Diary Of A Busker Day 258 Friday July 13th 2012 St. Lukes Church Fete, Stanmore, Winchester. Time: 3:30-6pm
I’ve been invited to provide the background music for the annual summer fete. There’s no fee but they’ve said I can put my bucket out. The bit I’m playing at is inside the church, and thank God for that, as these days it’s raining pretty much everyday. Pam, one of the organisers, says I can go in the corner, just in front of the carved Madonna and child statue. Pam’s set up some chairs on either side of me, ‘so people can sit and listen to you, if they want.’ One of the other organisers is John, the guy who phoned me up about this and who has booked me for a couple of other (paid) church things in the past year or so. I start playing and immediately switch off my reverb – there’s no need for that here, the place is one big reverb chamber! John’s walking about wielding a microphone, which he’s obviously in charge of. He announces the raffle and various other things. In fact he does this (announces things) unannounced, in a seemingly random fashion, although I’m sure there’s some method to his madness. After a bit, I get used to his voice suddenly booming in and I just stop playing, wait till he’s done then resume whatever it is I was playing. He’s good, although every so often he’ll make people aware of me – ‘…and we’ve got Marvin the busker! Please show your appreciation!’ However people aren’t showing much appreciation, which is worrying me a bit.
I take a break and John escorts me downstairs where there is tea and cakes – ‘give him whatever he wants,’ he says, with great authority, to the ladies behind the food tables, John makes sure I don’t have to pay for anything. So, a cup of tea, a couple of those nice triangular sandwiches and a scone piled high with jam and Devon cream; a cream tea! The scone was especially scrumptious. Afterwards, I take a look around the tables near where I’m set up. One is selling books and has a pile of three and about a third of the cover of the one on the bottom is peaking out, enough to reveal a half-naked woman. It’s Belle de Jour with Billie Piper in her underwear – ‘Hey, what’s this? Are you allowed to sell something like this in a church?’ I say to the old guy behind the table. He laughs – ‘Yes, well…I don’t know!’
Back in my corner, watched over by the carved statue, three grubby Stanmore kids torment me – ‘How d’ya know all the songs?’ ‘I practise.’ ‘Why are you playing that guitar?’ ‘Because that’s what I do.’ I get the usual vibrato unit query – ‘What’s that for?’ ‘It’s the vibrato arm – don’t touch it! Especially when I’m playing!’ They always do. Always. My favourite was, ‘Are you playing that, or are you cheating?’ from a kid clearly not familiar with the Travis fingerstyle technique and in particular, Chet Atkins’ arrangement of La Vie En Rose. ‘Yeah, I’m playing it.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah, really.’ ‘Can you stop playing, so we know you’re playing it?’ I stop playing so they know I’m not “cheating” but they still don’t believe me so I tell them to go away. I manage to sell a CD to a lady manning (womaning?) one of the tables near me but because she’s given me a £10 note, I’ve had to give her all of the coins in the bucket as change, leaving it empty. So when John comes over to see how I’m doing, he sees there’s nothing there! ‘Well, that’s no good. We’ll have to see what we can do!’ He picks up my bucket and raises his mic for another announcement – ‘Marvin the busker! He’s HERE!’ and he goes around the whole hall with the bucket, to every table. When he comes back there are two £5 notes and a load of coins. ‘Wow! Thanks John! I really appreciate that!’ And I bloody well do; I reckon he’s got me about £30 there. What a good guy. I couldn’t have done that; gone around with the bucket.
I’ve learnt a new tune, The Stripper by David Rose from 1962 – a classic! I’ve done my own neat little arrangement which I’m quite proud of. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been saying to myself, ‘should I, should I not?’ but no – I can’t play that. Not in a church! I wasn’t even sure about Music To Watch Girls By, for goodness sake. I might have been struck down or have the statue behind me topple over me and smash my head in two. At about 5:30 my left thumb starts to hurt at the joint, where it touches the back of the guitar neck. This has happened a few times recently, after playing for a couple of hours. Some sort of trapped nerve or something. I soldier on till 5:45 then decide that’s it, I’ve got to stop. Then a lady from one of the tables comes up and requests Albatross! My first request, just as I’m finishing! Typical.
Earnings: £38.88 + 2 CDs