Diary Of A Busker Day 236 Tuesday May 22nd 2012 Winchester High Street 1. Opposite O2, Time: 2:17-3:42pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 3:57-5:02pm, 3. Corner of Marks & Spencer, Time: 5:36-6:23pm
Coming into the High Street, just down from the Westgate, I see someone I haven’t seen since last year. It’s Henry Gray, who will be 100 now, as I remember him telling me he would be, in December. In fact, I was wondering if he was still around. No one lives forever, except maybe him. I wouldn’t mind a photo but he’s with two women, maybe his daughter or granddaughter or carer and I don’t want to trouble him. It might be better if he comes by me as I’m playing. I’ll keep a lookout and when I see him approach, I’ll start playing his favourite, Somewhere Over The Rainbow. He might come over to say hello and that could lead to, ‘Oh, by the way, Henry, I’m getting together a photo album…’ So I quickly run ahead and set up near The Buttercross…however, just as I’m about to start playing, he and his entourage stop in front of the monument, look at it for a minute then go into the alleyway towards the cathedral. Oh well, maybe they’ll come back later.
I sell another CD, my second, to a man who lived in the same city in Canada as I did, namely London, in the province of Ontario. He lived there for eight years. I finally escaped after TWENTY. He even knew the high school I went to, namely Sir Frederic Banting Secondary School, or just “Banting,” as it was known to the inmates. Wow, that was a blast from the past! He’s over here for his brother’s wedding in London (this one), tomorrow. We say goodbye then I ask his name. He says it’s Todd. I’m not surprised; Todd, very Canadian. Apart from Todd and my CD sale – the high point, business is a bit slow so I move on down the street to the current favourite, the Vodafone spot. En route, one of the Red Cross charity-direct debit hunters engages me. These people are all very friendly. Some, even after you say there’s no way you’re going to sign up. It turns out that, like a lot of his colleagues, he’s had some darker moments out on the street.
He tells me someone hit him once – ‘This guy walked by, I said, “hello”, you know, and he said, “I’m not in the mood,” and hit me (grimaces and holds stomach), just like that!’ ‘What? Just after you said hello? You didn’t keep at him, hassling him?’ ‘No, he just hit me. Then he hit my brother, so then we’re all fighting on the ground…then he stole my umbrella.’ ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, I said, “Do you want to come under my umbrella?” and he stole it.’ ‘What, after you were fighting on the ground?’ ‘Yeah, it was raining and he stole it.’ I ask how his day’s going, has he signed anyone up? ‘It’s a numbers game, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘Out of a million people, there might be one, or you’ll get loads all at once.’ ‘A bit like what I do,’ I say. Apparently he’s supposed to get 10 signings a week and he’s got 2 in 2 weeks, ‘so I might get the sack!’
After my toilet break, I’m walking through the alleyway where the flower sellers are during the day. They’ve gone now as it’s 5:30. It’s been taken over by Dangerous Dave and a couple of his cronies, sitting on the stone steps. DD pipes up as I walk by – ‘I ‘aven’t ‘eard it yet’ – a reference to The Third Man. ‘You’ll hear it in about three minutes,’ I assure him. ‘You should set up ‘ere. The acoustics are good,’ he says. I’LL be the judge of how good the acoustics are, my dangerous friend.
So, I’ve worked my way down the street, the first two sessions on the shadowy side but now I’m in the sun. Actually, it’s been quite warm the whole day – too warm, as my fingers swell up a bit and I don’t play very well – if they swell, they don’t play well. They work better when they’re cold…but not TOO cold. It’s never right! Even so, when I’m walking away, I’m presented with a £5 note by a teenage couple sitting on the bench near where I was. I think they’d been there the whole session. At the top of the High Street, I pass Simon with his Big Issues. We say ‘you alright?’ to each other, I carry on…then a group of young, camera-wielding Japanese pass me…five seconds later, there’s shouting – ‘HEY! HEY! WHOA – YOU! HEY!’ I turn around and it’s Simon, having a go at one of these guys who’s taken a photo of him but obviously not stopped to ask him if he could…or bought a Big Issue from him. He gets really wound up by people taking photos but tourists rarely ask before they click away, and they click away at everything. I wonder if La Grande Issue sellers in France are bothered about people taking pictures. Maybe. Anyway, people are so uptight here. Who cares, I say. I’d rather be part of someone’s holiday album than not. I don’t care if I don’t know them! I must be in hundreds of holiday photos! Anyway, better to be shot with a camera than a gun. It only annoys me if someone films me for a while, a whole song for instance, then just walks off without contributing anything. That really does wind me right up. In fact, during the last set, some people stopped and asked if they could film me. I said they could if they gave me a pound. I reckon I’m getting more, what’s the word? Streetwise…or maybe just more jaded.