Diary Of A Busker Day 407 Monday July 15th Winchester High Street (Opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:18-3:05pm).
A few hours before I went in to play – only a short set as there’s a lesson at 3:45 – there were a few about, including the 2 ukelele girls, and also some kid with a violin, raking it in. In fact, I was going to give him a pound until I saw that his case was almost full up with coinage, and I thought – ‘He doesn’t need my pound: he’s loaded – the little kid…I need it more!’
When I went back in a couple of hours later, he was still there, and so were the girls, but in a different place – doing I’m A Believer. The kid wasn’t far from Vodafone, but far enough, so I started to set up…and along comes the old lady I introduced to Lily, down at Oxfam awhile back. She must have Parkinson’s or something – she was really shaking. I don’t remember her being like that before. She says she’s come out of her house for the first time in 12 days and is on her way to Holland & Barrett and some other shop. She gets a pound coin from her purse, shaking all the time, and of course I protest, but it’s useless with the old folks – they get angry – really angry. In fact, I usually don’t bother theses days.
While we’re talking (I’m still setting up) I hear a sound and look around…it’s 2 young strummers about 20 feet away on the other side of the crossroads. How could they not have seen me? Or maybe they did, and thought I was packing up, as my guitar’s still in its case. They should have checked, though. Sod it – I give them the benefit of the doubt. So it’s down to Oxfam. I should have gone to the new place, near The Slug & Lettuce, but I didn’t think of it as it’s not quite embedded in my brain yet.
The blonde bloke’s at the TINC shop today, but (again) sod it – it’s a free country and all that! I play Albatross, Borsalino, La Vie En Rose, and have just started Here Comes The Sun, when the man – of a couple who’ve been listening a few feet on my right – says he wants to buy a CD. For that I’ll stop in the middle of anything. It turns out they’re from Canada, so of course, I do the whole ‘I used to live there…do you know Banting High School? Orchard Park Primary?’ routine, and, of course, they do!, so it goes on…
They show me a photo of a successful Canadian musician – he’s always travelling in planes, playing most nights, they don’t know when he has the chance to go to sleep. There’s success for you, then. I’ve got no idea who he is from the photo they show me, then again I’m not up on anything popular from the last 20 years. We were talking for about ten minutes – nice folks they were: Rick and Christine.
Then another song, and a woman comes across the road and asks did I know Alfie Whitelock. Of course I did – Alfie, the piano busker who died last year. She introduces herself as Valerie, Alfie’s half-sister, and she’s been trying to find me ever since my letter about him appeared in the Chronicle – the online edition. She wanted to thank me for saying some nice things, but when she contacted the paper, all they said was I lived in Greenhill Road, so when she saw me now, she put two and two together and worked out it was me, because I put in the letter that I was a busker.
Anyway, she started talking about Alfie, like how stubborn he could be. Just before he died – he wasn’t well, of course – he was determined to go to Marwell Zoo, but was dissuaded by his family, after a big fight. Then he had whatever was wrong happen and they took him to the hospital, where he died quite quickly. When they went through his clothes, they found a ticket to go to Marwell and also the bus ticket, so he was going to go, anyway!
As Valerie kept saying, ‘He could be VERY difficult at times!’ He was a parking attendant, apparently (a good job – I wouldn’t have argued with Alfie) until they put up a block of flats, and that’s why he started busking. I still remember him well. Another one gone from the High Street.
Valerie insists I take a £5 note. I say I’d rather not but don’t want to have an argument. She says ‘No you don’t’, so I take it. She seems a nice lady. After she leaves, I’ve got time for two more songs, then I have to go. The TINC bloke’s getting off extremely lightly today! He keeps coming to his door and looking over. He’s not scowling or shouting abuse, though.
I reckon that was the set I played the least amount of songs – 7, for the most coinage, plus a CD sale. How extremely uncommon!
On the way back, after passing the two strummers at the crossroads, I bump into Frank. He’s ‘just had a foreign person shove a camera in my face, so I told them to f*** off back where they came from’. A traditional hearty south of England welcome from Frank. I said ‘They’re like that, though, Frank. That’s what the foreign people – the tourists – do, don’t they?’ (Earlier at Oxfam, I spotted a Chinese girl filming me. She was trying to hide behind a street lamp!) He wasn’t having it, though: ‘f*** off back where you came from’!! My goodness. It IS a bit weird when they do that, but that’s just what they do. They’re not used to having to ask permission before they photograph anything, not like over here. I keep thinking about that time when they stopped me from taking a photo of that piano at the Festival Hall – ‘Sorry, it’s private property’. You can’t photograph anything here, now. It’s crazy. The tourists don’t mean to be rude, they’re just foreign!
A bit further, I hear someone shout ‘DON’T WE SAY GOOD AFTERNOON ANYMORE?!’ I turn to my right – it’s Maurice, sitting outside the new coffee place with the Big Issue guy – ‘Nibs’, the one who’s always scrounging the gutters and bins for fag butts. But Maurice isn’t looking/shouting at me. It’s someone else who’s incurred his wrath, by ignoring him whilst walking by. He goes on – ‘WHOA, WHOOAA! I SAY, DON’T WE SAY GOOD AFTERNOON ANYMORE?!’ I don’t know who it’s directed at – no one’s looking at him, and no one’s stopping. Ha! He’s like some mad ex-army sergeant-major.
Earnings: £20.17p (Including 1 CD)