Diary Of A Busker Day 379 Thursday May 30th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 4:27-5:13pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 5:25-6:08pm).
There’s a bloke setting up a puppet busker(!) near The Butter Cross, and Mike(?) and his mandolin around the corner from Vodafone, so I go down the road…when I’m going past the TINC shop, I can see the short bloke’s working today – the one who I’m sure doesn’t like me – he switches some music on whenever I start up. It’s a FACT – it’s not imagination! Anyway, I start setting up and a minute later I look up and he’s at the shop doorway looking at me. When he sees me see HIM, he quickly disappears back in his shop…and there it is – he’s switched on the music! Not nearly as loud as he sometimes does, but it’s there.
I decide not to stay here too long just in case he comes across. This is the guy the Scottish piper said came out and told him to f*** off, as I recall. I hope he doesn’t do that to me. If I get angry, I might lose my temper. He wouldn’t like that. He DOES come out during my stint, to put something in the rubbish bin a few steps in front of the shop, and when he does, he looks at me, turns to go back and throws his arms wide to someone standing outside the shop next to his. Yeah, you gesticulate all you want, just don’t come over. Yep, he’s a twat but at least he doesn’t come over – good. No, I’m definitely not imagining it. No, he doesn’t like buskers: Son of Timpson Man!
Oh well, I’m leaving. I’ve hardly made anything, anyway: £1.80 for 40 minutes – terrible. In fact it’s worse than terrible. Before I go off, the Drongo on the bench opposite (he clapped after the last song – The Rain Song) comes over. Noticing the scantness of the coinage, he dispenses his worldly advice: ‘You want to get a bigger bucket, y’know. You’ve just got that little thing and you want to put yourself out a bit further – come out a bit…and you need to be up the other end, where they all go, at The Butter Cross, blah, blah…’. That’s just what I need: to play for 40 minutes for £1.80 and then have some Drongo tell me how to do my job. ‘Job’ – ha!
A minute later, I bump into Ragtime Phillip and we exchange promised tabs: he gets the one I’ve done for Girl and I get the one he’s done for Killing Me Softly, the song he did on my guitar a few months ago near The Butter Cross. Then, a bit further up, Big Issue Simon asks how I’ve done. I tell him the truth – ‘Not very well, but I came out late, though’. ‘What’s that one you do…do do do, do dooo, do dooo’, he asks, humming The Third Man. The truth again – ‘The Third Man. From a film from 1949’. ‘Oh right. I do that one as well (I can’t remember the last time I saw him with a guitar, not playing one, anyway. He had one slung over his shoulder about 2 years ago)…not like you, though. I just do the notes – do do do, do dooo’, he does it again. ‘Ah’, I say, ‘You do the melody. The three notes, next to each other’. ‘Yeah’. ‘Oh well, that’s the main thing. That’s what everyone knows’, I add, with – I have to admit, a rather high smattering of condescension.
A bit further up, Mike’s gone so I set up…and almost make up for the money I didn’t make down the road. At 5:57, the guy from TINC passes me, glancing very briefly at me, expressionless. The twat.
Earlier in the day, me and Doll went to the hub of civilisation – Basingstoke, and there, next to the Baskin Robbins ice-cream kiosk in Festival Place, was Kai, the violinist busker. He stopped playing to chat with me and we somehow got talking about airplanes and he got out his phone and showed me all these amazing paintings he’d done of planes from the 50s and 60s in flight. In fact he showed me a photo of a poster he’d done for an air tattoo, with loads of planes on it and I’m sure I’ve seen the poster. He said he’d presented some of the paintings to the pilots and been invited to a special event marking the 50th anniversary of something or other. He told me a story of an old Second World War veteran, who years later went to Berlin to try to find where his friend’s plane was shot down, and he found the place, and after excavation, they found the body!
In a weird coincidence, Kai mentioned Frank Whittle, who I’ve just been reading about in a book I got for 50p at a car-boot fair, Empire Of The Clouds – about the jet age of the late 1940s. In fact, as there’s a Vulcan on the cover, I’m going to send to Canada for Father’s Day.
But Kai’s paintings were just incredible. And I noticed he’d done a painting of the Valiant so I asked if he’d be able to do one of the Vulcan – well, I know he could but I didn’t have any idea how much he would charge. He said it depends on a lot of things, not least the time spent researching loads of stuff, not the least of which is the background: whether the airplane’s on the ground, or in the air. A ground background takes a lot of research: all the ground support vehicles have to be exactly right. I never thought of that! Anyway, I got his phone number. I also got the number of the woman in charge of the busking activity. When we got back, I phoned – she wasn’t there so I left a message. It would make a change from Winchester, once in a while.
(I managed to get hold of her after days of phoning but the personal liability insurance was so much, I didn’t bother pursuing it. Oh well, it might have been warmer but I didn’t fancy being stuck in one place in a shopping mall).