Diary Of A Busker Day 195 Friday February 3rd Winchester High Street (opposite Vodafone).
Most days when I walk past WH Smiths, there’s a girl I call the Asgard Girl – on account of the placard she holds or rather leans next to her while she’s sitting on the bench reading her book opposite to where I play. Nine times out of ten, she’s there – in any weather. However, today it’s even too cold for her – she’s standing in a shard of sunlight in the bit where the road widens nearby. Rob, the rock guy with amplifier and backing tracks is out today, too – just near Asgard Girl. He’s turned down a bit these days which means I can set up down the road, at the crossroads. …but it really is cold – after 10 minutes my fingers my fingers start to tingle – a warning sign. Ragtime Phillip turns up – he likes my arrangement of When I’m Sixty-Four. I tell him it’s not difficult – there’s not many chords and you can play it in the right key (more or less – it’s in C, but they sped it up to C# on the record) in the open position. I tell him I’ll write the first bit out in tablature for him – not now, when I get home. Phillip (and a few others while I’m here) ask if I can get some sort of gloves to keep my hands warm. Fingerless gloves don’t work – they might for Rockin’ Rob but he doesn’t play fingerstyle – the material in between the fingers gets in the way. One guy says he’s got a fingerless pair that are really tight and they should work for me – he hasn’t got them with him, though. Of course he hasn’t – who carrys two pairs of gloves around? He tells me he used to live in Canada – “Oh really? So did I – where abouts?” Ottawa, he says – and that’s not all, apparently his brother’s son’s uncle’s neighbour’s dog’s aunt roofed the (Canadian) Houses Of Parliament.
I’m visited by someone I haven’t seen for awhile – the troubled ex-army bloke who often sits next to me and always ALWAYS has the same request – “Pley Chuck Berry!” It’s Otto, who’s Scottish. He looks (relatively) well. “Hello Otto, I haven’t seen you for awhile, you’re looking well. You alright?” “Ave been in prison – fer three months – jes go’ oot.” “Oh right, um…” I’m assuming that means he’s been released, that he hasn’t escaped. Just then a man comes over, gives me a pound and starts talking about the song I’ve been playing. I could see Otto about to sit down but seeing as this other guy starting to chat, he gets bored (he obviously wants me all to himself!) and walks off which is a shame as I wanted to ask him what he’d done to get three months. I’m hoping it’s something non-violent – he always seems a peaceful guy, does Otto!
After 40 minutes I have to stop (I can’t feel my fingertips) and activate my gel hand warming pads sent by “distant” relations, all the way from Canada. A few minutes later I can start again but I think the cold’s got to my brain – I play Yellow Bird and keep messing up the middle, over and over again – very embarrassing. I remember reading that James Brown, the American soul guy, used to fine his musicians when they made a mistake on stage. I could do this to myself, then secretly give myself the money back, when I wasn’t looking. I give up after three more songs. I remember it being very cold last winter and I could handle it but I do keep forgetting that I’m a year older…including my fingers which I can’t feel anymore.
On the way back up I pass Frank, accordioning-it up at The Buttercross, in his winter gear – his burgundy rubber boiler suit! What a man!