Diary Of A Busker Day 206

Diary Of A Busker Day 206 Tuesday March 6th 2012 London 1. Hungerford Foot Bridge, Time: 2:30-4:30pm, 2. Trafalgar Square, Time: 5:35-6pm
Having the occasion to visit Greenwich and finishing my business by early afternoon, I decided to try and make my £35.70p train fare back. I walked up the steps and onto the Hungerford Bridge from the south side. At the top there are four South American chaps with an accordion, a drum and a couple of other instruments. I keep walking and get to about 3/4 of the way across before I can set up – I can still hear them but it’s not too bad – when I start up it’ll be okay. I’ve got my head down, tuning up when all of a sudden there’s a group seven Iranian teenage girls in extremely high spirits in front of me and demanding things – ‘Play something! Play something we know’ ‘Yeah, alright. I’m just tuning up, give me a second.’ ‘Play Adele!’ ‘Adele? Sorry.’ ‘Play…ANYTHING!’ I give them a few bars of La Vie En Rose – ‘Do you know this?’ ‘NO – PLAY SOMETHING WE KNOW, PLAY SOMETHING MODERN!’ I play The Third Man – I reckon why not? I mean, they’re not going to like anything I do.’YEAH! THAT’S FROM SPONGEBOB!’ Saved by The Third Man again. After a minute, the bloke with them – their chaperone, I’m assuming – shouts ‘COME ON NOW, WE’VE GOT TO GO!’ then to me ‘They’ve got to get a train at three.’ They’re off, shouting, laughing – like a mini tornado. They gave me a couple of pounds. They will NEVER hear me play Adele. 
A young guy says, ‘I think you’ve got some competition – there’s some woman (points to the Embankment side, to my left) up there, playing a guitar with a pencil.’ I look and so there is, not far from me on the other side of the path – a seated, hooded shape with a guitar on it’s lap and moving a pencil slowly across the strings. I can’t hear anything but this place is so noisy, anyway… another man, early 60s stops, ‘Is that, um…Mockingbird?’ ‘No – YELLOW Bird – it’s a Chet Atkins arrangement, mid-sixties I think.’ ‘Hmm, yes – sixties I would say, definitely (although he got the name wrong!)…stays in the memory, long time ago, longer than you think, isn’t it – to do with telescoping time, isn’t it?’ I’m sure this guy’s heard the same radio programme I heard yesterday when they were talking about this very same thing; how time seems to go quicker the older you get – telescoping. ‘…oh well,’ he says, ‘nice to see you – good luck!’ and off he goes, forgetting to contribute to the cause.
I end up playing for two hours pretty well non-stop and mainly just La Vie En Rose, The Third Man, James Bond, and Wheels – the louder ones, as the noise from helicopters, boats and most of all – right behind me – the trains going in and out of Charing Cross makes pointless any attempt at anything subtle, and my amp’s on full volume – twice as loud as I am in Winchester, and you still can barely hear it! However, the last time I was here (Day 100) a guy in a uniform gave me a ticket and threw me off the bridge. Not literally…and I thank him for that. I’m feeling quite adventurous, so much so that I’m wondering if I should go up to Trafalgar Square, maybe try something up there as it’s only up the road. I pack up and walk past the hooded figure – an old Korean looking woman, dragging her pencil over the guitar strings, not making any sound…what weird world this is. Ten minutes later I cross the road and I’m in the square and there’s a guy, a rather frightening looking figure: tall, wearing a hat, shades, scarf – you can’t see his face, and playing a guitar through an amplifier and singing – actually it’s just a noise – I can’t tell what he’s playing/singing – it’s just a racket and he’s so loud you can hear him everywhere. I can’t believe he hasn’t been booted off. If he’d been on the bridge, my uniformed friend might well have chucked him over. Anyway, he’s in front of the wall, behind which are the steps to the entrance to the National Gallery on the east side. There’s no way I can set up in front of the steps on the other side so I decide that, while I’m here, I might as well take in a bit of culture and visit the Gallery. It’s useful for several reasons; 1. I need the toilet, 2. I need to warm up my hands and feet and 3. I can inspect at close range the most famous of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings, which I’m doing a copy/forgery of at home. …half an hour later and I’m pretty well warmed up and back out – after being told off by a room guard for filming the Van Gogh wall, because you can’t film a blade of grass in London without a bloody permit. Outside, the scary busker has gone – back to the bowels of the earth, I presume – so I set up where he was. And, not surprisingly, I’m pretty well ignored. There’s so much noise, it’s unreal! I’ve even turned the gain on my amp on – the dial that gives it a louder, more distorted sound. Part of the problem might be the space between me (against the wall) and the path of people, some 15 feet away. People don’t like to go out, or be seen to go out of their way, not even a few inches. I should know this. In fact I found this out years ago, busking at Marble Arch underground station. The busking spot – where you couldn’t move from – was 20 feet to the left of the bottom of the escalators but the tunnel to the trains is at the right, so all the people turn the wrong way when they get to the bottom! Only the really brave will break out from the crowd, and that’s the way it is. As I’ve been playing, I’ve noticed that on the other side of the steps there is much less space between the wall and the path of people, so I reckon I’ll try over there. I pack up and immediately two people come up and contribute, which is typical. I’ve still only played The Third Man, La Vie En Rose, Yellow Bird and Wheels.
…and it’s even noisier on that side, from all the traffic coming from the Haymarket and people leaving their work. I make the acquaintance of a young lady with a gigbag who sits on the wall near me and likes what I play. I ask her if she’s here to busk – she isn’t. She’s just come from Charing Cross Road where some guy in Macaris put a pickup on her guitar. I know Macaris; it’s where I got my second Rickenbacker 12-string from, years ago. I ask her name, it’s Jean Genie Graham. ‘Hmm…there’s a song in there, somewhere,’ I say. ‘Yeah, my parents named me after the David Bowie song,’ she confirms. She seems a nice girl so I don’t mind chatting to her. She runs an open-mic thing in Covent Garden now and again…oh, now she has to go. I decide to soldier on a bit longer…a group of happy people come up – ‘Can you play Yellow Submarine?!’ ‘Uh, no…I can play When I’m Sixty-Four, though.’ No, they want Yellow Submarine – ‘…and we’ll give you a pound.’ Between all of them? Tight, but a pound’s a pound. I try to remember the chords and they all stand behind me singing – even me, just this once – while one takes a photo…and I got the promised pound. I carry on a bit longer, it gets a bit darker, it gets noisier – unbelievably, as more people are going home…I get a bit colder. That’s enough. Did I make my train fare back? Not a bit of it, not nearly – still, makes a change.
Earnings: £15.20

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