Diary Of A Busker Day 310 Tuesday December 18th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Vodafone, Time: 12:07-1:04pm, 2. corner of Marks & Spencer, Time: 1:29-2:44pm).
Near The Butter Cross there’s a student-aged girl I’ve seen many times. She’s dressed in a white Victorian gown or dress, her face is painted white and she’s standing dead still on a box…I don’t know – it must be pretty agonising if you’ve got an itch or if you have to sneeze…
Twenty minutes after I start the first set, Frank appears from around the corner, sees me and feigns a look of extreme frustration which makes me laugh. I motion for him to come over – I say he can take over in half an hour if he wants, which seems to placate him.
One of the toilet attendants (out of uniform) puts a coin in my bucket. He says ‘I’m not allowed to give you money when I’m in uniform, anyway, there’s some (money)…even though I don’t like that one!’ I’ve just gone from Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring into the distinctly ‘hillbilly’ Black Mountain Rag – two pieces, worlds apart!
A mother with her buggied two year son old stop in front of me and I think about stopping what I’m playing – the rather melancholy Ne Me Quitte Pas, not a favourite of the under-fives – and doing Twinkle Twinkle Little etc., then think – no, I can’t be bothered. A few seconds after I’m thinking this, the mother says ‘Can you play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? – it’s his favourite’!! Unbelievable, so I can’t get out of it this time.
Second set, I’m down at Marks & Spencer – I haven’t been here for months…but wait, across the way is George the flower-seller, the one who’s quite ill – cancer I think, the one who doesn’t like having his picture taken unless it’s without his knowing. Now’s my chance…I manage to get a rather blurry one of his head, profile-wise, through a crowd of people but I’ll need to get a better one some other time.
I’d forgotten how noisy it is here, with all the buses turning the corner a few feet away and more people in the street which is much wider down this end. For the first twenty minutes or so I also get the ‘old feeling’ – frustration and depression, probably linked; there are so many people and no one’s giving any. A couple of moments cheer me up a bit; A man stops and says I should turn up. ‘Really?’ I say. ‘Yeah, you’re playing an electric guitar, too quiet, you need to turn up so people can hear you.’ Then he has a request – ‘Any Ralph McTell? Streets Of London?’ I suddenly remember I’ve been going through a kind of Charleston rag I’ve seen him do on a 70s TV show on Youtube. I might as well risk it. The bloke goes across the street and sits down and smiles a couple of times while I’m playing it – unfortunately, like a dog. I’ll have to work on that one. Another moment; I’ve just finished Chinatown and I’ve gone into Mr. Sandman, and a man asks me the name of the last chord of Chinatown. I tell him – I don’t know what it is (I play it)…it’s like a 9th with a flattened 3rd or something. I play it again. He loves it – ‘Yeah, that’s great!’ Yep, I agree with him – it’s great. It’s a real Chet Atkins sort of old jazz(y) chord – ‘You never hear it these days, do you?’ I say. ‘No, you don’t – it’s great.’ I apologise for not knowing what it’s called (I found out later from my, or rather Hal Leonards’ Incredible Chord Finder, that’s it’s an A6th 9th). Yep, a real 1950s sounding thing. Actually, I think the first time I heard it was before I heard any Chet stuff – George Harrison used it on the end of the Cry For A Shadow instrumental in 1961…and it’s also at the end of No Reply from 1964…and Devil In Her Heart from 1963, definitely, then they never used it again, maybe because it sounded old-fashioned. I’ve only ever heard it at the end of songs.
I finish after a ‘good’ (ie: long enough to be out on a street corner and not getting any warmer) hour and a bit and walk up the High Street. I’m thinking about maybe doing a short set like I did the other day – off the beaten track, but this time, where I’ve seen Rick Tarrant play – the other end of the alleyway near The Butter Cross, next to The Slug & Lettuce and near the outdoor tables of the Café Monde and that pizza place next to it. As I walk up, Frank’s taking a break at the Vodafone spot. I notice he’s wearing a very bright red High Visibility Jacket. I say he better watch out – an airplane might land on him. ‘Yeah, it’s something I found on a skip’ he says. Well it smells like it, or actually that could be Frank. He turns around to reveal the word UNDERGROUND written on the back. ‘I reckon it’s from the London Underground’ says Winchester’s Inspector Morse. ‘Yeah, I reckon you’re right, Frank.’ ‘Yeah, it’s actually quite handy – see, where I live, I can walk the dog’ – he nods to a lump on the top of his cart ‘…and no one will think I’m a poacher ’cause a poacher wouldn’t be wearing something like this, would they?’ ‘No, they wouldn’t.’ What’s he doing then? Walking across farmer’s fields?
I’ve still got this idea of my short set, up the road, until I get near The Butter Cross and see some boring brass quartet bashing out another boring Christmas carol – there’s no way I can set up around the corner with that lot here.
Earnings: £32.97p (including 1 cd)