Diary Of A Busker Day 193 Thursday January 26th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 1:20-2:20pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:45-4pm).
As I’m setting up (on this sunny but cold day) I’m visited by my well-spoken/polite regular, Ian, who works at one of the nearby offices or shops – I don’t know where exactly as I get the impression he’d rather I didn’t know, for some reason. He was here yesterday and was impressed by the girl singer at The Buttercross, just up from where I am now. “She was VERY good – I gave her something, you know. Then, when I came by later, she wasn’t there, but all her what do you call it – equipment – was still there and there was a gentleman standing near it. Turned out to be her father, anyway apparently she went to the Royal College Of Music – got a first class degree, honours and all that. Very good she was – and not too loud, either.” I said, yes, I thought she sounded pretty good and no, she wasn’t too loud (not like the opera woman who parks herself on a box in the middle of the street, faces the King Alfred statue, opens her gob and blasts ever window out for a mile), and I reckon everyone else thought she was good – partly why she looked like she’d made a “bomb” and I got just over 4 quid. After another minute Eric says he must be off – he can’t stay for my “concert” – a somewhat flattering (and unrealistic) word to describe a bloke sitting in the street playing a guitar with a Halloween bucket in front of him – but I thank him, of course, as he’s always so polite – polite and “posh”. “Well, we’ll meet again”, he says, shaking my hand.
Another regular, Carol, from the North drops by. “Sorry (fiddles around in her purse)…I haven’t got any change, oh – here’s something…” “It’s ok, Carol, you don’t have to give me something everytime you see me.” “Eh?” She’s a deaf as me – but without the hearing aid. “I said you don’t need…look, don’t give me anything.” I see she has what looks like a pound coin. “I give change, you know.” “No – I don’t have much change, I’m on a pension.” She thinks I’ve said something like “You can give me your change”! “No! I mean I-HAVE-CHANGE. If you want to give me 50p but only have a pound coin, I can give you 50p back.” “Eh? Here’s something (three 10p coins), now you take care, ok?” “Yeah, ok, Carol – thanks and you keep warm – I see you’ve got your gloves on.” “Eh?”
This is a pretty windy spot as, just a few feet away, the road gets much wider, making a kind of bottleneck. After an hour my hands are red, like the guy’s who was standing in the road yesterday holding the FREE HUGS sign. I have a toilet break – and am thrilled to discover that there is now soap in the dispenser. But it’s not all good news. One of the sinks has an OUT OF ORDER-BASIN NOT WORKING sign in, and of the two hand driers, the good one doesn’t work – the other one you have to bash the button a few times before it stays on. And still Mr. “John” – chief sanitary officer/agent/commissioner is nowhere to be found…
The popular “crossroads” spot is free so I grab it. It’s still sunny and cold but the wind’s not as bad as up the road. About halfway through I play The Third Man for a little boy – Danny, out with his granny (Danny and Granny). I talk while I’m playing, “Do you like the guitar, Danny?” He nods. Granny: “He’s shy but he plays the ukelele, don’t you Danny?” He nods, turns towards Granny and leans his head against her leg. I know he’s shy – I’ve met him a few times. “That’s ok, Danny – I’M shy, you know.” “And he writes his own songs too, don’t you, Danny?” He nods. “Really?! That’s clever, Danny!” “And he’s only four years old, aren’t you Danny?” Danny nods. “Really?! Well, you MUST be clever, to do that sort of thing. Really – four years old, eh?! (ect…).”
A few minutes later it’s one of my very old regulars – a nice, friendly looking man – tall, wears a flat cap, always well dressed, always smiling. “Hello, I heard you playing my favourite – Harry Lime just then, while I was over there.” “Yeah, that’s right, and how are you?” “Oh – not so good, you know.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” “No. I’ve almost had enough.” I’m quite shocked – he’s usually so cheerfull. “Oh well…I like your walking stick.” (It’s black with a small carved dog’s head at the top). “Well, I’m a bit wobbly.” “Well, you look well.” “I’m going to Holland in a few days – I’m from Holland, you see. I don’t know if I can do that much longer – could be the last time.” “Oh.” “I’ll be eighty-five in two weeks…but I’ve had enough.” I don’t know what to say except “Um, well…why’s that?” “Oh, things aren’t what they used to be.” I’m not sure I know what he means – maybe I’ll know if I ever get to be 85. All I can think of is “Well, no – things change, don’t they? – all the time…I suppose.” “Well… if I don’t see you again this side of Christmas.” “Oh, you’ll see me again, soon!” “Here’s something (drops a couple of coins) to add to your income – do you have another job?” “Um, no!” “Oh well, something to supplement you! Goodbye.” I must get his name next time.