Diary Of A Busker Day 394 Tuesday July 2nd Winchester High Street
Another slow day. It’s not until the 5th song, after 15 minutes, before the 1st donation – a pound coin. It’s from Faye, who, being about 50, qualifies as one of my younger regulars. And then not much for another few minutes.
A woman smiles at me from across the street, so I smile back, then she crosses over and I think ‘Oh good, a donation’, but she goes behind me…to meet her friend. It was her she was smiling at!
A lady of about 70 stops in front of me and I have to wrack my brain really quickly to think of her name!…it’s Shirley, of Shirley and Eric, the guy I gave a couple of guitar lessons to a while back, but because of something he had, he could hardly move his fingers. I was quite relieved when he didn’t want to carry on with the lessons, he looked like he was in such pain, poor bloke.
I ask Shirley how she is. ‘Better than Eric’, she says, and I automatically think ‘Oh no, he’s died’. But he hasn’t. What’s happened is he’s had a massive heart attack and has been in a hospital in Basingstoke for a long spell, then they told him he’d be having an operation on a certain date, then they put it back, then they moved him to the hospital here and he’s been there for 14 weeks. And they still don’t know when he’ll be operated on.
Shirley tells me how it happened in great detail. ‘He was just sitting down to his dinner – I made a gammon for him, he just had a sip of wine, and he collapsed, face down in his dinner’. Oh dear, when she said that, there was something evil in me that wanted to say ‘Oh my goodness – face down in his meal! That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week!’ I had this vision of Eric with his face in his gammon, like something from a comedy film. It was awful.
Anyway, after Eric collapsed, Shirley ‘went to work on him (more evil of the juvenile kind)…well, I phoned the ambulance, then tried to get Eric up – we both fell on the floor, and after the ambulance got there, they said I’d probably saved his life, and when Eric heard about that, he started getting upset. His jaw started to shake, so I knew he didn’t like to hear that. He didn’t know, you see, for awhile what had happened’.
Shirley then tells me some horror stories about the care in the hospital. Apparently, according to someone else in Eric’s ward, they just brought a plate with some food and left it in front of Eric. No one came to see if he could eat it alright, so Shirley’s been going in twice a day to bring him his food and also to shave and wash him! Then there’s the Polish cleaner who doesn’t speak much English. He came in the room and said ‘Lady, go’ to Shirley, who said ‘I’m sorry, are you trying to say it’s time for visitors to go?’ He ignored her and started slopping around a lot of water, without squeezing out his mop, so Shirley told him how to do it properly, and he went and complained that Shirley was stopping him from doing his job!
But what he was doing – and she’s right, was spreading around germs and sure enough, two weeks after, the ward next to Eric’s became contaminated with what Eric had, which was something he’d contracted (apart from his heart attack!) from somewhere else in the hospital!
Shirley says she wouldn’t be surprised if he was still there at Christmas. Poor bloke. I ask her to give my regards to him. I hope he makes it out alive.
The money’s really slow and after 1 1/2 hours I’ve had enough. I’ve also got to keep an eye on my thumb. I’ve had to rest it, as all the playing I’m doing – sometimes 2 hours non-stop and then a too-short break then another hour and a half, well, it’s no good. I’m getting a sore thumb joint, and that was last week and I can still feel a bit of pain. I can’t lay off for too long, though, obviously. Bread, man! – gotta make some bread!
Anyway, in the second set, Mick stops across the road. This is during Jesu – the song he was criticising the other day, and I know that after I finish, he’ll come over, and I hope he doesn’t resume his ‘ctitique’ – it might make me angry! So I ignore him and keep my head down and after 3 minutes, after I’ve gone into the Black Mountain Rag bit, I look up and he’s gone, which of course makes me feel guilty. One can’t win! However, I couldn’t have felt too bad because a few minutes later, he turns up again, asks how I am and how’s it going. I say ‘OK, Mick but I can’t stop playing. You can talk to ME, though, but I can’t stop playing’. He gets the message – ‘No, it’s OK, fair enough’, and wanders off. So then I feel even more guilty!
I think some of the people I see out here are just lonely. Who knows? I don’t think Mick’s married and I only ever see him on his own. I might be one of the only people he talks to. I mean, he might look forward to our almost daily chats about chord structures and what not and there I go, saying I’m too busy to talk to him for one minute. But it wouldn’t be 1 minute, it would be 10! You never know, though. Mick’s 70 and what with a few of my regulars kicking the bucket recently, it could be the last time I see him. I mean, one of these times WILL be the last time.
Hm…quite a depressing day, actually, and then I see Ragtime Phillip up the road, walking very slowly with a woman. He doesn’t look at all well these days, then they stop when they meet someone they know and then Phillip’s hugging them both. It looks like one of them’s really sad or heard some bad news, then Phillip and the woman carry on walking and get to me. He asks how it’s going and looks in the bucket – there’s never much in it today, and puts a 50p coin in, against my protestations, of course. Then they go off, walking really slow. In fact I don’t know who’s helping who, maybe it’s her that’s got the problem. Oh dear…and then I feel bad (again) having not invited Phillip to sit down and play Killing Me Softly, because I told him I need to film him playing it, so I can work it out. I promise myself I must remember to try and get him to do it next time I see him.
Earnings: £21.90p (and 1 Arab coin, similar to our £2 coins)