Diary Of A Busker Day 459 Friday October 4th 2013 Winchester (1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 1:38-2:38pm, 2. The Butter Cross, Time: 2:54-3:54pm, 3. Next to The Slug & Lettuce, Time: 4:08-5:38pm).
When I left the house, there was a bit of drizzling which I thought might stop, however, by the time I got into town, it was more or less raining.
Rob was at The Butter Cross. I could see his huge umbrella when I got to The Westgate! The only place I can think of going is the fire exit doorway at Debenhams, but it’s like being in a mini cave and I don’t fancy it, however…on the way down I pass Rob’s missus carrying a cup of coffee. She says ‘You should have brought your umbrella’ – I should have. By the time I get to Debenhams, it’s eased off a bit, so I decide to carry on and set up in front of the Gospel Hall doorway…just before I start playing, a bloke sitting across the road shouts ‘Come on, singer – give us a song!’, which annoys me a bit – someone giving me orders before I’ve done anything. Anyway the guy should know I’m not a singer – he looks familiar so I reckon he’s seen me before quite a few times, so he should know. The guitar – for want of a better word ‘sings’ Albatross…and is rewarded! – a lady donates a pound, which is the high point of generosity as it turns out, because after an hour I’ve made £7.50 – not good enough to hang around any longer.
Up at The Butter Cross, it’s all gone quiet – Rob’s gone (ha!), so I set up…a guy about 60 asks me where I got my thumbpick from: he’s been trying to get one the same size. I tell him: Elderly Instruments in the USA. Then I think – I might as well give him one of mine, as I’ve got loads, so I say ‘Here, you can have this one (the one I’m using), I’ve got some more’. He says ‘Really?’ I say ‘Yeah’. He says ‘You sure?’ I say ‘Yeah, here (I hand it to him)’. He says ‘Well, thanks, that’s really good of you’. ‘It’s OK’, I say. ‘Well, thanks a lot’, he says again, and by way of appreciation…he just walks off! No contribution or anything. Howd’ya like that?! I couldn’t believe it. In fact, it made me laugh out of disbelief – the cheeky sod. The gall of some people.
Next up is Ian – 80 and polite with it, though today he’s got a bit of a complaint. He says ‘I’ve noticed someone here – plays a guitar, sings. He’s alright but he’s here for hours’. I initially think he means Rob, but on further investigation to attain an accurate description, I’m 100% certain he means young Sam. He says ‘He hogs this place. I think “No one gets a chance while you’re here”, you know?’ I say I know what he means – Sam does indeed take the piss, setting up camp for 4 or 5 hours, and half the time he’s not even playing. I’ve spotted him making his roll-ups, chatting to whoever, as often – more, in fact, than I’ve seen him play! I reckon he’s a bit too laid-back at times.
Ian then says he hasn’t seen Demelza around. I say neither have I. She must be doing OK – in some production, or she’d be here. ‘Maybe she got a good break’, Ian says. ‘Maybe she did. That’s all it takes: just one good break’, I say, the voice of experience. Ian: ‘You’ll get one and you’ll be playing at The Albert Hall’. I suddenly remember I HAVE played there, at an International Nurses Convention*, of all things. I tell Ian about it. ‘Hmm, sounds interesting’, he says. ‘Believe me, Ian, it sounds more exciting than it was’.
I sell a CD to an old couple who came up after Yellow Bird. The lady already had the fiver in her hand so I thought ‘they want the cheap one’, but Yellow Bird’s on the £8 one. Anyway, I managed to convince them it would be a good idea to fork out the extra 3 quid, then I did the usual; thank them (most profusely, of course) and offer a full refund if they are dissatisfied in any way. So, Yellow Bird – Song Of The Day, and not for the first time. In fact not for the first time this week, if I’m not mistaken.
Just before the hour’s up, a man who’s been sitting on the steps behind me starts asking about guitar lessons, then another busker turns up (physically, not volumely), plonks his stuff down just inside The Pentice, and signals to me to see if it’s OK to set up. I signal it’s OK – I’ve been an hour here…my name’s not Sam! I reckon I’m alright to do a half-hour around the corner at The Slug & Lettuce – the temperature’s fine and it hasn’t rained…
…and the usual happens: I end up doing 1 1/2 hours, mainly because the money’s OK – mostly from people coming from the cathedral, eg: tourists. Some French ones get La Vie En Rose rammed in their earholes until they disappear into the alleyway. They keep looking back and whenever they do they get me smiling at them (manically) whilst carrying on with La Vie En Rose. They must think I’m nuts. You don’t have to be crazy to work here, etc…
Another bunch clap – a dead giveaway: they’re obviously not from ’round these parts’ – after Chinatown, My Chinatown. No one who lives in Winchester claps – not ever. But at the end of the set, I’m offended, in a way not unlike the way I was by the thumbpick guy at The Butter Cross. Now, it’s by a bloke a bit younger than the other one. He’s been listening at a nearby table for a fair bit. I’ve just finished Yellow Bird – Song Of The Day of course, and Wheels in G-tuning, and am about to do Jesu, when he requests Albatross – methinks he’s heard me before, so like a good, friendly, accommodating, not to mention eager-to-please personable person that I am, I say ‘Sure’, and tune the three strings back up to do it, which takes a couple of minutes. Then I play it…but he doesn’t come over and contribute. Even when I’m packing up, he doesn’t come over. This annoys me so much, I don’t smile or glance over at him when I walk off. How can anyone do that? – Request a song and not pay up?! It’s a good job some others did – a good earner, that set.
Earnings: £50.50p (Including 1 CD)
* June 6 1999 – I’ve still got the backstage pass on the kitchen wall.