Diary Of A Busker Day 517 Thursday March 6th 2014 Winchester (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 2:52-3:50pm, 2. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 4:30-5:45pm).
A depressing set – the first one. It’s easily twenty minutes before the first donation. In fact I was sure it was going to be THE DAY NOT ONE PERSON DONATES. It might as well have been: I counted just over £4 at the end. A weird thing: around the middle of the set, I noticed Ragtime Phillip watching from the corner of Smiths, but he didn’t acknowledge me. Maybe he didn’t want to be noticed – he might not be feeling well, I mean – the cancer and everything, for goodness sake. But it was weird. He’s never not come up…well, not that I know of. I was playing Chinatown and decided to do the first Gnossienne, and maybe even the fifth – I’ve been doing it regularly, now – as that’s Phillip’s favourite. But when I looked up after I finished Chinatown, he’d gone. Still, I did them anyway.
After the first Gnossienne, a very pretty young woman with corkscrew hair comes up, asking about first Gnossienne – she’d heard it in a film. I said I think it’s been in lots of films and told her the name, etc. – ‘and it’s a silent G, by Satie – Erik Satie. French guy…long dead!’ And you know what she did? – went off, didn’t contribute! Fifteen minutes later, she walks by with her mother (same hair), this time – a contribution. You’ve REDEEMED yourself, pretty lady.
There he is – Mick, grinning from across the street – this was during When I’m Sixty-Four. He comes over and asks if I know In My Life – foolish man, he should know I know EVERYTHING by the bloody Beatles. I tell him I used to play it. He says – ‘Then there’s that piano break – really fast. George Martin played that. You think “How’d he do that”‘, so I interrupt with the facts – ‘While The Beatles were on a break, the guys in the studio slowed the track down to half-speed, and he (Martin) played it along to that – really slow, then they sped it up – that’s why it sounds like that’. (Because I know everything about The Beatles).
Then I play the verse chords to him, and when I do the fourth one: the F#minor with the little finger on the G-note of the D-string, Mick gives me a look like ‘Is that right?’ In fact, I don’t even wait for him to say it, I say ‘That’s right, Mick – I don’t know what it’s called but that’s what they play on the record’. He says ‘Ah, is it not a D major 7th?’ (no, it’s not) I play the four chords, putting his D major 7th in – ‘No, that doesn’t sound right, does it?’, I say. Then I play it again, with the weird chord/right chord, and Mick gets his face really close – he’s frowning and trying to work out what it is – ‘F#…hmm…’ Ha! – for once the seasoned ex-cruise musician chord-meister’s stumped! I never thought I’d see the day! I say again, I don’t know what it is and I bet neither did The bloody Beatles.
I debut a new song – My Way, only because I worked it out because Mother Naylor said she really liked it and was wondering if I was going to record it. But it’s a very basic arrangement – VERY basic! I’m OK with the verses (almost), less so with the middle bit…but, sod it, when people hear songs they know, I reckon they make up for deficiencies!
Five minutes before I stop, a guy with a bike and a cart with a guitar in it, comes by. I say he can play here if he wants to, as I’m finishing up, but, as a word of warning – ‘It’s terrible, you can have it’. He says OK and sets down near the bench across the way. So, that’s all I could take – 58 minutes.
Break time at the usual place. The old guy – Eddie, who doesn’t seem to speak to me these days – he’s there, in one of the chairs near the top of the escalator. He doesn’t look very happy – he never did, though – and he hasn’t shaved for a couple of days. As I go by, I say ‘Alright?’, which startled him…in fact, he might have been asleep! I spend half an hour going through some war books then, just before I go, have another look at that Marilyn Monroe calender shot…
Back outside, I set up at Vodafone and for company, I have that bloke from a few months ago, selling a fitness/diet course from a small gazebo, outside the Vodafone door. He’s very friendly – at one point he comes over and asks if I know his dentist – a Mr. so-and-so from Colden Common. I don’t. He really likes the stuff I play – he says it reminds him of his childhood, which is a bit odd, as it’s all really old, and he’s younger than me. His parents must have liked it. He likes Yellow Bird alot.
Again, coinage-wise – really slow…a bunch of schoolgirls run about, spraying each other with that party spray stuff. They start screaming – it’s not too loud but I stop playing, as I’m not in the mood for a silly schoolgirl party! Then they stop – I think some of them realised why I stopped. So there’s all this spray stuff at the crossroads, but some of them DO clear it up. Then they sit down on the other side of the bin on my left, and before they leave, two of them contribute – a rare thing, today.
My saviour, however, is a man who, at precisely 5:12, puts a £5 note in the bucket, thus doubling the takings instantly. He says ‘You look after yourself’ about five times, then shakes my hand. I really did need that, and I don’t mean just the £5. I really did – it’s a grey, depressing day.
I pack up half an hour later, head up the road, and have a chat with Big Issue Simon, who I haven’t seen since before Christmas. He’s on crutches and tells me about his operation. A very long muscle had got something wrong with it – a rupture, I think. It was connecting his hip to his spinal column. He said he was in agony for two and a half months – it was so painful, the morphine didn’t work so they gave him something else, and that did. But he said he thought he was going to die. His hair’s grown a lot and, for the first time, his face looks (almost) healthy – I tell him this. He says it shouldn’t – he’s lost two stones and he stopped drinking for three months, although I can smell it on his breath now. I say maybe that’s why – because he stopped for three months. In fact, I almost didn’t recognise him, with the crutches, long hair, hood on his head.