Diary Of A Busker Day 451 Friday September 20th 2013 Winchester (1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 12:40-2:17pm, 2. The Butter Cross, Time: 2:53-4:27pm, 3. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 4:50-5:50pm).
A woman tells me about her friend that died. She didn’t say how he died but he was a guitarist who had to stop playing when he got arthritis – ‘his fingers became all twisted’. I told her that’s something I’ve got a fear of, as Granny Naylor had that – rheumatoid arthritis (I just told him I have a fear of it, not that Granny Naylor had it!). I said ‘That would really finish me off’ – and I reckon it would! I mean, I can play with two semi-paralysed fingers on the right hand, but not with twisted ones on the left hand.
Anyway, this woman says her friend used to play ‘That song they use on the show…The Chain, by Fleetwood Mac, with the low note’, and I know what she means and, because I’ve been playing for a hundred years, I’m able to work it out quite quickly and play it (I reckon, as the last note’s the lowest – a low E, no doubt, the first note’s probably a B…and I’m right, which I was well pleased about!)…although I have to say ‘I suppose it sounds better on a bass, though’. She’s handing out flyers for a Beethoven thing at the cathedral so I say I’ll take one – I’m pretty sure I won’t go but I felt sorry for her, with her friend dying and all that.
I pack up after just over an hour and a half and do a quick count-up: £13 – slightly under the hourly average. I take a toilet break near the bookshop then into the bookshop…where a couple of hilarious titles catch my eye: The Genius Of Dogs, and The Magnificent Chicken. Then a big new book: London – Hidden Interiors, which looks quite interesting, so I take a seat and look through and see some old haunts from the days of my youth in the Big Smoke: Gordon’s Wine Bar in Villiers Street, where I remember they had a 1/24th scale Airfix Spitfire dangling from the ceiling in an advanced state of dustiness – exactly like the one I got for Christmas in 1971 or 1972 – £1.90! It was there in 1986 when I first went and it was still there more than 20 years later, and not much dustier, but then, as Mr. Crisp used to say – after four years the dust stays the same(!) Then: The Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, The Criterion in Piccadilly…but it was Gordon’s which made me think about the past…”dear, dead days”…Sod it!
They’ve taken away the fence around The Butter Cross, so I set up and start with La Vie En Rose and, on finishing, a man comes up to tell me it’s the 50th anniversary of Edith Piaf’s death, and then an interesting story. He says she died somewhere outside of Paris, in the countryside, but her boyfriend put her in the car and drove her to Paris as he – or she – wanted it to be known that she’d died in Paris.
Ex-cruise musician Mick walks past – he doesn’t stop, just says ‘Keep going, Marv’ – Ugh. I might have to tell him… I play the same length of time here as the last place but seem to have made even less! And this is a really busy day – Friday. I was thinking about this whole busking thing. About the overriding impression I’ll take away when it finally comes to an end – for me, that is – and I think it will be the meanness of people, in general. Which is a shame. But there you go, there must be hundreds who walk past in an hour, yet I’m lucky if I get anything from ten of them. I should get someone to stand with me and do a count, sometime. I’d quite like to know how many people DO walk past. But who’s going to stand here for an hour and do the counting…without pay?!
I’ve been keeping the playing hours to not more than three because if I do any longer, the hands start to ache, so I was going to head home after the stint at The Butter Cross. However, seeing as it’s not even 5 o’clock and seeing as the takings haven’t been good, I decide to go for another hour, down at Vodafone…and it’s here that my beloved guitar sustains its first battle injuries. I lean it against the Monsoon wall behind me, while I try the hard sell on a rather attractive foreign language student who doesn’t understand much English. (I suppose she must be at the beginning of the course!) Anyway, I try to get her to fork out another £3 and buy the £8 CD, and I’m happy to say I was successful. But during the coercing, there is a clang from behind – my (beloved) guitar’s fallen on its face. I said to the girl ‘I knew that was going to happen one day’. The damage is: two small chips on the headstock, which I think will be partly repaired by a treatment of black acrylic paint, and a chipped edge on the treble pickup’s tone control knob, which I’ll probably not replace – as a reminder, not to become distracted trying to sell CDs to attractive foreign language students.
After being ignored for a few minutes, two blokes – one old, one young – who don’t know each other, stand in front of me. The old one asks if I know Unchained Melody. I say I know it but I don’t play it (and never will), so then he asks me if I know You’ll Never Walk Alone, and again, I know it but don’t play it (and never will). Then the young one, who’s clearly heard me before, asks for Albatross, so I say of course I’ll play it, after I tune up some strings, as I was doing my open G-tuning medley. Meanwhile, I try and think of something the older guy will like. Beatles? No. Beach Boys? No. ‘How about Elvis? I do Can’t Help Falling In Love’. Yes, he says that’ll do. So I say I’ll do it after I do Albatross. So I start Albatross and the old guy starts singing Can’t Help Falling In Love! The young bloke says ‘Wrong song!’, but the old guy carries on. Then the old guy walks off to the right and the young guy goes off the other way. So now no one’s listening! People Are Strange.
Famous Down’s Syndrome actor Tom drops by and , a miracle! – he gives 3p instead of the usual 1p. So I say ‘You’re in the money, eh, Tom?’ ‘Huh (laughs), yeah!’ Then I’m nosey about his private life – ‘You still not seeing Katy?’ ‘No’. No’s not enough, I need more information – ‘Is she going out with someone else?’ ‘I don’t know. Think so’. Oh dear. ‘Oh well (I try to think of something)…oh well, there’s plenty more fish in the sea, as they say’. ‘Huh, yeah’ says Tom. ‘Still…who wants to go out with a fish, eh?’, I say, only because I heard someone say that the other day.
At the end of the hour – that’s it, enough! I think I played OK today, from the start. Maybe it was something to do with the temperature – it was about room temperature. Maybe that suits me best. But 4 hours and 10 minutes WAS probably an hour too long, as I had a slight pain in the left palm and thumb for the rest of the evening.
Earnings: £43.92p (Including one £8 CD)