Diary Of A Busker Day 411 Friday July 19th Winchester (1. Opposite Pavillion, Time: 1:15-2pm, 2. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:13-3:19pm, 3. Opposite Bellis, Time: 3:43-5:33pm).
Near The Butter Cross, there’s a blues pianist/singer doing that Jambalaya song, and wearing his shirt open, my goodness! I mean, this is a respectable town, doesn’t he know?! And those two ukelele girls are a bit further down. Only now, one of them’s playing a tuba. They’re doing children’s rhymes – ‘one bag, two bags, THREE bags full…’, and there’s someone else trying to cash in on all the kiddies about. A man about 60, big belly, beard, straw hat, playing a tin whistle over a backing track, and on the ground in front of him, some mini tambourines and other percussion things, which he beckons the children to pick up as they walk by.
And, the day after I see him in Chichester, Rob’s back here! – down at the crossroads. I come up to a few yards from him and put on a look of incredulity. He laughs – he must think I’m following him around. We have a little chat while he carries on playing. I tell him about being evicted by Sean Trebble – Ace PCSO of Chichester town centre. Rob says he’s got a West Sussex busking permit, which means you can phone and book a 3 hour slot. Maybe I’ll have to get one. The natives appeared friendly enough. I liked that one comment from the old lady, thanking me ‘on behalf of Chichester’ for not blasting out.
So I head down to Oxfam…but, INCREDIBLE SHOCK…at my usually reserved place, in front of C & H Fabrics, there’s an accordionist. In fact it’s the same one who’s been about lately. I go up and when he sees me, there’s a visible ‘Oh no’ which comes over his countenance – I can actually see it. Anyway, I ask how long he’ll be and he says ‘Oh, about another hour’, so I say I’ll be back then. It sounded like a threat but I didn’t mean it to be. So, off to the market square…and the spot where I’ll be playing isn’t in the shade, although thankfully there’s a decent enough breeze, or I couldn’t have played – it’s another 27 degrees day. It doesn’t go well here: 45 minutes for a measly £3. At one point, I get very annoyed by a man who stopped in front of me, pulled some change from a pocket, inspected it for a couple of minutes, then walked off! I couldn’t believe it. I mean, whatever it is, hand it over, buddy! Or maybe he thought it was too much. I should have said ‘I DO give change, you know’, or something like that, to engage him so he would find it harder to walk off, but I couldn’t think of anything amusing. Indeed, I wasn’t really in any kind of jocular mood, not after doing 45 minutes for three quid. But then I thought of the accordion bloke. He said he’d got zero for playing here the other day. So I kept thinking about that!
Back down at Oxfam, when accordion man sees me walking towards him, he starts packing up. I initiate a chat, as I want to find out something about him. His name’s Oirn (I think) – Irish, or Oirish(!) He’s come from Southampton on his electric bicycle, via the Twyford route – the scenic route, not the motorway, which took an hour. He’s been here since 10:30 and has made about £15 – not good for 3 1/2 hours – poor guy, even if he has nicked my spot. He says he thinks there’s a jinx on this area (yeah, by me, because he nicked my spot!) He says that when he was playing over the road, a lady came out of the pharmacy and fell flat on her face in front of him and started bleeding. Then later, someone came out of the BHS shop and asked him to turn down as they couldn’t hear the phone. Poor sod. Anyway, he leaves his bike and cart across the road and wanders off, presumably to find somewhere else to play.
So it’s Oxfam part 2…and it goes pretty slow. Maybe Oirn was right about a jinx. Three people – two men, one woman, stop during Somewhere Over The Rainbow. One of the men says in an American accent – ‘You can have this (holds up a £2 coin) if you let ‘er sing with you – she’s really good!’ I hesitate, then agree, as £2 is a lot of money today. She sings in a very…what’s the word…theatrical fashion. I think my key’s a bit high, so the man, seeing my capo, says ‘He can lower it’, then stops himself. I reckon he caught my evil eye. Good – I don’t feel like adjusting things. As she’s not familiar with my arrangement, it goes a bit awry a few times. A bit skew-whiff, shall we say. At the end, I find out who they are: a bunch of stage people from Chicago, and they’re performing tonight at The Theatre Royal in a musical adaptation of – and I’m sure I heard it right: a Jane Austen novel. Something I will not be subjecting myself to. Anyway, this lady’s clearly very popular – ‘She’s great, isn’t she (it’s not a question)…ya’ know, she makes people cry when she sings sometimes!’ Right, now shove off!
After an hour I pack up. I’ve made £7, and I’m bored with this place. Time for a toilet break, at the one near the book shop…with water that’s not boiling hot. But it’s got one of those combination soap/water/dryer contraptions, like you get on the trains, that never work: the water is a dribble, or it runs for two seconds, and the dryer goes for not even that…or there’s no soap. Or two things go on at once if you’re careless with your hands. These things really have a life of their own…or no life at all. But the place doesn’t reek as much as it usually does, so that’s OK. There’s always something to moan about, that’s for sure.
Up near The Butter Cross, I do almost two hours. Wheels draws a bit of attention, first from another American man – ‘Hey, is that a Chet Atkins?’ ‘Yep’. ‘Hey, yeah, I thought so. Sounds good, reeel good’. Not good enough for a pound, though…or a dime, you damn Yankee! Then a foreign lady says ‘What is it called?’ ‘Wheels’. ‘What is it? – wheels?’ ‘Yes, Wheels’. ‘Oh, WHEEL’, and she makes a round movement with a hand. ‘Yeah’, I confirm. She walks off then comes back – ‘Who san?’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘Who san – the song?’ (She means ‘sang’). It took me awhile, as I was starting to wilt. ‘Oh, who sang it! I don’t know. Lots of people sang it, loads of people did it’. No contribution from her, either.
Song Of The Day is The James Bond Theme. Firstly: a man comes up at the finish and wants to know the end chord, which I show him, which is fine, as someone had to show it to me, once upon a time. I remember the one I was doing wasn’t quite right, then someone showed me the right one and now I can’t remember who it was! But it’s an easy shape to remember – one of those ‘step’ shaped chords. It got a few contributions, hence SOTD. I’ve also been brave enough to resurrect The Stripper – or most of it, the last couple of days. Usually near the end of the day when I’m relaxed enough, or when I’ve been playing so long that, out of some sort of delirium, I just don’t give a damn what hundreds of people who I don’t know anything about, think as they’re walking by.
Earnings: £39.53p (+ a one euro coin)