Diary Of A Busker Day 365 Thursday May 9th 2013 Winchester High Street, opposite Oxfam. Time: 1:48-3:18pm
A very windy day – the weather has “changed,” as they say. I feel a bit of an idiot because I’m used to at least a couple of people sitting outside Maison Blanc, but there’s no one today. It gets off to a slow start, money-wise, too; I’m on my fifth song before anyone donates.
I meet an old man who was at Henry Gray’s funeral, or his Thanksgiving Service, as it was officially called. I don’t know who he is at first when he comes up and asks for Somewhere Over The Rainbow but then he starts talking about Henry – how death can bring strangers together – and we both agree that he was a remarkable man, not as if I knew him well; I only met him a few times. The man says ‘…he could paint, play the organ, do tapestry, embroidery, write poetry, write music…I miss him terribly.’ I ask how long he knew him. ‘Oh, 20, 30…no, about 40 years.’ And contrary to what Henry’s carer told me – that he died at 9 o’clock, three hours before his 101st birthday, this man says it was 1 1/2 hours before, at 10:30. ‘Well that’s even better,’ I say, meaning he was a bit nearer his birthday than what I thought. Anyway, he says goodbye so I say I’ll leave him with Henry’s favourite, complete with Henry’s suggestion of the 3/4 waltz-time bit at the start rather than at the end, so he hasn’t got to wait three minutes for it! I ask his name – Cecil Dixon. Nice man. He must really miss Henry; he said it three times during our conversation – ‘I miss him terribly.’
Now…who’s the regular who ignores me today? There are TWO, in fact. First is Eddie, who walks past, right in front of me. Second is Lily, somewhat less blatantly; she’s across the street so I suppose she could claim she didn’t see me. She can bloody well hear me, though.
Just after I start Borsalino, I notice my generous-of-late benefactor, he of the £10 note and occasional gift of the high quality Cuban cigar, namely, the councillor. He’s across the road and I think ‘Now, is he going to ignore me?’ as it seems to be the order of the day…and I’m pleased to say no, he isn’t going to ignore me. In fact, he more than consolidates his reputation by carefully putting a much screwed-up tenner in my bucket. I think he’s screwed it up so it doesn’t blow out of the bucket. What a man; TWO ten pound notes in a week. I bet he doesn’t know he’s just contributed more than half my day’s takings, as it turns out.
A bit later, two blokes cross over and donate. They think I’m great and ask if I do other sorts of work, like play in groups, so I give them the ‘playing in loud rock groups made me half deaf so I can only play solo now’ part of my Hard Luck Story. One of the blokes, the one who does all the talking, has been in the same group for 36 YEARS! He’s almost 60, he says, so he’s been in it since he was, now let me get this right…24. I think he said he’s from Tiverton. Anyway, I say I do the odd wedding and birthday party, not usually together, of course, and he says he’s got Albert Lee playing at his 60th, soon. How? I never really find out. Apparently Mr. Lee is playing a few shows around his part of the country and this guy has got him to do a gig for HIM. Who knows…anyway I give him one of my cards and say if he knows of anything I could do, to let me know.
Meanwhile, a suited man has turned up and is standing next to me and as those two go off, this man says ‘That’s what I’ve wanted to ask you about…’ (ah, so he was eavesdropping) and goes on to tell me about something he would like me to play at next month, so I might have got a gig out of that, and for £200, no less.
After an hour and a half, it’s as windy as ever and my hands, especially my left one, is pretty cold so I stop. I reckon I’ve done OK – with the councillor’s tenner and maybe even a gig…I hope.
As I’m packing up, I get a good photo of four Maison Blanc chairs strewn across the road, all in a line. A couple of them blew over a few times earlier, but never four until now. I help one of the waste clearer-uppers put them back, and say ‘that’s crazy – four chairs.’ ‘Gale force winds, they said,’ says the clearer-upper.