Diary Of A Busker Day 192 Wednesday January 25th Winchester High Street (opposite Card Factory, Time: 1-2:15pm).
The weather has been “bad” the last week so I haven’t been out and it’s another grey day today, but at least it’s dry. I pass a young lady (20s) at The Buttercross, singing into a mic with a small amplifier/backing track – I think it’s At Last by Etta James, the famous American singer who died a few days ago. I’ll go for the crossroads spot…which, as I’m approaching, looks empty, but just as I plonk my stuff down, there’s a familiar sound – of the amplified faux-Irish “Twiddle-de-de” variety which can only mean one thing – it’s Guy and some of his folk franchise. Which indeed it is – him, a flute (flautist) and a violin, or rather fiddle (fiddleist). They’re blasting away just beyond this point, where the road gets wider, which is why I didn’t see them. They were obviously having a break tweedle-de-de-ing. This leaves me with no choice but to go down to Debenhams…
…and the money’s real slow. After an hour and a bit I’ve had enough – and the constant queues of buses, stopping in front of me, waiting to turn the corner, are getting on my nerves. I have to stop playing as they’re louder than me. It’s a waste of time. In fact although there are people about, this is one of the worst sessions ever – I count £4.38p for 75 minutes non-stop playing. I decide to walk up the street to see if there’s any other place now free – I can’t hear Guy’s group anymore – I could still hear them a bit when I was playing, maybe I can get there…but when I walk up, there are already two others, a few yards down, with amplified guitar and drum banging out Ring Of Fire. And I can see Frank accordion-ing it up, a bit further up near the covered bit. There’s also another person who’s appeared on the scene – a young, curly-haired bloke standing in the middle of the road holding a piece of paper with FREE HUGS written on it. I stroll up to Frank, who’s decided to take a break…and moan about Guy: “I ‘ad a go at him the other day – ‘e was takin’ a break AND playin’ ‘is cds at the same time…” “Hm, yeah, that’s not on, is it Frank?” There’s a sudden stirring from under a blanket on the top of Frank’s home-made cart. It’s his dog, Kazoo. It quite surprises me – I didn’t even know she was there, I say to him. “Yeah, she’s been running around like crazy today. I sometimes get people, racing people – sayin’ I should take ‘er along to the races but I know I’d never see ‘er again!” “How old is she?” “Seven years.” “What’s that in human years?” “Oh, about 45, 50, you multiply it by seven, but they don’t do it like that any more, I don’t think. Anyway, she probably couldn’t run a race now.” I don’t doubt it, I’d find it hard running a race, too.
During our conversation, the “free hugs” guy’s been doing alright – it’s mainly young people, blokes as well as girls partaking. I’m curious and decide to ask him why he’s doing it, apart from the almost certain fact that it’s something connected with college/university. Definately. As I approach he puts his arms out to hug me, “No, it’s ok, you don’t have to do that!” I say I’m curious – why is he standing out in the cold in the middle of the road with a sign saying “free hugs”? “It’s for a project.” “Ah, a college project perhaps?” “Yeah, we’re supposed to do something we wouldn’t normally do – for an hour. So I’m trying to get a hundred hugs, I’ve got 80 so far” he says, shivering, holding the paper with red fingers. (I’m not going to be his 81st – I’ve had a lousy hour and a bit and I’m not in the mood). I ask his name – it’s Kerian McGarry, wish him luck, stroll back to Frank and tell him what it’s all about. “Oh right, is THAT what they have to do now to get some letters after their name, is it?!” You could well be right, Frank, you could well be right.
Well, there’s nowhere for me to busk apart from back down where I’ve just been and I’m not going through the humiliation (as it no doubt would be) of that again – once a day is enough, so I’m off home. On the way up the High Street, the girl at The Buttercross is still there – a quick glance in her tin tells me where everyone’s money has ended up.
Earnings: £4.38p (and one 1979 5p – unusable)