Diary Of A Busker Day 255 Thursday July 5th 2012 Winchester High Street 1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 1:56-2:57pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 3:27-4:53pm, 3. Opposite Bellis, Time: 5:20-6:35pm
It’s been raining all week so I haven’t been out busking but it’s cleared up today and needs must. My first customer is a tall woman, not quite a regular, in that I don’t see her as much as say, Delia, who I see twice a week sometimes. Anyway, she drops by well after my start, which is very slow, coinage-wise. She tells me her husband is now in a home, and I must have looked blankly, like I’d forgotten, as she then said, ‘you remember? I was always losing him – he’d wander off.’ Now I remember. Oh dear, I didn’t know it was THAT bad. She goes on, ‘But it’s a nice place; they’re nice people, they look after him well.’ ‘Right…well, that’s good,’ I say (although it’s not good he’s in a home, though, is it?) ‘…and you visit him…every day, I suppose?’ Yes, she does. ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ I say, as I can’t think of anything else.
A young woman parks a guy in a wheelchair across the street from me while she goes into a shop. He looks paralysed; his head is slightly tilted and forward and he has an eye patch. He looks at me (with his other eye!) He’s there about twenty minutes before the woman comes back and because he’s expressionless, I wonder if he likes what I play or not. I feel really guilty sometimes when I see someone like this and think maybe I shouldn’t feel depressed just because I get no money for a few minutes. Then the young woman comes over and gives me a coin. Well, I hope he did liked something.
Halfway through, my left eye starts to itch – I don’t know if it’s hay fever or if there’s something in it – and I have to stop playing a few times and itch it or rub it vigorously and make it ten times worse. After the hour mark I pack up and go to the toilet to have a look at my eye in the mirror (with my other eye)…it’s pretty red. I reckon I need an eye patch like the poor guy in the wheelchair. Back outside I take a few minutes off, walk around a bit and look at the prayer board in the church near The Buttercross. Under the “Please pray for” sign, one card says, “James – socially excluded.” Does that mean he’s in prison, I wonder. Another says, “That Christianity survives the Islamic onslaught in our country.” What about the onslaught(er) of Christianity our forbears brought to the rest of the world over the past couple of thousand years?! …my eye’s still pretty bad (remember the guy in the wheelchair, remember!)
I set up at the crossroads; a very noisy/busy place today, with the ice-cream vendor lady across from me doing pretty well, and seemingly thousands of Spanish and Italian students…why, I wonder, do people shouting in a foreign language seem louder than people shouting in English? Just up from the ice-cream lady is the peaked-cap and high-visibility jacket-wearing RAC man. Why do ALL people working on the high street have to wear these hideous jackets? Alan wears one when he’s dragging around his McDonald’s cart. But there’s loads of people about, not wearing them, and THEY’RE not bumping into each other! Anyway, I see this RAC man once every few months, always in the same place. I’ve spoken to him once or twice and he seems a nice enough bloke. I think he sells insurance or other stuff to do with cars which I don’t know about because I only drive a bike. He nods, approvingly, I like to think, at some of the things I play, and during Albatross he comes over and waits till I’ve finished before he says anything, which impresses me. That’s polite, I think!
He asks me if I know Man Of The World, the B-side of Albatross. No, although I’ve heard it. He thinks it would be a good one to do so I say I’ll check it out. He asks how my day’s been. ‘Alright. There’s a lot of people about but the money’s been the usual,’ I say. ‘I’ve had a terrible day,’ he says. ‘Oh dear. When did you start?’ ‘Nine o’clock. Not one person signing. No one spoke to me all day. I’ve only spoken to one person, and that’s you!’ Well, I know how I sometimes get after a few minutes of no money and also if no one comes up to speak. You can get to thinking, “What am I doing here, what a waste of time, what a waste of my life,” and this poor guy, he’s been standing there all day. He asks if any of these thousands of kids about give me money. Some of them do, sometimes. ‘Well, at least they haven’t got to pay for eight day cover!’ he says, which I’ve heard is some sort of car thing.
Anthony, who stopped stopping by to quiz me on all things guitar, stops to start quizzing me on all things guitar, again. And I CANNOT make him understand. The problem is he wants to play fingerstyle, with the melody and bass parts, like what I do, but he hasn’t even got to the stage of playing even one chord and can’t get his head around the fact that the guitar, which he can’t play, is completely different to the piano, which he CAN play. These consultation sessions out on the street are no good; they waste (my) time and are frustrating (for me). I suggest a private lesson in his flat, sometime soon. I notice he’s got a huge tear in his shirt, under his armpit, which he doesn’t know about until I mention it. ‘Oh, I’ll have to fix that.’ Didn’t he feel the wind through it? Is that what’s going to happen to me? – walking down the road, oblivious to a huge rip in my shirt?! And, as if on cue, just after he trundles off, his mate, Bargain Food Vulture Mick, turns up. ‘Have you seen Tony?’ he says. ‘Yeah, I’ve just seen him,’ and I go through the usual ‘he can’t get his head around the guitar.’ Mick says, ‘And you’d think, he being an intelligent man – he was a barrister, he’d work it out, that a GUITAR’S not a PIANO!’ Indeed, Mick.
I take another break…I reckon to do one more session, at The Buttercross, if I can, then I’ll have worked my way up the street and won’t have as far to walk home! I must be getting old…but it’s a good move, as I enjoy the rare occurrence of being handed a £10 note. It’s from a man who says he’s heard me many times, and as he was just up at the cash machine, he thought, “He could do with that,” ‘Wow…well, thanks…that’s great.’ I always show my appreciation in very simple, direct words, followed by the ‘…that’s a lot of money…you know that’s what I’d normally make in an hour. Are you sure? Do you want some change? – I give change, you know.’ He laughs – ‘No, God loves us! He loves YOU! He loves ME! Everything is great!’ And with that and with his arms raised towards the sky – or God, I assume, he’s off. So, thank you, delirious God-man. I can put up with the religious bit if there’s a tenner involved.
Before I leave, I get two more photos for my album. One is of Omara, who is young, female and black – a change from the usual: Octogenarian, white and male. The second picture is of two Spanish student girls who have been sitting on The Buttercross. They come over and say they want me to know that, ‘we, as Spanish people, listen to your music!’ I thank them and apologise for not knowing many proper Spanish pieces – ‘I’ve got this problem with my hand, you see…’ and I give them the Focal Dystonia bit of my Hard Luck Story. They are happy young people in a foreign country and would like to pose with my guitar. Without too much persuasion, my guitar agrees to this. I ask their names; they are Denya, who’s tall and blonde, and the curiously-named (for an Italian) Rita, who’s short and dark, or brunette, as some would say. They tell me they’re here for a further twelve days, so I warn them – they’ll no doubt be seeing me again before too long.