embarassment – until my chin’s almost touching the top of my guitar. I seldom look up. Even Anthony – 73 years “young”, on the hunt for a young, beautiful Russian internet bride, walks by without stopping. Every other time I see him results in a 20 minute guitar lesson. Maybe he’s given up. I’m even ignored by a young guy wearing a Paris – Eiffel Tower T-shirt – and I’m playing La Vie En Rose! – which I think is somewhat out of order. I try and consloe myself – maybe he doesn’t know the song, which is likely, as he’s about 19.
…I’m not ignored by Colin, whose 64th birthday party I played at last year (an uncomfortable affair, as it was a small, private meal, just him, some of his family and me and he threw a tantrum and stormed out). By coincidence he arrives just as I’m finishing When I’m Sixty-Four, his favourite. In fact I learnt it for his party – and it’s now one of my more popular ones, thanks to Colin. He doesn’t look well – he’s unshaven and his right hand’s shaking. He says he thinks he’s falling apart. He says he thinks he’s got Altzeimer’s. I can smell alcohol and ask him if he’s come from the pub. “Well, er…yeah…I’ve had a few drinks, you know, I’m alright…” He’s definately not – he’s had a few when I turned up at his party, just before his tantrum. He goes on – “Someone’s upset me.” “Oh dear, that’s not very nice – at the pub?” “Yeah, I think I’ll get a cab home.” He’s starting to sway. “Yeah, I think you should.”
“Ragtime” Phillip turns up as I’m fumbling my way through Trees – a 1913 poem by George Joyce Kilmer which was later set to music – I like Paul Robeson’s 1939 recording most of all. Mario Lanza and David Whitfield also did it – operatic style. I haven’t seen Phillip in months, not since before I went to India in December – which I tell him a little about*. Phillip’s not very well – he’s got pains in his hands which he’s mentioned to me before. He thinks it’s arthritis – not too good for a guitarist, which he is, and shoulder pains too, so he’s on his way to the doctor’s.
Someone mentioned Take 5 the other day, which I used to do but it’s somehow got left by the wayside. However, I’ve practised it a bit at home – the trouble is if I start it too fast, I blow the second bit, which really needs 3 good fingers on the right hand – with my Focal Dystonia I’ve only got 2. I can just about manage it if I don’t play it too fast – but I DO play it too fast, now. A guy stops to listen – “Steinbeck did that, oh, thirty-four years ago!” “Steinbeck?” I say. (Brubeck, surely!) “Um, yes, wasn’t it?” I leave it and start apologising for my appallingly below par performance – especially of the second bit – “Sorry…it’s too fast…problem with my hand…should be slower, etc…” I attempt (several times) to get it right, during which time I don’t get any money – as this must look like a private guitar lesson. After a few minutes I go back to his “Steinbeck” – “It’s Brubeck, Dave Brubeck, I think ( I know)…who did it, isn’t it?” “Oh yes, it is – in the 60s.” “Um…well, ’59, I believe (I know)…although I’m doing a Chet Atkins arrangement.” “Yes, I know.” “But I need to rehearse it more – sorry!”
…Janet, still (for 60+) glamourous ex-girlfriend of ex-Shadows bassman, the late Jet Harris, walks by and contributes. I decide quickly (and perhaps wisely) not to attempt Apache, which I’m rusty on – she might get emotional, or annoyed if I mess it up. It’s her first year without him. I feel sorry for her…and wonder how her Jet Harris Memorial Fund is doing…
* I went to north-east India – Meghalaya, well off the beaten track – I was the only white man walking in Shillong city centre, and a foot taller than everyone else. The people couldn’t be more helpful, though – I asked a man where I could get some paper. He took me down alleyways, everywhere, till 10 minutes later we arrived at some tiny stall where a guy he knew gave me a big wad of A3 paper for something like 3p. They wouldn’t help you like that in London.