Diary Of A Busker Day 396 Thursday July 4th Winchester/Basingstoke. Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 1:07-1:55pm, 2. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:13-3:51pm). Basingstoke (Entrance to Festival Place).
I come into the High Street just as Demelza (for it is she) is starting a set, and as I wanted to set up here – because I want to give the places down the road a rest, I decide to hang around until she’s finished, then do a 45 minute set before her next one, which, according to her NEXT PERFORMANCE sign, is due to be at 2 o’clock. So that’s what I do: hang around and listen…and when she gets to the last one – something from La Traviata (I only know because that’s what she said. I wouldn’t know an opera song from a hole in the ground), then that’s when I start setting up, so I’m able to start the second she stops. Well, after I leave a respectable minute.
Oh, how I wish I could be as popular as Demelza! After she finishes a set, loads of people swarm to her, to buy CDs and say how wonderful she is – and she is. In fact, as I’m about to start, a lady passes and says ‘Well, you can’t top that’. Indeed, I can’t. I say ‘It’s a good job I don’t sing!’
Unfortunately, at the end of my allotted time, I’ve made about £5 – terrible. I pack up and have a brief chat with Demelza, before she brings the house down again.
The meagre takings have really put me off this area, so I head down to the other end – the exact area I was trying to avoid, due to the gruelling 2 hour set I did yesterday. It’s not that long today. Long enough, though: 1 1/2 hours.
After Yellow Bird a man about 60 who’s just walked past, stops, comes back and asks how much the CDs are. I say £10 and give him one to peruse, making a point of pointing out the inclusion of said Yellow Bird. He says ‘I’ll have to go and get some money’, and wanders off, hopefully to the cashpoint machine. Half an hour later, I spot him on the other side of the street and catch his eye – I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist a glance over to me. Just a split-second glance. I don’t think he had any intention of buying a CD. But if he’d bartered, he could have had it for £8.
A man comes from the bench opposite to tell me how ‘wonderful’ I am. I make sure he knows how especially wonderful I am by telling him all about my unfortunate hand condition: how it has rendered most of my right hand useless, etc. But he doesn’t just think I’M wonderful. He thinks ALL musicians are, especially those in groups, because THEY have to be able to play together. And painters: they’re wonderful, too – ‘How do they start a painting? – you know. They must have a different kind of brain’, he says. ‘Yep, I reckon you’re right, there’, I agree.
He tells me he went to see Jethro Tull. I say I always liked Ian Anderson’s acoustic guitar playing. The we talk about how old Ian’s lost his voice. My man: ‘Well, he’s a workaholic. It’s his character flaw. He’s always worked, all the time, and his voice has gone’. ‘Yep’, I say, ‘None of these rock blokes are trained singers, though, are they? Not like Sinatra and that lot’.
A lady walks by and says ‘I suppose you’ll be taking a break – for the Hat Fair?’ Oh yes, it’s that time of the year again. Time for the dreadful hat fair. I inform her that I indeed will NOT be taking a break.
After packing up, I spend a few minutes walking up the road, trying to decide what to do. Then I have a whim. A whim of dastardly proportions. I’m going to go to Basingstoke and play at the entrance to Festival Place – the only spot I wasn’t chucked off of by SECURITY, before the Tommy Emmanuel gig in March. Besides, I need a change. I’m fed up with this town. I get to the station just in time for the 16:18 (airport and army time), or 4:18 (civilian or normal time). A man standing just inside the door has seen me before and asks if I’ve been out today. I say I have and now I’m going to do the same in Basingstoke!
20 minutes later, I’m setting up. A few feet to my right are 5 school kids – 4 boys, 1 girl, all about 15. The girl has black, curly Marc Bolan-ish hair. One of the boys is on one of those silly bikes with the seat really low down. After 2 minutes they notice me. A boy says ‘Hey, that’s a pretty expensive guitar – a thousand pounds?’ I say ‘No, not this. It’s a Korean one’. Then Bike Boy says ‘Can I play it?’ I say ‘No, sorry’. Fortunately they don’t beat me up. They stay there for a couple of songs then move over to the blue/green UFO thing nearby, and stay there, lolling about, lying on it, rolling on it, rolling off it, like a bunch of monkeys in a zoo.
A couple of the boys adopt that revolting ‘fashion’ of revealing four inches of undergarment above too-low slung trousers. Quite old-fashioned now, I believe. Bike Boy snogs Bolan Girl and it’s all pretty revolting, but they leave me alone and don’t heckle me.
At about 5:50 (civilian time), trumpet busker Colin appears. He says I should see about busking in the shopping centre. I say I’ve looked into it – Kai gave me the number of the lady – Anne Noonan, who’s in charge of all that. The thing is, I have to have this Public Liability Insurance. Colin says if I join the Musician’s Union, they do all that. OK, how much is it to join? £160, Colin says. What? That much? I was last in the union in 1987 and it was £60, I think. What about the Public Liability thing? £160, says my trumpet blasting friend. I’m not doing all that and paying all that just to stand all day in a crummy shopping centre a handful of times a year, and still be ignored by 99.99999% of everyone. I bid Colin farewell. He has his trumpet case but none of the other stuff he usually carts around. He must be on his way to a lesson or coming back from one. No doubt I’ll see him again, soon, somewhere…
It’s been quite warm here, ha! – I’m in the sun for once, not a thing I really appreciate…but my idyll is coming to an end. Just before 6 o’clock, and halfway through Yellow Bird, two SECURITY blokes who I have to say look vaguely familiar(!) turn up. Security Bloke One – an Indonesian-looking chap, tells me I can’t play here as everything under the over-hanging roof is PRIVATE PROPERTY. HOWEVER, I AM aloud to play near the benches and the UFO. ‘Oh dear’, I say, ‘I thought I could play here’. ‘No’, says Security Bloke One, then he looks at Security Bloke Two and says ‘But he’s good, isn’t he?’, then to me, ‘We usually get some really bad ones, you know’. ‘Oh, thanks’, I say, then, ‘Well, I was just going, in a minute, OK?’ ‘Yes, that’s OK’, he says and they go off. They looked vaguely familiar because they were the same ones that kicked me off the steps near The Anvil just after Tommy’s show. They’re not aggressive, though. You can’t play anywhere these days.
Anyway, I start another song, Wheels. Why not?, I think. After all, I’m in the right tuning and it would be a waste otherwise, and anyway, I ALWAYS follow Yellow Bird with Wheels. Don’t mess with tradition, I always say. Bloody SECURITY. Then and only then do I pack up.
A couple of minutes later, as I’m about to walk off, a bloke who’s been standing to my left with his bike comes forward. He’s got all the right gear: shades – cycling shades I presume, helmet, gloves – proper leather cycling gloves of course, cycling clothes (or he could have come from a meeting with Jacques Cousteau…if he was still alive). Anyway, he comes forward, extends one of the afore-mentioned leather-gloved hands and says ‘A pleasure to hear your music, dude’. Dude? DUDE?! Really – I’m a 51 year old man, for goodness sake. For dude-ness sake.
Well, it’s been interesting here in Basingstoke: kids, sun, UFOs, SECURITY guards, being called ‘dude’, but the train fare was whopping £8.60p and I think I probably made about that, maybe a bit more, over the hour and 20 minutes. So, financially – a waste, but I needed a quick change.
Earnings after train fare: £28.48p (and 1 USA cent)