Diary Of A Busker Day 456 Sunday September 29th 2013 Winchester (1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 12:23-1:23pm, 2. Opposite Narrow Street, Time: 1:55-2:55pm, 3. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 3:13-4:07pm, 4. Next to The Slug & Lettuce, Time: 4:20-5:20pm).
They’re all out today: Sam, at The Butter Cross, although I had some warning he’d be about. I’d seen him yesterday at the train station when I was coming back from the gig in Coventry and he had just come in from Brighton. He said he’d be here a couple of days. Down at Vodafone: three kids with a small drum kit, and a bit further down, my mate Rob, banging out that bloody awful miserable Pink Floyd rubbish Comfortably Numb, with Mrs. Rob sitting behind, reading a book. I remember hearing Animals when it came out and thinking “It sounds depressing, I don’t like them anymore”, and sure enough, it only got more depressing from there.
So it’s down to Oxfam – the final refuge of the damned!…where it goes slow…real slow, although I DID sell a CD, to a young woman – early 20s I reckon, after Can’t Help Falling In Love, so it’s Song Of The Day. It was a £5 one – my hard-sell having failed, although she gave me three £2 coins and said ‘keep the pound’. Excellent! And after Ne Me Quitte Pas, a lady came up and said ‘If You Go Away – that’s my favourite song’, so I said ‘Oh great, well, I’m playing the French version – Ne Me Quitte Pas’. Ignoring my attempt at humour, she said, ‘That’s made my day, it’s my birthday today, too!’
Then she started talking about a Jacques Brel video where he does the song, and that bloke who is possibly slightly mentally disturbed – the one who was engrossed with my tapping foot – he turned up, loitering about my vicinity: walking past, hanging around, a few feet to my left then my right. Then – and this is while the lady’s still here, now talking about a Jacques Brel video – this guy stands in front of me, bends down and brushes my right shoe with his finger. When he started this, both me and the woman stopped talking, then he stood up and wandered off. The woman asked if I knew him – I said no, then after a bit, she went off. Then this guy comes back again and goes through the same routine: loiters about then bends down and brushes the shoe.
Money-wise, it’s not very good: £7 for one hour, and that was including the CD. During the break, everyone’s still where they were, with the addition of the Winchester legend known as Frank Williams, who’s at the waterless fountain near Sainsbury’s. I can’t even play at The Slug & Lettuce as Rick Tarrant’s there! I ask how it’s going as I have a quick look at his coinage in his guitar case. Then, as I see it’s about £3, I add ‘Oh, maybe not so good’. But Rick says ‘It’s OK, I’ve just started. Enough for a pint, anyway’.
I leave Rick to it, then bump into Mandolin John nearby, outside the cathedral grounds entrance, and we have a chat, mainly about the psychological ramifications (effects) of busking when the money’s slow. John says he tries not to take it personally, although it’s difficult – ‘You think “I must be playing really bad”‘, he says. I agree, then say the longer I play with no one giving, the lower my head sinks, till it’s almost on the ground, after fifteen minutes or so.
So, where am I going to go? Not back to where I was…I head up the other way, towards Jury Street, and set up opposite that really narrow alleyway, with that posh Jack Wills shop on one side and the Italian Zizzi restaurant on the other…and this is a rather depressing hour – I only got three donations. The only good thing is the weather: grey but dry, with an acceptable temperature: warm for September.
The only other thing of note: a song debut – Blowin’ In The Wind. A very simple fingerstyle arrangement, that I’m teaching the son and heir. My attention was drawn to it via Stefan Grossman’s video of Corina Corina, which lead me on to someone else’s video of Blowin’ In The Wind, which lead me to thinking “I’ve always wanted to get a Bob Dylan song in the set and it might as well be that one”, and I’ve kept it authentic – capo 7th fret.
After that, another reconnoitre…and everyone’s still where they were, apart from two who are gone: Frank and Rob. In Rob’s place – two kids with ukeleles. So I’ve got no choice: I’ve got to go back to Oxfam…which is again really slow. Halfway through, Frank comes by with his cart and says ‘Been taken over by kids with ukeleles’. I say I know, but Frank’s not finished – ‘I used to play like that…(he pauses for the punch-line)…when I was ten years old’. I say I’ve made about £8 in almost THREE hours. He says he hasn’t had a good day, either ‘but I’ve made a bit more than that’, then he goes off home.
And now it’s the shoe guy with his routine of loitering, staring at shoe, loitering, stroking shoe with finger. Twice he did it in this set. The world is full of weird people, although I suppose some can’t help it…and mean people: I’m yet again amazed (and depressed) by the hundreds who walk by ignoring me completely. The hour’s up – I’m being very strict today – and I again make the walk up to the other end…and now the ukelele brats have gone BUT in their place is Tony, blasting out that bloody awful Eric Clapton dirge -Wonderful Tonight, a ‘song’ (apparently) I have loathed ever since I heard it 500 years ago. Awful. How ANY song can make someone feel suicidal, I don’t know, but it does it. The record’s bad enough, but then to play it on a saxophone, well, it’s like something’s being strangled. A slow, smoochy, end-of-high-school-dance, sickly, vomit-inducing DEATH GARBAGE noise is bad enough, but it’s now worse. I reckon Tony’s a good player, but even he can’t save it. Actually, there was ONE good thing about his interpretation – there was none of the appaling lyric. But even so, let it go Tony! Let it DIE!! For God’s sake and for the sake of everything decent and human, put it out of its misery, and mine: kill IT or ME, Tony! Do it, NOW!…
I’m going to try and do one final set somewhere, so…up the back streets, avoiding Tony, and up to The Square, and Rick’s gone now. Jeremy’s at one of the tables. He says ‘Now Marvin, are you going to play here? – that other chap was here’. ‘Rick Tarrant?’ I say. ‘Is that his name? – yes, he was over there, seems very nice, not too loud’. I say Rick’s a nice bloke. ‘So are you going to play here?’, he says. I say ‘I don’t know. I was going to have a look at The Butter Cross. The young guy’s gone, I think, but I don’t know – I might not play anywhere’. But I do – not on the High Street, which I’ve had enough of, but here, with Jeremy a few feet away…
…Halfway through, he comes over and he’s shocked at how little there is in the bucket (I think he’s a bit cheeky for looking, actually), and that’s after more than three hours playing. The funny thing is, I probably ended up getting more here, from the few people coming from the cathedral grounds, plus a few sitting down outside the reataurants, than from all the hundreds on the High Street. Jeremy must have felt sorry for me. He said ‘I would have given me something but ‘I gave your pound to that other chap’, meaning Rick. Well, if it was, as he says – MY pound, he should go get it back and give it to me! So, one good hour and three bad ones. One old lady, who donated after her meal thought I was some sort of resident player. She said ‘I’ll come again to hear you’.
Earnings: £36.07p (Including one £5 CD)