Diary Of A Busker Day 308 Sunday December 16th Winchester High Street (1. opposite WH Smiths – Parchment Street, Time: 1:42-2:29pm, 2. opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:58-4:27pm).
As it’s just over a week before Xmas, there’s loads of people about – and loads of people out busking, or should I say loads of kids out playing 15 second Christmas carol melodies on cheap trumpets. 15 seconds if that – how long does the melody for We Wish You A Merry Christmas take? And none of these tunes seem to have any middle eights/bridges. There’s no relief from the relentless hammering and ramming down the throat of the main bit – it’s driving me MAD! So there’s a Salvation Army brass bunch in front of the Christmas tree near The Buttercross…and another load of brass-ers down near Monsoon. In fact, the one place I can always count on being empty – down at Oxfam – even that’s taken: outside the Union Jacks restaurant next door to my usual spot outside C &H fabrics, there are two kids – their mothers adjusting their music stands. I go up, say hello, ask if they’re busking – ‘yes’, ask how long they’ll be – ‘about forty-five minutes but there’s a place on the other street, opposite Primark’ they say. I thank them and wish them luck because I want them to think I’m nice but I don’t mean it. I mean, really – telling ME – a proper busker where to go. Hmph. Well…a minute later near Primark it’s the same deal – three kids with a music stand, playing Jingle Bells. I can’t even be bothered to go up to them – they’ll probably say ‘there’s a place near Union Jacks’ and I’ll lose it, so I end up walking about, for the next hour almost. I see Frank up a bit from Monsoon where there’s some outfit called DARPA Brass – a 4-piece, but I’m in no mood to chat with him. I head to the cathedral grounds and sit on my amp bag for 15 minutes.
…Back on the High Street, another 4-piece – The Ocean Brass, are opposite Marks & Spencer and I can down the road the kids are still at Union Jacks. Back up the road…I take a photo of a big bunch of brass/carol singers in front of the tree, collecting for charity. There’s a steel drum band a few feet away, sitting on The Buttercross, not playing, with a load of drums around the monument. I leave the High Street, down Parchment Street and think – if I can’t set up at one of my usual places, I’m going to come back and set up here. …on the High Street again, and down the road there’re two more kids doing We Wish You etc… then, after their 25 seconds rendition of that – long by the days’ standards, a bit further down there’s the brass lot opposite Marks & etc with Little Drummer Boy…and as I observe again – the two kids still outside Union Jacks with Rudolph The Red-Nosed etc.
…it’s 1:30 – I suppose it’s been half an hour since I’ve been walking about and I suppose I have to give them kids another 15 minutes as no one else is showing any sign of moving…the brass lot carry on, Jingle Bell Rock…
Sod it – I’m going up the road to set up in the side street. My first time playing off the High Street, although I can see it – there’s Boots to my left. Off the beaten – I am – (High Street) track, for once. I spend about 45 minutes here, and meet again the couple I met on the Hungerford Bridge on Day 300. This time they contribute. As far as the takings, I really thought my not playing any Xmas stuff would be a real breath of fresh air, as it were, to some of the shoppers. A welcome break from 8 year olds and their relentless, torturous Jingle Bells. And why give a kid a pound for a terrible We Three Kings etc rendition – ‘bless’ them, not one of them can play in time – when you can give the same amount or less for a three guitar part totally out of season Albatross, played on one guitar (with added authentic reverb)? Why give the pound to the kid? I don’t know why but they were. I was wasting my time – competing with tradition. I went away, after it started to rain, with £6.92 and a two Euro coin. The people of Winchester are: boring, predictable, mean. They should be ashamed.
I shelter from the rain along with two hundred boring, predictable and mean Winchestonians or whatever they’re called, in the alleyway where the young flower-seller is. The brass band are also there. So is Frank, with his cart and Kazoo. I chat to him this time – I can’t avoid it – and we moan about all these silly part-timers – ‘You never see any of this lot any other time of the year’ Frank accurately points out. I say he’s right and that I’m sure we had the same exchange last year and the year before. Kazoo keeps rubbing herself against my leg. I ask Frank if she’s got an itch. ‘Nah, she’s just being friendly.’ ‘Right, OK’, then I ask how he’s done, money-wise. ‘OK, about thirty-five, forty pounds during the morning.’ Then the brass lot start up their deafening racket a few feet away and the flower guy goes over and says something to one of them – I bet he’s had enough. He won’t be able to hear himself shout about his flowers above them. I suggest to Frank that he goes past and accidentally knocks over some of their music stands. I’m not brave enough to do it myself and I know he’s done it before. Then I say I’ve had enough and I’m going to the toilet. ‘I’m gonna be sick’ Frank says.
Half an hour after I left my first spot, the annoying brats down the road have gone off, so I can set up, which is fine…until it starts to rain and I drag my stuff into the Gospel Hall doorway which I took the precaution of parking right in front of, as I knew that would happen.
Marie-Therese pops by wearing her full-length burgundy coat and insists on giving me a £2 coin. I don’t protest this time. ‘That’s the most anyone’s given me today’ I say. She tells me about an uncouth cab driver. ‘I said “how much is it?”, when he dropped me off, and I was holding a five pound note. “That’ll do”, he said and snatched it from my hand. I only live round the corner, you know.’ I say ‘I know. How much is it normally?’ ‘Only two pounds.’ I say she should report him – did he have a number? ‘Oh now…I don’t know.’ ‘That’s terrible’ I say. Oh dear – and anyone can see she’s not well. What a brute. ‘Oh well, I’ll play La Vie En Rose for you, OK?’ Small recompense, I fear. Afterwards, I ask her about her walking frame – one wheel at the front, two at the back. I’m sure I haven’t seen her with one before – it looks new. ‘You know how much it was? Seventy pounds!’ I watch her walk off – old, slow, sick.
Earnings: £18.54p + one 2 Euro coin