Diary Of A Busker Day 408 Tuesday July 16th Winchester High Street (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 12:12-1:12pm, 2. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 1:23-2:26pm, 3. Opposite Bellis, Time: 2:50-4:10pm).
There are four Greenpeace charity blokes, or, to use that silly modern word – chuggers, all quite close together, around the Butter Cross area. As I plonk my bags down, the one with dreadlocks asks me what I do – or what I’m about to do. When I say I play instrumental guitar music, he says ‘Great, let me feel your vibes, man’ – oh, to be young!
I’m one verse into the opener – La Vie En Rose, when the accordionist from the other day walks past with his black box, then stops. He must have wanted to play here, but I’ve just set up and started, so I suggest the crossroads pitch but he doesn’t seem too keen on it. Then, because it’s Tuesday, Delia turns up, who I always have a chat with, but I’ve got accordion man here too. I suggest he comes back in an hour, then he can play. In fact, as I then said to Delia, I was just about to give my spot to him. I actually said at one point, ‘If you really want to play here, you can’, but he didn’t want me to move – good! Anyway, Delia says, ‘Oh no, you stay here – survival of the fittest, you know. Don’t move for him!’
She says, ‘See you on Friday’ and goes off, and I finish La Vie En Rose and start Dr. Zhivago, and a minute into it, I look down to my right and see her smiling and waving to me. Dr. Zhivago – I had an idea that was a favourite of hers.
Bang on the hour, accordion bloke is back. He said he didn’t make anything around the corner – not a penny. Poor sod. And you’d think people sitting around eating would like a bit of accordion music…and a change from Frank playing it!
Walking down the road, near the crossroads, there’s the two young strummers I’ve seen a lot of, especially the one with the shades, who I see on his own quite a bit. So it’s down to Oxfam! But because it’s so hot (27 degrees), there’s hardly anyone sitting at the tables outside Maison Blanc, and that lot are the main contributors. Some even buy a CD if they’ve been listening for half an hour or so…if they like what I play, that is. So the money’s a bit slow.
Halfway through, Ragtime Phillip turns up. I’ve noticed the last few times I’ve seen him, he’s been with someone else and he’s been walking a bit slow, and he hasn’t looked well. And I’ve been meaning to get him to play Killing Me Softly so I can film him, as I’d like to learn it the way he does it. He gave me the tab awhile back but I really need to film him doing it.
He’s on his own today. He puts a coin in and right out of the blue he says he’s got cancer! Well, I don’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t want to ask where or how long or whatever. Anyway, he talks about it a bit. He’s had some chemotherapy and he’s feeling a bit better, but he says he’s ‘never been “here” before. Just like you, I’d just had cuts, bruises, hand injuries from playing…fell off a ledge a couple of times. That was it’. I ask if he’ll sit down and play the song, and I can’t say the name of it as it’s got the word ‘killing’ in it, for goodness sake. How stupid, but I can’t say it. But he says his hands would have trouble, and besides – sitting down, he says he’s got two colostomy bags – ‘bags of piss’, strapped to his legs. I reckon that explains the tracksuit bottoms he’s been wearing the last few times. Oh dear. I ask him again if he wants to sit down and play – ‘I could film you’, but he doesn’t want to. ‘Maybe next time’, I say. ‘Maybe’, he says. (‘I could film you’ – I can’t believe I said that!)
He taps me on the shoulder and says ‘It’s nice to hear you’ – I was playing Albatross for what it’s worth, then he walks off, slowly. I resume Albatross and think, Jesus, I might not see him again. And such a nice bloke. I remember the photo I took of him in April last year. He’s aged about five years, at least. His hair was brown – it’s completely white now. How did I not notice that? It’s only hours later, when I’m writing this, when I remember seeing him with someone who must have been a carer, anyway they stopped and talked to someone they met, and then the person started hugging Phillip. He must have told them.
I pack up after an hour – I didn’t make much, and run into Delia again, in front of Debenhams. She’s got four big bottles of water in one of her shopping bags. ‘Volvic – it has very low chalk in it. It doesn’t fur up my kettle when I boil it. All the others have a much higher chalk content’, she says. Speaking of water, I go to the toilet and it’s still boiling hot out of the taps. I’m going to contact the council tomorrow…
Up the road, there’s a bloke sitting down, playing the harmonica in the alleyway, so I wonder: should I go round the corner and see if the place near The Butter Cross is free? …it is, so I set up camp. I can barely hear the harmonica bloke, so I assume he can barely hear me. But five minutes later he walks behind me, stops and says something I can’t quite hear, as I’m half-deaf. Then he says, ‘You walked past me just then – it was you, in the alley’. I say ‘Oh yeah, sorry…can you hear me?’ (of course he can). He says, ‘No, it’s not that. Just saying good luck, mate’ (phew). I say, ‘OK, cheers’. Oh dear. I suppose I was a bit out of order. It could have gone the other way, but he’s a friendly bloke. He looks pretty ‘down and out’, though.
The Butter Cross is packed with foreign students, mostly from the Lewis School Of English, and one of the guides – an Italian or Spanish-looking bloke with curly black hair, appears next to me, pulling a rather large tambourine out of its case. ‘Do you mind if I play along?’, he says. Hmm…for a fraction of a second I consider the idea of having additional percussion by way of a Spaniard banging a giant tambourine, then say ‘Yes. I’d rather you didn’t’. He says ‘OK’, and puts the huge thing halfway back in the case. I feel like I should give him a reason, so I say ‘I change the rhythm sometimes, you see’ – a somewhat lame excuse, then I say ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you’. He says, ‘It’s OK, I’m not offended – you don’t know me!’, then goes back to The Butter Cross. Sod it, he should learn to pick more sociable buskers.
Three Irish cavemen appear, and interrupt Albatross. ‘Sold any CDs?’, says one who’s badly in need of a dentist. ‘Have I sold any CDs?’, I ask back. ‘Yeah, you sold any CDs today?’ ‘No, not today’. ‘D’you sing?’, he says. ‘No, just guitar music – instrumental guitar stuff’. ‘You don’t sing?’ ‘No, just the guitar’. ‘So you don’t sing?’, he says once again, like he can’t believe it. ‘No’. He makes a disgusted sort of ‘phff’ sound and walks off with his fellow cave-dwellers. I was quite offended, actually. So much so that, as I resume Albatross – doing the work of three guitars on one, I shout ‘Is this not enough?!’ Ha!
I hit the jackpot: A Russian lady wants to buy a CD. This is during another disastrous and quickly abandoned attempt at Classical Gas. I show her a CD and ask if she knows any of the songs: Albatross? No, she doesn’t think so. I play a bit more…no. Here Comes The Sun – Beatles? No. YOU DON’T KNOW HERE COMES THE SUN?! No, it was the one I played before that last one. But my memory’s gone…then I remember. It was another capo song – a second fret capo song. It must have been Elvis – Can’t Help Falling In Love. It was, so she bought the CD and says she’ll play it in her car in Russia. Song Of The Day – Elvis.
All the time I’ve been here, my dreadlocked Greenpeace bloke has been trying to get people to sign up. He loved my James Bond – he gave me two thumbs-up at the end. I chat with him just after I pack up. His name’s Alex Phillips or Phillip. I say what I usually say to his kind, which is ‘I don’t know how you do it – your job, with all the people shaking their heads and running away from you and stuff’. He says, ‘It’s easy when you’re passionate about it. I love it! If you love doing something, it’s easy to do’. ‘Yeah’, I say, ‘I suppose you’re right’, then we say goodbye and I start walking off, but decide to come back and ask him if he’ll pose for a photo, which he’s only too pleased to do. ‘Love your vibes, man. Take care’, he says. Well, he must really love what he does, that’s all I can say.
Earnings: £50.92p (Including 1 CD)