Diary Of A Busker Day 398 Saturday July 6th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 12:55-2:22pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 2:30-2:48pm, 3. Opposite Bellis/O2 Time: 3:25-3:59pm, 4. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 4:55-5:55pm).
It’s the dreaded crap Hat Fair – there’ll be millions of people about but the son and heir says I shouldn’t go in because the High Street will be full up with other people playing and I won’t be able to get a place.
However, I checked my diary from last year – I went, but it was a pretty miserable day with lots of rain, but it’s fine today (temperature 24 degrees Celsius, 78 Fahrenheit) so I’m going in. Also, I promised young Ollie I’d pop down to see his group play – they’re on at 3 o’clock outside the Guildhall, on The Broadway.
Opposite The Butter Cross, Rick Tarrant’s attempting a song but there’s so much noise about, I can’t hear him at all! He says he’s trying but every few seconds someone walks by making a noise about something, so he’s giving up. He says he’s going for a half-pint so I can set up there if I want, so I do, in the usual spot, in the shade of course.
It really is noisy, mainly due to all the young people about, especially the very small children. A lot of brats about.
A rather dramatic moment occurred about halfway in. A woman who had obviously lost her kid became hysterical. Then, after what seemed an eternity but couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds, she saw someone running up the inside of the Pentice, carrying the kid – a 3 or 4 year old girl, which made her even more hysterical. She ran up and grabbed her kid. It was awful! I reckon that’s going to happen a few times today.
It really is chaos – I bet it’s twice as loud as usual. In fact I have to ditch some of the more quiet songs as no one would hear them. I think I was quite lucky to be able to set up here. There’s actually an ‘official’ Hat Fair act going on not far up the road, on the other side of The Butter Cross, and when I first heard a bloke shouting in a mic, I thought maybe I should stop playing, but now I don’t think it makes a lot of difference to whoever it is, if I’m playing or not – there’s so much racket from everywhere else, so I just ignore what their doing and carry on. I bet the people up there are thinking the exact same thing about me!
The contributions are steady – a lot of shrapnel, though – parents giving their brats 1 and 2p coins to get them off their backs. But it’s good – I even have to siphon off £20 from the bucket, so it doesn’t get too full – the first time I’ve ever done that!
I get a bit self-conscious at one point, when I notice there’s a crescent of people forming in front of me, maybe 10 at the ‘peak’, which lasts a few minutes before they all disperse (fortunately), possibly in search of a proper performer – something I’m definitely not! Oh! – the blessed relief, when they went away.
At 2:20, whatever it is on the other side of The Butter Cross suddenly gets a lot louder and there’s no point in carrying on, so I flee the scene and head down the road…
A few days ago there was a big news story in the busking world, in fact it was so big it even made it into the Daily Mail Online. It was about a disabled busker in Bath who had been quite viciously verbally abused by another busker – a Gary Millhouse. Millhouse was in the big open space near the Abbey and the disabled guy was in front of the Pump Rooms, the same place where I played a couple of years ago. Millhouse could hear this guy while he was playing and didn’t like it and came over to him. Someone filmed it all: Millhouse swearing and shouting at him to ‘TURN DOWN OR I’LL F*** YOU OVER!’, and that he would ‘RAM THE MIC UP YOUR ARSE!’ It was pretty bad, and the poor bloke looked pretty frightened by Millhouse. The video ended up on Facebook (naturally) and Millhouse was crucified (naturally). Even I joined in with a comment – ‘If he ever shows up in Winchester, I’ll run him out of town like a common pigmy!’ In the end, of course, Millhouse ended up apologising to the guy.
Anyway, halfway down to Vodafone there’s a girl in the middle of the road singing Super Trouper and Man After Midnight over some backing tracks. I didn’t think much about it until I saw her a bit later, down at the entrance to the alleyway, opposite Marks & Spencer. I stopped and looked and realised it was the disabled bloke in a disguise, with a wig, pink Oxford University shirt, and girls’ shorts. But it was definitely the same person, and definitely a man – you could see he’d shaved that morning. And he had a very distinctive set up which I recognised straight away from the video – a square white amp and a computer. But where’s the disable-ing thing? In the video, he’s sitting down so I thought he might have some problem with his legs, but here he is, standing up and dancing about?! Weird.
I can just about hear him/her at Vodafone but it’s not too bad so I do a quick set. Across the road’s the mobile ice-cream cart, manned today by both the bloke and his wife, with a big queue – they’re doing a roaring trade, as they say.
After a 25 minute set, I pack up and head down the road to see if Ollies’ group is on. This takes a lot longer than usual – I can barely move, as there are so many people about.
Near the Guildhall, on the corner of Colebrook Street, I meet Andrew Rutter, and he’s in a very talkative mood, going on about his new hip, how he walked up St. Catherine’s Hill with a bunch of other (much younger) people, and how, after sitting down for a rest, he could get up without anyone’s help.
He shows me an unusual gift he got from one of his children, for his 80th birthday. A little cardboard box with a 2 inch ant made of shells and coloured plastic. He really likes it. He says it scared some of the older nurses at the hospital, not the younger ones, though. He was in a private ward, apparently. He had is own room, so he could sleep OK. As he says, it’s really difficult to sleep when you’re in a big room – they don’t turn the lights off. And for his hip operation, he says he was lucky as his bones are hard. Soft bones are much harder to operate on, he says. He was also lucky because he had the same doctor who did his other hip – a Mr. Shelter.
Yes, he IS very chatty and I’m there listening for about 10 minutes, in fact I think I might be late for Ollie’s show, although I can’t hear any music. I get away and get to the right area, and find out there’s a delay. One of the scourges of the modern western world – especially this country – the Health & Safety people, have been sniffing around and have deemed the stage unsafe. They don’t approve of the boxes that the stage is resting on, so everything’s been delayed. The acoustic lot who are supposed to play before Ollie’s group haven’t even been on yet, so it’ll be awhile – they have to sort the stage out first, which is a joke as it’s been set up since the morning. Where were the Health & Safety lot then? Bloody useless!
Anyway, no one’s going to be playing for awhile so I head back to the first place I was at and do a half-hour, and I might have got a gig out of it: A woman asked if I’d play at her wedding next Saturday, in Bournemouth no less – the place of my glorious birth. Incredibly, the figure of £200 didn’t seem to offend her so we’ll wait and see if she phones me like she said she would*.
Back down at The Broadway/Guildhall, Ollie’s group finally gets going. It’s weird seeing him on the drums, after teaching him all that Led Zeppelin stuff on the guitar. I see he’s donning his rock star shades. I don’t know anything about the stuff they play, they sound alright though. They open up with a Muse song – I had to ask someone what it was – then a couple of their own, then an instrumental with the singer on a ukulele, which, even though he’s lowered the mic so the ukelele’s in front of it, you can’t hear it with all the drums and distorted guitar and bass going full throttle.
Still, good fun to watch, AND they’ve got a row of 14 year old girls sitting cross-legged in front of the stage, gawping. Ha! Four songs from a school rock band is quite enough so, after I take some photos for Ollie, I head back to Vodafone for a final set.
Earnings: £64.09p (+ one 1971 50p coin and one small grey oriental coin)
* She didn’t.