Diary Of A Busker Day 315 Friday January 11th Winchester High Street (1. opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:10-3:45pm, 2. opposite Bellis, Time: 4:38-5pm, 3. opposite Oxfam, Time: 5:07-5:40pm).
The return to the High Street of Demelza Stafford – I haven’t seen her for months, in fact, the day before she was to audition for Madame Butterfly in Bracknell. She’s on a break and tells me about it – ‘I was sitting in a room with all these other sopranos – all English, and in walks this Japanese girl, and we all went…(sighs in desperation)’ She did OK, though – she’s singing for 2 of the 4 performances. She also tells me about the modern audition process: Instead of travelling to different countries to audition, the singers (auditionees?) now pay £100 or so to fly the auditioners(?) to England and they all audition in one go. So far it’s cost her £400 – cheaper though, than flying out to various places. Still, someone’s making a few quid out of that and it ain’t Demelza.
I moan to her about my feet getting cold and the fact that athough you can warm your hands up by going to a bookshop for half an hour, they might take offence at someone taking off their shoes and socks. I ask Demelza if she has any tips. ‘A door mat, just a small one.’ Not a bad idea.
Down at Vodafone, the temperature’s not too cold. I can even almost enjoy – if that’s the word – an hour and a half playing pretty much straight through, and apart from 5 minutes either end, have as my companion, one of my aged regulars – Eddie. He stands at my left with his walking frame which – when he decides to lean against the wall or the bin – has a tendency to roll off into the street. In fact, at one point I have to stop playing and retrieve it before it hits some kid walking by! As usual Eddie comes out with the same stuff as he does every time we meet: ‘You want to have a box of hats, so you can change them every song. Orson Welles, when you do The Third Man. A trilby when you do Bogart – “PLAY IT! You played it for HER, you can play it for ME! Now, PLAY IT!”‘ he says. I pick up the gauntlet – “I don’t know what you mean, boss” “Yeah, you do – you know what I wanna hear” “Uh, I’m a little rusty…” In point of fact, he DOES tell me a story I haven’t heard. Orson Welles was staying at a hotel in Southampton – in the late ’50s, when he was starting to get rather large, and he fell through the floor. According to Eddie, anyway. Actually, I feel a bit sorry for Eddie – standing next to a busker for almost an hour and a half, although, as he points out, having a walking fame next to me might be an advantage – people might think it’s mine = sympathy money. I have noticed something over the past hour – he likes to look at the purty ladies walking by.
After a longer than usual toilet then warming up in the bookshop break, I catch Demelza a few minutes into another break and, at her suggestion, do a short set of just under half an hour, which I don’t mind. In fact it’s a refreshing change to know I have to stop at a certain time, instead of going on forever, like I do sometimes! So I stop at 5 o’clock, give her the ‘thumbs up’ – which is returned, then she’s off…and 7 minutes later I’m down the other end – it really is a small place! – and playing again.
Someone interrupts me during Yellow Bird and I can’t get back into the bit I was doing – the middle bit. My brain’s gone – I reckon this is some early sign of Altzheimers’. I’m sure of it. …two schoolgirls talk to me – they say they really like my playing. They seem very shy and keep looking at each other (reassurance?) whenever they speak. They contribute then walk off…and return 10 minutes later, asking to buy a CD, then ‘No, can we buy two?’ Sure. They hand me a £20 note and while I’m getting some change sorted out, I say ‘So, you like the fingerstyle playing, eh?’ One says ‘Yeah, and I think my GRANDDAD would really like the CD – he likes all that sort of music.'(!)
I bump into Henry’s carer – Ahmed. He’s got some time off before he’s posted somewhere else to take care of another old man, so he’s going back to Poland where he has a wife and a one year old child. When someone says Poland I always say ‘Ah, Chopin’ and then the name of whatever Chopin piece I’m struggling through at that time – right now it’s the G Minor Ballade – as it has been for the past 20 years, thinking about it! Ahmed’s a nice guy and I know he got very close to Henry, and it was good he was able to get to the Thanksgiving Service. He gives me a sort of hug when we say goodbye – something people don’t usually do! We say we’ll have to meet up if he’s ever here again – the sort of thing that I know won’t happen – it never does. I doubt it, anyway. I don’t know…you never know if you’re going to see someone again. What’s happened to Ralph, Walter…Delia?
Earnings: £42.86p (including 3 CDs)