Diary Of A Busker Day 541 Friday April 11th 2014 Winchester (1. Opposite Gieves & Hawkes, Time: 1:13-2:18pm, 2. Opposite Pavillion, Time: 2:25-3:55pm, 3. Opposite Vodafone, Time: 4:45-5:08pm, 4. Opposite Bellis/O2, Time: 5:12-5:44pm).
There it is again – the bloody big brown UPS van, in my spot! I’ve worked out what goes on. The driver parks there because it’s the nearest he can get to the High Street. He can’t drive into the High Street to do the deliveries so he parks here, piles all the boxes on a trolley and takes them through the alley to the street. Anyway, my plan is to play down the other end of The Square, where I’m facing up the road, and I’ll be able to see the van and when it moves off.
Fortunately I was able to sell a CD – to a group of people from Prague. A woman did all the talking, and had a look at both CDs. She asked me about busking permits, as she knew a girl violinist who was interested in busking in England. I said not to bother about permits: just turn up and play, even in London – Trafalgar Square. I told her I’ve seen loads of buskers there, the police just walk by.
What about Prague, though? I said I’d like to go there. She said I’d definitely need a permit and they’d get very mad at me if I didn’t have one (ex-communist ruled country? – old habits die hard, comrade), although I could say I’m a foreigner and they wouldn’t be as bad. But from what she was saying, I don’t think I’d go there, not to busk, anyway.
I learned a little trick. Because the CDs cost £9, most people will give £10: two fivers or a £10 note. If I hesitate in finding the £1 coin to give back, like if I’m going through my pockets trying to see if I’ve got a pound, more often than not they’ll say ‘Oh, it’s alright – don’t worry about the pound’. Result! Now, if the CDs were £8 – the old price, I’d have to give them £2 back, and I bet most of them would wait for that. But the pound? – no, they don’t care. So the thing to do is search for the pound until someone says ‘Don’t worry about it’. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.
But getting back to the Prague lot – they were a nice bunch, all smiling and speaking good English. It was Dr. Zhivago that sealed the deal – not actually on the CD, but after they bought it they wanted to hear another, so I did La Vie En Rose – ‘This one’s on the CD!’ In fact, they saved the day – £8.50 profit on that one.
After 45 minutes, the van moved off…and after an hour I packed up, went up the road and did an hour and a half – a bit too long, especially as I didn’t really have a break. A couple in their late fifties came up from The Eclipse, and after they donated, the man said ‘We’ve been listening to you for half an hour: it wouldn’t be right not to leave anything’. I said I wish more people were like that. He then remarked on my spot. He said it had ‘good acoustic value’, as I’m facing down the road, and the buildings on either side channel the sound down – ‘…and you’ll have the tourists coming soon, for a few months…’.
After that, a 45 minute break at (where else) Waterstones, reading about (what else) First World War women’s fashions! Then back out for a disastrous 23 minutes on the High Street. I had one donation and left in disgust! I had to leave – I was starting to shake my head and feeling the beginning of my angry face coming on.
I decided to go home…but near The Butter Cross, I decided to set up to try and get a couple of quid at least…which is about what I got. Probably more like five, but still: all those people walking by. In fact, when I was packing up, I said to the bakery lady – who was standing outside having a cigarette – ‘People are mean. English people are the meanest people in the world. I’ve been to a lot of places and they are the meanest in the world’. She just looked at me with her polite face. Then I said ‘Oh well, bye, and she said ‘Bee’, which must be ‘bye’ in a weird accent: I don’t know where she’s from, apart from the bakery. She’s the one who I used to note had the job of dumping the sludge bucket.
Earnings: £34.51p (Including 1 CD – £8.50)
More recordings made: La Vie En Rose, Siboney, Ne Me Quitte Pas, Wheels, The Rain Song, Windy & Warm.