Diary Of A Busker Day 350 Saturday April 6th Winchester High Street (1. corner of Monsoon, Time: 11:45-1:45pm, 2. opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:30-4:30pm). The street’s pretty full up today: there’s what’s-his-name’s rockabilly trio at The Butter Cross, there’s one of those statue people painted all in black, standing on a crate a bit further down, there’s the animal balloon maker – Pierre, and there’s the harpist I saw the other day – he’s down about halfway to the crossroads. The harp’s louder than you think – I can hear it down at Vodafone, although it’s almost inaudible just a few feet around the corner where I set up, unbelievably, in the sun. In fact after 15 minutes I even take my scarf off! I forgot – just after I start up, Pierre comes around the corner to say ‘bonjour’ and ‘ca va?’, which of course I return but that marks the extent of my Holiday French, these days. Well, after my ‘ca va’, and clearly under the illusion I am fluent in his um…mere tongue, he then says something fast, long and incomprehensible. The foolish foreigner. Je nay compron, I think I said.
While he’s here, two young guys hand us leaflets – an invitation to: ‘Come along to the Winchester Gospel Hall. Enjoy a FREE hot lunch and receive your own FREE Bible. 12:30-1:30pm’, and on the back, the menu: ‘A succulent Beef burger in a soft, white Bread roll with caramelised onions, melted cheese and leafy green salad…served with fried chips. Gooey Chocolate brownies. Assortment of biscuits. Hot tea, steaming coffee, Ice cold water. Soft drinks’. And underneath – ‘all this completely free of charge’, which I somewhat doubt – there IS a price to pay: YOUR SOUL!! Pierre and I discuss this prospect of a free hot lunch. I think he likes the idea but apart from the more sinister aspects, it would take me 20 minutes to walk up there, on the Andover Road, and 20 minutes back, soul hopefully intact. Nah!
Halfway through, I’m aware of a couple of students or young tourists – a boy and girl, a bit to my right. The bloke’s filming me but he’s trying to make out he isn’t because every time I turn my head slightly his way, he quickly starts inspecting his camera. This happens several times over 10 minutes. Over the course of the last 2 years I’ve decided that I won’t let this sort of thing bother me as (usually) at the end, whoever it is will donate something. I can’t be bothered getting angry – there’s so much other stuff that makes me angry, and I certainly wouldn’t demand they come over and donate. I’ve seen Big Issue Simon do that when some Japanese guy was taking a photo of him. The Japanese take photos of anything! Anyway, I bet I’m in loads of people’s holiday albums! I again attempt Tommy Emmanuel’s Classical Gas…and mess it up, although I get along a lot better with Borsalino, my current favourite. An old guy – well, 60 (old enough) but with one of those well-lived-in faces (the same one who came up recently and was going on about his SG guitar and Marshall amp and how he couldn’t get the right sound), he comes up after Apache and asks how much I’d charge to go round his house and sort his sound out for him. I ask where he lives – Micheldever. I say that’s a few miles away and I don’t drive. He says that’s OK, he’ll come and pick me up. Hm. I give him my card instead and say if he phones me, I might be able to talk him through it.
I catch the eye (Eye catch the Eye) of one of my old-lady-regulars. She’s across the street and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t going to come over but she has to now. Ha! Ha! In fact, after she says hello and goes to dig around in her purse, I say ‘You know, you don’t have to give me money every time you see me, you can just say hello if you want – I don’t mind. I’ll always say hello’. She says ‘Oh, I know you’re polite, not like some of them’. ‘Them?’ – the homeless?, the beggars? some of the (impolite) scum out here? – I’m paranoid enough sometimes, about being out here, without some old lady grouping me in with some of that lot. I do a ‘good’ 2 hours out here, then reckon I – and everyone else – need a break…and for the first time in months, I’ve brought a snack of a small apple and crisps, and also for the first time in months, I’m able to go to the cathedral grounds and eat it and not freeze. Amazing.
For the second set, I intend doing an hour – that’ll make a total of 3, which is long enough for a 50 year old man. When I start playing, I notice one of the homeless guys in the doorway of the closed-down shop (Jessops, I think) opposite. I remember him being there before when I’ve been playing here. Anyway, 20 minutes into my set, a couple of WPCSO’s arrive and move him on, so he stands near the bench a few feet off for a bit, then goes off somewhere. A few minutes later he’s back, camped out in the doorway and soon after, the same two WPCSO’s are back, having another ‘word’…joined a few minutes later by two more – of the burly, male sort. These 4 stand around this guy for awhile before one escorts him off, down towards the King Alfred statue. I reckon they’ll turn left in a minute and go to the police station. I don’t get it though. He wasn’t being a nuisance, the shop doorway isn’t being used, he didn’t appear inebriated or drugged up. In fact, I don’t even think he was begging. Why not leave him be?
I gave my card to a couple who asked if I’d play at their coffee bar when it opens in the summer. It’s in some place called Bucklebury which, according to my AA Illustrated Road Book Of England And Wales – 1961 edition, is in between Newbury and Reading and has a population of 1,822. I bet I won’t hear from them!*
Well, I was going to do an hour at the most but ended up doing 2 – maybe I was going for some record – but I think I coped pretty well because unlike the first spot, this one was cold and windy, and in the shade and by the end my feet are well cold. FOUR hours – I haven’t done one of them for ages. Earnings: £43.96p (including 1 CD) * I didn’t.