Diary Of A Busker Day 426 Thursday August 8th Winchester High Street (Opposite Oxfam, Time: 1:06-2:40pm).
The first day back here since the day that did my head in. And unlike some other times when I’ve taken a couple of days off, I haven’t missed the High Street at all. I phoned up about my Chichester permit – or rather the non-arrival of it, only to be told no one at the council knew anything about it: my name wasn’t down anywhere, so what the hell was all that about, a few weeks ago? – on the phone in the council office? The gross incompetence of officialdom! Anyway, I had to get some practice in, as Clare’s asked me to do an hour and a half at The Thomas Lord before some famous cricket bloke* gives a speech tonight.
So, there are the Peruvian(?) extended family flute bunch at The Butter Cross, John and his mandolin a bit further down at the crossroads, and about 30 feet from him – too close, a young dark-haired strummer murdering The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, so Oxfam it is, for me.
…where I meet an old bloke bound for The Scilly Isles. ‘I have to fly from Exeter, takes 68 minutes’, says he. ‘Wow, your arm’ll be tired after that’, say I. ‘Eh?…oh, right! (laughs)…yes, anyway, my digs – bed and breakfast’s on the biggest island. There are 5 islands, you know, but I go to the biggest one as you can get to the other ones quite easily from that one, etc…’
A younger man – a musician, likes my guitar – ‘It’s an Epiphone?’ ‘Yep, a Korean one, quite cheap, only a few hundred pounds. As good as anything else’, I say, because it is. He’s not sure – ‘Hmm…’, he…what’s the word for that?! He ‘hmm’s’. I reckon he’s a guitar snob, so I start playing again so he’ll stop talking to me and thereby offend me less. He eventually wanders off. Good. I don’t need any ‘My guitar’s better than yours’ thing starting up, which I could sense was imminent.
Christine drops by. She says she hopes I’m happier than I was the other day, and I suddenly realise she saw me before those two singing bitches stopped to ruin that lovely song I was playing. So I tell her all about that and she says ‘When I worked behind the counter – I don’t do that anymore, I’d get people coming in – assholes, but you’d never know what they were going to be like and you couldn’t walk out the shop. You had to stay and deal with them’. She says when she ‘WORKED behind the counter’, so I’m pretty sure she and Brian have split up. Well, I managed to stay calm for an hour and 35 minutes. Didn’t make much, though: well below the average. I just had to look at it as a rehearsal, like I said. On the way out, I passed the guitar bore/snob. He’d cornered the young strummer. Ha!
* Dave Gough. Of course, having no knowledge of cricket, I’d never heard of him. He used to be the captain of the English team, apparently. While I was playing in the pub garden to HIS paying guests – mainly old people, and women in particular, Doll was in the pub and overheard an old lady say ‘Oh, I hope he’ll be wearing his Lycra’ – a reference, Doll says, to some outfit he wore on Strictly Come Dancing. So what’s happened, as Doll observed, is he had quite an important job – being the England captain, then he won a silly TV competition, with the result that he now does talks, mainly to old women, many (no doubt) of which only want to see him in his Lycra gear.
In the evening, I had a message from Russ – Rockin’ Russ, from the old days, just after the big emigration, when I was doing my time in Exeter/Exmouth. (I can’t believe it was 30 years ago…!) I remember he used to ride around on his moped with a 6-pack of Heineken on each hip. Anyway, he said he’d come up to Winchester on his motorbike and spent the afternoon looking for me in the High Street. He even asked wrinkled old Alan, the McDonalds cart-wielding pavement cleaner if he knew where I was. Al said he hadn’t seen me all week. But Russ never ventured beyond Marks & Spencer or he would have found me. It’s that invisible line separating the main part of the High Street from the arse-end. God-fearing folk won’t cross it. Russ said he would have stayed the night but the hotels were too expensive, although I recently gave directions to some people who were looking for The Westgate. They’d booked some rooms for £30, which I thought was very reasonable, especially for a place more or less in the town centre. Actually, I walk by it when I go into town and I’ve often wondered how much they charge…now I know!