Diary Of A Busker Day 447 Thursday September 12th 2013 Chichester (1. Opposite Marks & Spencer, North Street, Time: 12:40-2:20pm, 2. Outside HSBC bank, The Cross, Time: 2:50-5:30pm).
The day got off to a bad start – and that was even before I started playing. The idiot who I bought the train ticket from at Winchester station yesterday put the wrong date on. It should have said the 12th but he put the 11th. I didn’t realise until the ticket inspector on the train pointed it out. This was a Barry Clough, who I’ve since made a complaint about because he made me pay £10.45 for another ticket, even though it wasn’t my fault. I hate being made to look like a criminal on a train and this bloke was a real Jobsworth. I protested very strongly about the mistake and all he kept saying was ‘The date on the ticket is wrong’, and all I kept saying was ‘Yeah, but that’s not my fault. That’s the incompetence of the guy at Winchester’. Of course, in the end I had to pay but I should have refused.
Anyway, after eating half my lunch on the walk from the station, I see him: Rob and his missus, at the usual place. I knew he’d be there – or I was pretty sure, because when I phoned up to book The Cross pitch, they told me it was booked until 2 o’clock, and that’s Rob’s usual time: 11-2. So I booked the North Street area: 12:30-5:30 and set up where the council said I’m not supposed to: opposite Marks & Spencer. But I didn’t really have a choice: it was JUST ABOUT out of earshot of Rob, and any further down the road was too quiet. However, it could be an Oxfam situation, like back home, where, although there aren’t as many people, the money could turn out much the same as any so-called ‘busy’ spot. I’m not going any further – I’m not brave enough to venture down the arse-end of THIS town, not yet.
I get the first donation – a pound, no less, during the second song – Albatross, from a local man who shakes my hand and thanks me. I thank HIM and ask how he is. He then asks me where I’m from and when I say Winchester, he says ‘I thought I recognised a foreign accent’ – ha! The rest of the set was fairly slow, like the donations: just under £12 for an hour and 40 minutes – not too good. AND, as I keep thinking, it’s not just £13 I have to re-coup before I start making a profit. Oh no. Thanks to Mr. Clough, today it’s £23.45p. So all this really depresses me.
After the set, as I’m walking to the toilets, I hear someone say ‘Excuse me’. I turn around and it’s an old lady. Then she says, referring to the last song I did, ‘That Over The Rainbow was beautiful. I was sitting over there, it was lovely. I wish I’d gone past you when you were open’. When I was OPEN – like a shop! I should have got the bucket out of the case and said ‘Here, I’m always open’, but I was so annoyed about things, I couldn’t think straight, but I did thank her for the compliments – ‘Oh well, thank you’.
After the toilet, I had a brief chat with Rob, who was having a brief chat with the blonde pedlar lady – she of the cellist father who played on James Bond and Last Of The Summer Wine. Rob and missus were finished and on their way out so I recounted my tale (eg. had a moan) about the train fiasco. Rob said how people don’t realise we (musicians/buskers) have to pay to get to places. He says his petrol and car park come to about the same as my train fare – the £13 one. And he observed that takings haven’t seem to have gone up for a long time, which I have to agree with. If I look back to what I was making three years ago, they’re the same as now. Anyway, Rob’s off so I can get his place, unless someone else has booked it, which he doubts, or they would have been there at 2 o’clock. He played another half hour – till 2:30, as no one turned up.
Just after I start, that funny dancing lady appears – The Dancing Lady Of Chichester. The same one, I’m sure, from a couple of weeks ago: about 75, wears an old lady dress: floral pattern, quite long. Like any other normal old lady – but a nutter! She sways around, trying to get someone (anyone!) to dance with her. She goes up to a group of young girls, two ladies, a man. When she goes up, she points at me, says something, then tries to dance with them, but of course no one does. She disappears then returns later and dances through La Vie En Rose, Albatross, Mr. Sandman, clapping out of time now and then. In fact, I shortened Albatross because when she started clapping faster than the song, I thought she wanted to step it up, which is why I went into Mr. Sandman, but she was still clapping out of time during that! It was quite amusing and killed a bit of time, and it turned out to be good because an onlooker – another old lady, contributed £2 saying ‘That’s made my day’. And then the woman from the 1st set – ‘I wish I’d gone past you when you were open’ – came by and this time contributed, as I was now ‘open’.
I make two sales! After studying both CDs, a lady went for the £8 one, and another lady came up after My Old Kentucky Home and told me about her holiday in the ‘deep South’, and civil war songs, so of course I had to do Travis’s (Farewell My) Bluebell, although I kept messing up the E7 bit with the thumb over on the 4th fret. After, she had a look at the CDs and went for the cheaper one, which is OK as I have to get rid of them, too. But she had to go off and get a fiver from her bank and I thought maybe she wouldn’t come back – some people don’t – I suppose it’s their polite way of saying ‘No’, but she did, thereby restoring my faith in human nature!
A couple of schoolboys stop and one says ‘How long have you been playing the guitar for?’ After all the socialising, I’m more relaxed than usual, so I decide to introduce an element of humour. I look at my watch and say ‘Oh, about 45 minutes’. ‘No, when did you start? How many years ago?’ So I tell them it’s been so long, I can’t even remember – about 35, I think. The kid then starts talking about blues and BB King, which leads me onto my story about how I was lucky enough to see him in early 1983, somewhere in Canada, the same time I was on that bloody freezing cold tour. In fact, I think it was in Lethbridge, out west in Alberta, on a day off – probably a Sunday. The kid says ‘I think he’s got dementia now’. I didn’t know that but I said I wasn’t surprised – he must be about 90, or pretty close.
The kid then gets his phone out and gets a BB King song up – Everyday I Have The Blues. I say that was one of his famous ones and then I did a BB King-ish thing on the guitar. Anyway, I said he was listening to ‘the right stuff’ and then told him about Chet Atkins, who he’d never heard of…which lead me into demonstrating the fingerstyle technique, with the bass and melody and all that. Hopefully he’ll check it out. Who knows – it might blow his mind! I reckon after you’ve heard that stuff, there’s no going back.
One thing I was curious about: The mobile stall pedlars all move their stalls a few feet, every so often – something that struck me as pretty pointless, so I shouted over to the blonde lady – ‘Do you have to move your place every few minutes? Is it some sort of law?’ She shouted back – ‘Yeah!’ I thought so. It probably goes back 500 years. One of those stupid rules, maybe something to do with loitering, like this rule here, that everyone ignores, about having to move 20 feet away after half an hour. But the mobile vendors usually move only one or two feet away. It really IS pointless! In fact, sometimes all they do is turn them around 45 degrees! I think it’s quite funny.
…the Dancing Lady comes back to amuse everyone again… Someone I don’t see is the buck-toothed woman who has contributed every other time I’ve been here.
Just before the end of this marathon session without a break – over 2 1/2 hours!, I’m doing La Vie En Rose again, and a rather old Drongo (early 60s) shouts something as he’s walking past the clock tower towards the road that goes to the station. Just then, two young guys coming from that way contribute – ‘He’s just a wanker’, one says, so I ask what the guy said. ‘Something like “The best part of that was stopping”‘ the young guy says. So there you go – obviously not a fan of fingerstyle playing. Maybe he’d had enough after 2 hours and 40 minutes. I know I had!
Earnings: £58.31p minus £23.45p train fare = £34.86p profit (Including 2 CDs)