Diary Of A Busker Day 397 Friday July 5th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 11:55-1:25pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 1:48-2:48pm).
‘Maurice’ and his very loud voice (back to normal after a being croaky for a few days) turn up as I’m setting up. He puts a £2 coin in the bucket, then a 20p coin, then says ‘There, that’s all my money. I’ve got nothing till tomorrow!’ He’s loud, poor and generous, to be sure.
After the first Third Man of the day, I get the first of several memorable Third Man related comments. A man says it reminds him of when he ‘was at school in Cumbria in 1947, when the film came out’. I’m afraid I had to correct him: ‘I’m pretty sure (definitely sure) it was 49’, which he seems to accept, but then later on he goes back to 47. Anyway, he said he had a friend who had one of the old wind-up record players and six records, and The Third Man was one of them. They played them all endlessly, he said, then, pondering, he added ‘Don’t know what happened to my friend!’
Ian turns up and sits down on the bench opposite. Now, I know he really likes Spanish music but I’m a bit rusty on Requerdos…but I’ve been featuring Bert Weedon’s 1960s arrangement of Malaguena in almost every set recently, so I played it – just for him. Afterwards, he comes across, compliments me (because he’s always been like that) and tells me he’s 80 next Sunday, which really amazes me – he could get away with 70, or even 65, which I say to him. He says ‘It helps if you’re happy, and I feel happy when I listen to you’, which must be one of the nicest, certainly most humbling things anyone has ever said to me out here.
Maurice the painter drops by in between songs. He says ‘Before you start (the next song), I’ve got a 78 of The Third Man. Must be worth something, you think?’ I say the only thing I know – that it’s probably not worth a lot as they must have sold millions of them. I don’t know, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Next up (it’s like a conveyer belt out here, sometimes) is Delia, sporting (or wearing) a floral dress I haven’t seen before, and she’s also made a purchase: ‘I bought a new dress, twenty pounds’. She bought it up the road at the ‘posh’ Cath Kidson shop. ‘Well, it’s not that much for a dress, twenty pounds’. I agree, saying she’ll have it for years. ‘Yes, and you know I get fed up with charity shop clothes. I wanted something, one thing someone else hasn’t worn, you know?’ ‘Of course you do, Delia’. We say goodbye and I say I’ll see her next Tuesday, or more likely later on, down the road, which I do, about an hour later.
After an hour and a half I take a break, and run across ‘Maurice’ in the alleyway, near the toilets. He’s now sporting a silly hat (everyone’s sporting something today), as this silly annual ritual – The Hat Fair, is starting up, tomorrow, I think. I take a photo of him leaning against a big dustbin and looking very disgruntled (great word) under his new hat.
Back ‘on the case’ at Vodafone, I do something I don’t often do. I go into the dropped-tuning set in reverse, as that’s what I finished with up the road, so it’s (in sequential order): The Rain Song, Jesu, Joy of etc., Yellow Bird, Wheels, and The Third Man. As I started TTM, an old lady who’d just walked past, froze in her tracks, looked at me, smiled – so I smiled in return, and I thought ‘I bet there’s some memory there’, and there was. At the end, she came over and said that the first gift she bought for her husband was a music box, and that was the tune it played. Amazing.
At 2:15, a very tall boy – he looks about 12, comes up, carrying a suitcase. He’s dressed in the traditional costume of a Scottish person: kilt, sporran, very shiny black shoes, and to top it all off, blue/green socks complete with dagger tucked in. And it speaks, this apparition – to me, not in a Scottish voice, but in a very posh English one. The dark hair should have given it away. ‘Hello. I wonder if you could tell me how long you’ll be here for?’ Yes, he’s certainly posh sounding, but I reckon he could have been more polite and waited for me to finish Albatross, especially him being a ‘fellow’ musician. I say ‘I take it you’ve got some bagpipes in that case?’ ‘Yes…um, can you tell me how long you’ve been here – have you been here very long?’ says More Posh Than Polite Boy. I say ‘Look, I’ll speak to you in a minute, at the end of this, OK?’ ‘Yes, OK’, he says and wanders off. In search of a proper Scottish accent, I hope.
He must have been hiding around the corner because the second I finish Albatross, he’s in front of me. I say ‘OK, you can set up now’. ‘Oh, I wonder if you’d mind if I played just over there’, and he points to the place a few feet away, near the bench where the two fat bald blokes usually sit – there’s only one there now. I say ‘No, I don’t mind. You play where you want’. Maybe he thinks I’m the busking boss, or the foreman or something.
I comment on the discrepancy between his outfit and accent: ‘You look Scottish, although you don’t sound it’ ‘Oh no, well, I AM Scottish but I’ve lived here all my life’. ‘Ah, that’ll be it, then’. So he goes off and sets up his bagpipes while I ‘rig down’.
I want to get a photo of him before he starts up, before some irrate shop worker comes out and kills him. As I’m about to walk off and get my picture, the ice-cream vendor bloke comes up. ‘So he’s not playing where you’ve been, eh?’, he says. I say ‘No, he’s down there’, which is only about 20 feet away. ‘Oh good, the further away, the better’, he says. Ah, poor posh Scottish kid. I reckon the bagpiper must be one of the few musicians who are despised before they even start playing.
And then he starts up, with that most well-known of Scottish bagpipe tunes, which I don’t know the name of…Skye Boat Song? All I know for sure is it’s in waltz time and it isn’t Mull Of Kintyre. I feel sorry for him – Posh Boy. He can’t be more than 18, and he’s going to get some stick, I bet. I really do feel for him. In fact I feel for him so much, I go up and, as his first contributor, put a pound coin in his case and say ‘Good luck, mate’. I then step back into the crescent of people, already formed – because bagpipes do nothing if not attract attention, and get my photo. I never got his name, though, as he started playing before I went over.
It was only after I got home and studied the photo, when I saw that the sock dagger had been removed prior to the commencement of his performance. A wise move perhaps, my lad.
Earnings: £46.37p (Including 1 CD)