Diary Of A Busker Day 536 Thursday April 3rd 2014 Chichester (1. In front of HSBC bank, The Cross, Time: 11:38-1:08pm, 2. Opposite Next, Time: 1:40-2:50pm, 3. Opposite HSBC bank, Time: 3:17-4:05pm).
The blonde woman’s here today at her mobile stall of phone covers and cheap jewellery, and there’s a burger stall manned between a man and a young fat woman, and finally a guy selling ‘three punnets of strawberries for two pounds, ‘oo wants three punnets for two pounds’, which he says constantly. He must have got bored because at one point he gets it mixed up – ‘three for two pounds of strawberries’ – ha!
I play three songs and get nothing, then that woman I’ve met before, who was asking about prices for lessons for her son, suddenly appears – ‘My son did his first concert yesterday. He’s had five lessons, I’m so proud!’ and she walks off, no donation. Yeah, you’re proud, lady, but I couldn’t give a…The thing is, at the exact time she turned up, a man came up and donated – my first, and she distracted me from thanking him, which was very annoying.
Next up, a foreign photographer donates and asks if he can take some photos – I say he can. When I finish the song he tells me he loves taking photos of street performers (I’d NEVER call myself a performer), then when I say I live in Winchester, he says – ‘Oh, the um…festival, street performers, um…’, Oh no, the bloody awful Hat Fair, that’s what he’s thinking of. So I say ‘You mean the Hat Fair?’ ‘Yeah, Hat Fair’, he says. ‘Yeah, I thought so. I tend to avoid that’, I say. He seemed a nice bloke, though, despite the interest in the Bloody Awful Winchester Hat Fair.
Next, a woman who’s been standing at the market cross for a few songs comes up and says – or rather, barks ‘You know Al Stewart – Strange Fruit?’ (or Space Fruit or Small Fruit – I can’t remember!) ‘No, I don’t’. ‘Learn it’, she orders. ‘Well, I’ll make a note of it’, I say. ‘Learn it’, she orders again. How can people behave like that?! Learn it your bloody self!
Two young guys put a few coins in, for which I thank them – ‘Thank you very much’. One says ‘That’s alright’. But there’s something wrong. I thought I saw a cheeky grin, so I look in the bucket and on top of the camera case, there’s some euro coins – useless, apart from going toward the holiday fund which is about 30 euros – all money from the street, which is OK, I suppose, although it does annoy me a bit, I mean I’d rather have the pounds sterling. What can you do, though, apart from another sign amendment – NO EUROS.
At the end of one and a half hours, I count up – around £15, which just covers the train fare. All that for a £2 profit – bloody hell. Break time – NOT in Waterstones!, but standing outside it, facing the cathedral, which weirdly enough I was just reading about, a couple of hours ago. Page 18 in Laurie Lee’s As I Went Out One Midsummer Morning, just after he starts out busking, he says “I played Bless This House and was moved on at once by the police” – that was outside Chichester Cathedral!
2nd set. I need a change of scenery, so it’s down the road. The weird thing is, because the pavement is quite concave – the middle is a few inches higher than the sides, when I’m sitting down, everyone looks really tall! The set’s really slow – not many donations. Two high points, however: 1. The campest bloke ever comes up. He was sitting with two old ladies on a bench, nearby. He’s tall, mid-fifties, ironed blue jeans pulled up way too high. I think they might even have had an ironed centre crease. He comes up during Girl, which is pretty appropriate, leans in a bit too close and says – ‘Oo, what was the one you played earlier on? – Orson Welles in Vienna’. ‘Oh, The Third Man’, I say. ‘The name of the film – Orson Welles, Vienna’, he says, somewhat frustratedly, so I say it again – ‘The Third Man – the film’. He goes back to the old ladies.
2. That mad, dancing old lady appears and starts up the dancing, going up to strangers – ‘Tell him he’s a lovely person’, I hear her say to no less than three groups of people! Amazing. Bloody amazing. Oh yes, it’s all very amusing and amazing but the money’s terrible. I can tell, I don’t even have to count it, but I do, in the toilet, after the set. There’s about £12 profit, now.
After another visit to Waterstones – this time I actually go up to the 1st floor, not for long, though – I do the 3rd and last set, back at the 1st spot. And at a mere 45 minutes, the shortest of the lot. At the very end, I play Bond for the blonde stall lady – ha! – Bond for the blonde!
Now, a woman about 60, pushing a shopping trolley, big gap in her mouth – no upper teeth, comes up. The conversation:
‘That James Bond?’, she asks.
‘Yes, it certainly is’, I say.
‘My husband used to watch his films’, she says.
‘And I used to watch them with him’, she says.
‘Ah, did you?’
‘Is he still alive?’, she says.
‘Is he still alive?’
‘What, you’re husband?’ (I’m thinking she’s separated from him and she thinks I know him, or she’s mistaken me for someone else who knows him).
‘James Bond, is he still alive?’ she says.
‘You mean the people who play him? – yeah, they’re all still alive, amazing, isn’t it?’
‘Is James Bond still alive?’ she says. Oh dear, I finally get it: she’s lost it. I have to play along with it – ‘Yeah, he is’.
‘Cause he came from Scotland, didn’t he?’, she says.
‘Yeah well, his father’ – then she interrupts me – ‘He came from the same place as my husband, he came from Glasgow’.
‘Yeah, that’s right’.
‘Yes, he was Scottish’. Then, as she’s walking away, she turns around – ‘Shirley Bassey, she sang Diamonds Are Forever, didn’t she?’
‘Yeah, she did, that’s right…did a good job of it, didn’t she?’ (She certainly did).
Oh dear, I was laughing all the way to the station – not the bank, unfortunately – I needed that, even though it was at her expense. Actually, before I got to the station, I noticed a sign outside a pub – Acoustic Music on Thursdays, so I went in to see about maybe getting a gig. The barmaid said the manager picks who plays from the open-mic nights they have at a place across the road – The Hole In The Wall. Well, I thought ‘sod that’ – there’s no way I – a 51 year old man, is auditioning in an open-mic night to play at a crummy pub in Chichester. I’d have to be as demented as that poor lady I just met, who thinks James Bond was real. I left the barmaid one of the £5 CDs to give to the guy. Anyway, the money for 3 hours and 25 minutes playing time – bloody terrible.
Earnings: £33.31p – train fare £13 = £20.31p (profit)