Diary Of A Busker Day 349 Friday April 5th Winchester High Street (corner of Monsoon, Time: 2-3:15pm).
Temperature: 8.5 degrees. On the way in, I come across the mandolin busker playing in the Westgate – the first time I’ve ever seen anyone playing there. I mean, it’s so far away from The Butter Cross, for goodness sake! I decide to stop and say hello and start by saying at least he’s got some shelter if it starts raining. He says it’s full up (with buskers)down the road: there’s a ‘big, loud group’ at The Butter Cross – I bet that’s Guy and his Threepenny Bit franchise. I suggest the spot way down the other end, at C & H, because of the restaurant tables opposite, but he seems to think he wouldn’t be right for down there. I say he certainly not too loud – not nearly as loud as me. He says ‘Yeah, but your stuff is more mellow’. Oh well, I tried. He seems like an OK bloke, anyway. Before I move on, I ask his name – it’s John. About 30 seconds later, I remember I’ve got my camera with me, mainly to weigh the bucket down – it’s so windy today, and I think that would have made a good picture – John playing in the Westgate. But I can’t be bothered to go back – I should be playing somewhere, myself.
A bit further on I can hear Demelza belting it out at The Butter Cross – so she’s here, too! Then I see Guy and all, sitting on The Butter Cross steps so they’re obviously taking it in turns, same as I’ve done a couple of times. So it’s down the road…and there’s a beggar opposite Vodafone so I set up around the corner – same place where I met Brian the other day, and got his photo.
A somewhat unkempt 60 year old bloke stands in front of me during Apache and at the end he says ‘Oo d’you think’s the best guitarist in the world?’ (Here we go) So I say ‘I don’t know, you mean alive now?’ He says ‘Well…anytime’. I ‘Hmm’ a bit, then say ‘Chet Atkins. He’s dead though’. ‘Chet Atkins, country and western, wasn’t ‘ee?’ Oh dear, another poor chap in need of education. I say ‘Well, not really. He did a lots of different sorts of music, you know, the fingerstyle…(I do a couple of bars of La Vie En Rose)…that’s not country’. ‘Yeah…well, lots of people say Jimi Hendrix – he was the best’. Tiresome. ‘Yeah, I know, but he played a particular style. You know, lots of people used to say Eric Clapton, but that’s just one style’. ‘Yeah…’oo was the guy…’ He now points to his head, then his finger goes from the left to the right side of his forehead, indicating a headband, so he’s thinking of Mark Knopfler. He can’t remember the name – all he knows is the headband bit! ‘Oh, Mark Knopfler’, I say. ‘Yeah, ‘ee’s great’. ‘Yeah – he played with Chet Atkins, you know. Lots of people think Tommy Emmanuel’s the greatest’. Pause…’Oo?’ ‘Tommy Emmanuel – he played with Chet Atkins. I saw him in Basingstoke a couple of weeks ago…(How times flies, etc., it was FOUR weeks ago), he’s just…(I shake my head)’. ‘What’s his name?’ ‘Tommy Emmanuel. Australian’. ‘Never ‘eard of ‘im’, he says, not at all to my surprise. ‘No?’ ‘No, but it’s a gift, isn’t it – you’ve either got it or you haven’t. My mate, now – ‘ee picked up a guitar an’ ‘ee can play ‘ouse of the risin’ sun, like that, you know’. ‘Really’ – I say, not as a question. ‘Yeah, now me, well, I ‘aven’t played in ’bout fifty years. I just didn’t…’, he trails off. I give the usual reply – ‘Well, you know, you’ve got to keep at it, and it’s a lot of work – a lifetime, I can tell you’, I tell him. ‘Yeah…well…I won’t keep ya’, and off he goes. No contribution offered – not for the playing (a lifetime’s work) or the wisdom and advice (not quite a lifetime’s worth).
That young guy who was paranoid about some people where he lives giving him weird looks, walks by. In fact he walked by twice, right past me – never looked or said ‘hello’. Strange people… While I’m playing Wheels, a man says in a Geordie accent – ‘Can you make your muscles go like that?’ I must have looked confused. He tries again – ‘You know, that thing that Hughie Green used to do when they were playin’ Wheels!’ I THINK I know what he means now. ‘Oh yeah, right. No, alas, I can just about manage the guitar, I fear!’ He leaves then returns after some minutes while I’m doing the zither-like arrangement of The Third Man. He says one word – ‘Penicillin’.
On the way up the road, I can hear Guy’s lot banging away and just as I pass Timpsons, the busker-hater bloke steps out, sees me and says ‘Good luck’ – he must think I’m looking to play up there. As he doesn’t usually speak to me, and to confirm that he actually has, I say ‘What’s that?’ He says ‘They’ve been there all bleedin’ day!’ Good.
I thought I might get a photo of John if he’s still at the Westgate…but he’s nowhere to be found.
Earnings: £15.92p (including 1 CD)