Diary Of A Busker Day 248

Diary Of A Busker Day 248 Tuesday June 19th 2012 Reading, Broad Street 1. Opposite Schuh, Time: 10:57-11:10am, 2. Opposite Anne Summers, Time: 1:25-1:35pm, 3. Opposite Clas Ohlson, Time: 1:40-3:03pm, 4. Opposite Clarks, Time: 3:10-4:30pm
I’m back in Reading, for the first of four Tuesdays at The College Of Integrated Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, in other words), as recommended by Duck Baker after I told him about my Focal Dystonia hand condition, and how none of the so-called specialists (all Western) could help me. Duck suggested I try the Eastern approach, so I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ Not that much, not at £15 a session with student practitioners! The proper ‘doctors’ were £50, which is more than I can afford. I wouldn’t mind making back the train fare, though, so I’m going to get a bit of busking in while I’m in town.
I do well for my first session, before my consultation; £5.53p for just over 10 minutes, a sort of Greatest Hits, consisting of Albatross, La Vie En Rose, The Third Man and When I’m Sixty-Four. Then the surgery…after having the terrain of my tongue observed and mapped by first, a student doctor, then by a ‘proper’ one, I return to where I made my Reading debut, a while back – opposite Anne Summers, where I notice they’ve changed the lingerie poster. I’m not here long, as just after I start up, I hear a piano somewhere. I look around and see a guy down the road with an upright with a big umbrella attached, on a little trolley. Maybe he didn’t hear me…oh well, I pack up and head down the other way and across the road, in the shade as it’s a warm day. It’s really slow here, I mean, to get nothing for half an hour is pretty depressing, especially with all the people about. It’s also very noisy here; there’s a guy in a street cleaning machine like a mini-van, who keeps going up and down the road. I can here him even when I can’t see him. I’m then startled by a black guide dog who all of a sudden is in front of me, barking and snarling, during which time I play a bit quieter! Two men who must be at least 70, with grey quiffs shout ‘Rock ‘n roll!’ and one holds up an Elvis album, an actual record (LP, long player, 33 1/3rd rpm…or vinyl, as they’re known as these days). A mother and daughter come up and ask me if I want some Euros; the daughter holds open her hand and shows me five coins but I say I can’t as the banks won’t take them. ‘Oh, we only have Euros – we came from France yesterday,’ says mother. No money, no joy. After an hour and a half I decide to leave here…and never come back, ever…and go across the road and up a bit, where I do a bit better. A three year old girl dances around in the middle of the pedestrianised road with two women watching. ‘Oh look, she loves it!…the music!’ She sure does. She “dances” manically about for ten minutes until dragged away by the women, who don’t give me a penny, which annoys me, for all the joy my happy guitar music has given  to the girl.
An old man likes my Third Man and talks about the TV series from the 50’s with Michael Rennie – ‘I could never make that out ’cause Harry Lime was a criminal – the bad guy but Michael Rennie played the part of some sort of philanthropist, solving problems. It didn’t really have any similarity to the film!’ I’ve been here a few hours now and I want to go home, but to my left, in the distance, I can see the umbrella of the piano guy. Hmm…I wonder if I could get a photo before I leave Reading. I always admire people who can play the piano, as I can’t play it very well. I pack up, walk down and introduce myself. He’s Tim Valentine. His piano’s got the fall board off so you can see all the workings, which I like. A piano’s so much more complicated than a guitar, it’s a real work of art. Tim Valentine’s all dressed up, which is something else I admire; a busker who makes an effort, with striped blazer, keyboard tie, and black and white two-tone, patent leather shoes. I ask the usual; does he come here often? That sort of thing. He’s from near Oxford and has got two gigs, one last night and one tonight in Bracknell, so he’s booked two nights in a Travelodge and sandwiching a day’s busking between them – ‘I might as well kill two birds with one stone,’ says Tim. ‘Exactly, just like me,’ I say. He tells me he’s busked in Oxford. I say I never have – what’s it like? ‘You have to queue up.’ ‘What, an actual queue?’ ‘Yeah, and after an hours’ playing, someone else will be there, straight away.’ He tells me you need a license here in Reading – £25 a year. I say I haven’t got one. ‘That’s OK, there’s only one guy who comes round to check, about once a year.’ Tim thinks it’s silly to have all the different councils having their own rules for buskers. They should have one rule for the whole country, otherwise people have to apply in advance to all the different councils if they want to visit somewhere and busk. I agree. It’s easier to forget all that and just turn up and play and if they move you on, so be it. Tim started at about half past eight this morning. He tries to get £100 a day so he’ll finish at about six o’clock. ‘Like yesterday, I made £97, the whole day.’ I tell him I like his shoes and that I’ve been trying to get a pair like them, not as pointed, though (they are VERY pointed and they’d destroy my toes!) He says he got them here, at a shop down the street and he’ll take me there. But first he’s got to empty the two silver money cans that he’s got suspended from either side of his piano. He says he used to have them on the ground but someone came along and told him he couldn’t have them on the ground! As he empties the second one, he says, ‘Oh dear, that’s another thing. I’m only supposed to have one…I forgot that!’ I notice he’s got some CDs stuck on his piano but they’re not of him – it’s his son. Apparently, two years ago, his son couldn’t play the guitar, now he’s recorded an album. Tim’s really proud of him. He leaves his piano in charge of a lady in a wheelchair and we walk down to the shoe shop. ‘I wouldn’t trade this busking for the world, you know.’ Really? ‘No. I’ve been on ships, cruises, South Africa. There’s nothing like this…all the people I meet.’ At the shoe shop they only had the really pointy ones, like what Tim’s got, which he doesn’t care for, either – ‘They get in the way of the pedals.’ Back at his piano I get a couple of photos of him, then it’s goodbye. A nice chap, with his piano/huge umbrella/trolley contraption/ensemble. I could do with an umbrella like his but there’s no place I can attach it to. Apart from maybe tying it to my head, somehow. As I’ve missed another train – I meant to leave two hours ago, I buy a pork pie from Sainsbury’s which I eat sitting on a bench, while some pigeons pelt me with bits of bread from a balcony…
Earnings: £20.69

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