Diary Of A Busker Day 386 Friday June 14th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 1:55-4:26pm, 2. Opposite Bellis, Time: 4:46-5:50pm).
A lady comes up and says ‘Do you know the man with the white beard?’, which annoys me, as I’m in the middle of something – The Entertainer, which, due to that bloody Focal Dystonia, I really have to concentrate on. Anyway, I stop and say, or rather bark ‘No!’, although I’m thinking she might mean Frank. She says ‘Colin’, and of course I know who she means. I say ‘Colin, yeah’. ‘He died’, she says. What? – I’m sure I saw him a couple of weeks ago, which is what I say – ‘He died? I saw him a couple of weeks ago. Or maybe three. I don’t know’. But no, he died on April 4th. This is the lady – Helen, who used to clean for him and make some of his meals. I remember Colin mentioning her. He was once carrying some flowers he was going to give her after they’d had an argument. Helen found him – ‘It was awful’ she said. He’d had two ‘explosions’ in his brain. Poor bloke. He was 65.
Colin – he loved my playing…and he never did bring in his mandolin for me to tune. And I’ll never forget last year when he got me to play at his 64th party. I’ve tried to forget it. He hired out the little downstairs bar up the road at The Royal Oak. I think he’d had too many drinks and had some sort of a breakdown. One of his family got him into a cab and they sent me home after only a few songs, and he paid me £150. He gave it to me in an envelope when I arrived. Now that’s what I call being treated right. But he was a bit out of it then, early on in the evening. He was walking around the upstairs bar all dressed up and parading around with a quite expensive Fender guitar, like some kid, pretending he could play it, and going on about me and The Third Man: ‘My friend Marvin here, he plays…’
And when we got downstairs, he made a speech just before the meal, with all his family and friends at the table. He announced in a loud voice ‘Now, this is Marvin B Naylor and he plays a song called The Third Man. It’s from a film…’ and he went on and on about it and because they were all from out of town, they’d never heard of me, and because most of them were a lot younger, they’d never heard of The Third Man, so they’d no idea what he was talking about, and I was sitting in the corner feeling embarrassed and feeling really sorry for Colin. He was just a big kid, really. Then he gave the signal for me to start playing, so I started, and they started the meal but I could see something wasn’t right. Something was getting to Colin, and I’m not sure but I think that fact that he’d got me to play, made a big speech, and then they started eating and talking over the music annoyed him. He didn’t eat anything, he stopped talking – not as if he was doing much, and then went into a weird strop, like a 3 year old. It was just like that. I know he had something wrong, mentally, and it certainly wasn’t helped by the drinking. He made a real scene and I remember thinking ‘I shouldn’t be here’, because it was a family thing.
It was awful and now he’s dead. No more problems, Colin. Poor bloke. And it must have been two months since I saw him – I was sure it couldn’t have been more than a month, at the most. ‘Rest in peace’, as they say. He didn’t seem to get much, here. Sometimes he was so out of it, he couldn’t even stand up. I remember that one time, just after we met, when I had Maurice standing in front of me, shouting as usual, and Colin turned up. He’d been drinking and was swaying about, and I remember looking down at my guitar, trying to concentrate for a minute or so, and when I looked up again, Colin was on the pavement, asleep and out of it. I don’t know…he loved The Third Man. In fact, the main thing I remember is how much he loved hearing The Third Man, and When I’m Sixty-Four, but mainly The Third Man. I don’t think anyone I’ve met out here loved it as much as he did. In fact I know they didn’t. So long, Colin: my biggest fan of The Third Man!
Anyway, Helen said she thought I would have liked to know he’d died and she apologised: ‘sorry to bring your day down a bit’. What can you do? I said again how sorry I was. I’ve just remembered – Colin’s in the video that John Knutson did of me playing The Third Man at the corner of Marks & Spencer. I remember it was a hot summer day. Colin’s there with his cowboy hat, occasionally lurking into the shot from the left. I remember he was always generous with his compliments, and money – too generous sometimes: there was the £30 he gave me once, and he’d just bought a £300 painting from the market stall nearby, and there were quite a few £5 notes in the bucket, over the 2 1/2 years of his patronage. Poor old Colin, he always said I should be famous, and he’d get really angry about me not being on the TV!
which brings me to my next episode…shortly after hearing about Colin, a properly famous person walks by me. It’s TV personality, Ian Hislop. Witty, bald and short. He turns the corner on Market Street, just on my right, and walks past me. He’s got five, yes FIVE women aides with him, or PAs, secretaries, whatever they’re called, and he doesn’t glance at me or contribute, which annoys me. I mean he could have at least glanced at me. He wouldn’t even have had to lower his eyes, the short-arse. (I’ve got news for YOU, Mr. Hislop: in the extremely unlikely event that I ‘make it’, I’ll remember that. In fact, even when I don’t, I’ll remember it).
It’s a long set – 2 1/2 hours, and in one place, too, but I haven’t been out for four days due to that damn song I’ve been doing at home, and I need to get some practise in before that gig tomorrow. Chilbolton Village Hall – moving up in the world. In fact, that was got from being out here. Anyway, I’m a bit rusty on a few things…and I should resurrect a couple of things, too, like Take 5, which I keep forgetting, and Swedish Rhapsody…which I keep forgetting.
I pack up and intend going home, but at The Butter Cross I see Mick coming out the alleyway so I stop and say hello, which of course mutates into a ten minute conversation. I mention Colin to him, thinking that all the people I’ve met out here all know each other! I’m sure that once when I was talking to Mick, Colin turned up worse for wear, started going on and on about something, probably The Third Man, and behind his back, Mick made the finger circle-ing around the ear motion (how did that originate?). Anyway, Mick starts going on about something he’s regretted for 47 years. Something to do with a girl he knew – ‘you never forget’. Then he stops talking, looks at someone who’s just passed behind my back and about to enter the alleyway. Mick says ‘Hey, isn’t that, that…Hislope’. LOPE, he says. Ha! I like that! By now I’ve seen him and his entourage. ‘Yeah, Ian Hislop. He walked by me about an hour ago, down the road. Didn’t give me any money, you know. Bastard!’, I say, still hurting. Ha!
Then a man who I’ve never met comes up, having also seen Mr. HisLOPE, and says, ‘You should go and play James Bond – your big chance!’, meaning I should set up near the cathedral ground entrance – which we can just about see from here and where they seem to have stopped (there’s a camera crew there, naturally, for this is the famous TV wit, Ian His-lope), and start blasting Bond at them. I think about it for a second, then think ‘I’m not having some BBC woman coming over and start going on about continuity, like they did a few weeks ago down at Oxfam. Anyway, it’s not my style.
I forget about all that TV stuff and set up here, instead.
…old street cleaner Alan walks by – ‘you couldn’t spare a bit of change for a pensioner, could you?’ Oh yes, he always makes me laugh a bit.
During The Third Man, a Drongo says, ‘Every time I hear that, I don’t know whether to throttle you or give you a million quid’, which of course means he’d like to throttle me. After a few seconds ‘umm’-ing, I say, ‘I’d rather it was the second one’. Actually, I don’t mind this Drongo – he’s one of the less threatening ones. The he says, ‘But you must have a set of songs – your personal favourites, that you like to play. What’s your favourite one?’ Just then, a woman comes up, puts a coin in and says, right on cue, ‘Oh, I love that one – The Third Man!’, so I say to the Drongo, ‘I play what the people like, see?!’, and the woman says, ‘I like that one. My uncle was a Soviet spy’. (what!? It’s all happening out here today…). I say, ‘What? Your uncle was a Soviet spy?’ ‘Yes, and it reminds me of him, in Berlin’. Drongo butts in with, ‘Vienna? The Third Man – Vienna’. Woman: ‘Oh yes, Vienna. He was there, and in that period, after the war’. ‘Really?’, I say. ‘Oh yes, it really reminds me of him’. So, there you are, Drongo, nostalgia’s the reason I play this stuff. Actually, I was impressed he knew about Vienna/The Third Man. Maybe I shouldn’t stereotype all Drongos.
After one hour, I’ve played and had enough. The 2 1/2 hours before was OK, I think, although I know there can’t be £25 in the bucket, but I’ve hardly made anything here. As I get off the stool, another Drongo from the bench across the street shouts, I THOUGHT YOU WERE GONNA BANG ONE OUT FOR ME!, which sounds a bit rude, somehow. I mean, I’ve heard that expression – bang one out, before, but not often in reference to music. I say ‘Sorry?’ and he repeats what he said, then adds HOW ABOUT ALBATROSS? Right, good, so he IS referring to music, so I think ‘what the hell’, I might get another pound from someone, so I sit down and BANG OUT Albatross…which fails to bring in said pound, although the Drongo – the requester(?), comes over and puts in 9 pence. All in a days’ work.