Diary Of A Busker Day 196 Tuesday February 14th Winchester High Street (opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:15-4:50pm).
Today is not nearly as cold as it’s been the last two weeks so I’m able to play almost non-stop for over two hours – a rare thing. Before I set up I have a chat with Colin, one of the Incredibly Loud Saxophonists With Equally Loud Backing Tracks (ILSWILBT), who is just finished packing up on his pitch a few yards away, in front of the Laura Ashley shop, so I’ve timed my session pretty well. Colin tells me of some other busking towns he’s been to; Portsmouth – “You don’t want to do that – not much better than Southampton” (and I’m never going back there), Basingstoke – “Best place there – outside McDonalds. You’re not too loud, are you? – yeah, you should go there…” Actually, I may try Eastleigh, as it’s only a 10 minute train ride away and folk busker Guy told me he got £200 for two hours there, split between him and two of his folk franchise buskers.
During my set I put in Tammy (from the 1957 film, er…Tammy), a song I’ve been neglecting, having something of a mental block with it – I keep making stupid mistakes. Afterwards, my well-spoken/attired regular, Ian comes up – “I don’t think I’ve heard you do that before, is it a new addition to your repertoire, perhaps?” “No, it’s an old one but I don’t play it all the time – it’s quite taxing on the old left hand…(here I go into the reasons, which must sound very boring to someone who isn’t a musician)…y’see it’s mainly barre chords – where my forefinger has to go right across and fret all the strings, and at the high end of the neck, too – where it’s more difficult to do it and it’s all through the song and I’m putting pressure on my thumb, behind the neck as well as my forefinger ON the other side…very exhausting…!” I know I’ve lost him – “Oh well,” he says, “Carry on the good work”, and off he goes, back to his office, resplendent in his bright red (new?) corduroy trousers.
Around the middle of my session, an old guy (well, 60!) walks by. I see him alot but don’t know his name, he sometimes contributes. “You should be up there (nods up the road towards The Buttercross), there’s two pretty girls giving away free hugs, y’know! He he!” And there they are, just up from me, two dark haired girls (students, of course – they’ve got to be), holding big cardboard signs that say FREE HUGS. Yep, and they’re doing a damn site better “trade” than poor student Keiran McGarry was, in the same place, awhile back on that freezing day. “Free hugs, eh?” I say to my man, then, as I know this sort of comment will humour that sort of “bloke” “Hey, I wouldn’t mind paying for that!” He is suitably amused – “He he…”, as he walks off.
A few weeks ago, one of my oldest regulars, a friendly man, always well turned out, with flat cap told me he’d “almost had enough.” What “enough” was, I didn’t want to ask – probably life, I expect. I felt quite sorry for him. At one point I’m aware of a shape near me which hasn’t moved for a few minutes. Shapes (people, dogs, prams…) moving past me I never notice, but when one stops, I’m aware of it straight away, even if it stops almost directly behind me. I know someone’s there – they think I don’t know, but I do. I look to my right and there he is. He smiles, touches his cap and nods his head. I do the same, apart from the cap; I don’t have one and I’m playing. I return to my usual state (hunched over, looking at the guitar/ground) and he walks off after a bit. Then, a few minutes later, he’s back but in a different place, diagonally across the road from me – where Colin was. And again he smiles, touches his cap, nods his head. Strange, he usually comes over for a chat. Not today though. Then he’s off again…but he’s back a bit later, in another space nearby…