Diary Of A Busker Day 515 Tuesday March 4th 2014 Winchester (Opposite Oxfam, Time: 1:20-2:32pm)
The place is full up – it’s a full house! At The Butter Cross: a young singer/strummer I knew from the open-mic days, shouting about something – The Big Story…down from him – Frank – the golden, motionless statue blowing on a trumpet, barely 30 feet from him – Guitar guy Chris and his unfeasibly fast tapping. There’s a sort of battle going on with those two – what a bloody racket. They could have at least done it in the same key. Then, down at Marks & Spencer, Accordion Frank, who looks downright hacked off!
I don’t want to go back up and through the alleyway to where the door-shutting Bitch is (I’m feeling very sensitive today, for some reason), which means there’s only one place left: Oxfam – and I’ve managed to avoid it for such a long time, too.
The temperature: not too bad. After Blowin’ In The Wind and Albatross, an old Drongo gets up from the bench across the way, but sits down again when I start up the next song! He might have been coming over to talk to me – NOOooo! A couple more songs and he does come across – with a £10 note in his hand. I don’t want Drongos giving me money, so I say ‘That’s alot of money, you know’. He puts it in the bucket – I still don’t like it…but I’m weakening. Still, I say ‘Are you sure?’ He says ‘D’you know Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ (now, does that require two question marks?), and starts singing it, so, mindful that I’m considering the £10 note now MINE, I try and work the chords out. Some I get, then he goes back over the road…
…Five minutes later, he’s back – ‘D’you know Dean Martin – That Little Old Wine Drinker Me?’ I say ‘No…I know the song, but only the bit where he says that’. The Drongo says ‘Yeah, I know – I don’t know the rest! D’you know who else did a good version of that?’ ‘No’. ‘Robert Mitchum’. ‘Oh right, yeah – I can hear that, yeah, he’d be good’. ‘Yeah…what’s your name?’ ‘Marvin’. ‘Marvin…mine’s Tony’. ‘Nice to meet you, Tony’. ‘D’you know any…Bob Dylan?’ ‘Well, yeah, in fact I started with Blowin’ In The Wind, about twenty minutes ago. I can play it again’. ‘Oh, you don’t have to’. ‘No, I don’t mind’ – of course I don’t: I’m still thinking about the £10 note in the bucket, which I’m going to have to put in my pocket…’I’ll do it again – it’s a request, after all’.
He goes back across…five minutes later, he’s back – ‘Marvin…Marvin Rainwater, you know him?’ ‘I’ve heard of him – yeah, old stuff’. ‘Yeah, he used to do (sings at top of his voice) TAKES A WHOLE LOTTA LOVIN…what about Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man?’ ‘Yeah, great’ (I try and work out a quick fingerstyle thing). He goes back. He comes over – ‘Where you from?’ ‘Me?’ ‘Yeah, where you from?’ ‘Well, I live here’. ‘No, before that’. ‘I don’t know…all over the place’. ‘No, before that’. ‘Well, I lived in Canada for awhile’. ‘Before that’. ‘Well…Bournemouth’. ‘Bournemouth?’ ‘Yeah’. ‘What were you doing there?’ ‘I was born there’. ‘No, before that’. ‘Before what? – what was I doing before I was born?’ ‘Yeah’. At this point I start laughing, then I say ‘I don’t know, I can’t remember’. He says ‘I do – I was born in Woodford but before that, I was in Epping Forest’. ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah’. He goes off, this time into the new place – Chococo, then comes out with a cup of coffee and sits at the table near the entrance.
Whenever I look over, he’s beckoning me to join him, by way of extending an arm to the vacant chair at the other side of the table. I just nod and hope he gets the message, which is ‘No thanks’. I must always remember – Never fraternise with the natives out here – never! He’s beckoning whenever I look across, so I stop looking across. He comes over – now with saliva dripping from his mouth, and he’s got some change in his hand – I definitely don’t want any more money from him, and I tell him, adding ‘You’ve already given me a £10 note, Tony’, which, by the look on his face, I think he might have forgotten. He says ‘Can you keep an eye on my things while I get some cigarette papers?’, and before I can say ‘Please no, I can’t be held responsible, etc…’, he’s off across the road and through the alleyway. He’s left what looks like a red sleeping bag next to the chair he was sitting on. So what can I do? I keep an eye on his stuff. Oh well, I don’t suppose anyone’s about to run off with a Drongo’s sleeping bag, apart from possibly another Drongo…would another Drongo do that?…of course they would!
After fifteen minutes, he hasn’t come back and his stuff’s still over there…then he’s there, sat down with his rolling papers. Ten minutes later, I decide to pack up as I have to get home before the guitar lesson at 4. But I think it’s only right to go over and say goodbye to Tony who, after all, has contributed half of the session’s earnings. As I thank him and say goodbye, he lights his roll-up with an enormous flame from TWELVE matches he’s lit all at once! I know it’s twelve because I do a quick count after he flings them on the ground.
On the way back, Frank’s now at The Butter Cross, on a break, so I ask how it’s going. ‘Bit slow today’. I see he’s got his two dogs there – Kazoo and the new one whose name I’ve forgotten, so I ask him. ‘Nelson. He’s a bit…not behaving himself’. I ask if he knows an old Drongo named Tony. He doesn’t, which is weird as Frank knows everyone, especially all the Drongos. Maybe Tony doesn’t exist. Maybe he was put there today for my amusement. The £10 note’s real enough, though!