Diary Of A Busker Day 656 Friday October 24th 2014 Winchester (1. Opposite Oxfam, Time: 2:05-2:35pm, 2. Opposite Pavilion, Time: 2:40-4:50pm).
Another day of very reasonable temperature and no wind…and a really crap first session down at Oxfam: £2.20p for half an hour’s playing…and a woman offered me a plastic bottle of Fanta. She didn’t say anything, she just held it out to me and smiled. I said ‘No, sorry, I don’t want that’, and she walked off, still not saying anything. Offended or mute?
The next session was a hundred times better and about time, too. The coinage came in almost straight away, from the first song – Windy & Warm. A man came up, donated and wanted to know who it was by – I think he thought I’d written it. He said he’d bought my CD but it wasn’t on it. I told him it was by John D. Loudermilk but the famous versions were by Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. He didn’t know Doc Watson was blind.
He then started going on about busking, about how he’s done it himself but doesn’t like to go on anyone else’s area. I told him not to worry about that because no one has exclusive rights to anywhere. No one owns the The Butter Cross pitch. He said he’d played some ragtime down at the William Walker, opposite Gieves & Hawkes – ‘and I didn’t make a penny in an hour’. ‘Bloody hell’, I retorted in great astonishment(!!) He said, ‘I mean, I’m not as good as you’, and I said that ‘it doesn’t matter how good you are sometimes – people are mean!’ He said he’d been to Romsey and made 20 times as much as here. There you go, then. I don’t know who he is apart from he must live here and he’s bought my CD…and he really loved what I was playing.
After an hour a white van pulled up but at least not right in front of me like they usually do! The driver got out and said, ‘If Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, d’you think Willie Johnson bought it back?’, then disappeared into a shop with a package. I don’t think he meant Willie Johnson, though. I reckon he was talking about WILKO Johnson, saying he’d cured himself of cancer.
Next up, a woman in her 70’s who was very curious about my guitar. She wanted to know exactly what it was – a semi-acoustic, I said – and I had to demonstrate how, if I turn the volume down, you can’t really hear it, so that’s why I need the amp. She said she heard a bloke playing in a kitchen in a bar in Spain. He was great – it sounded great in a small room. I said it probably would, but out here you need an amp. She said my guitar sounded ‘not really like a guitar’, and I said she was probably used to hearing other people on the High Street doing single-note stuff and strumming, and not the fingerstyle stuff like what I do. To demonstrate this – because there’s nothing like a demonstration to demonstrate something!, I did a blues thing like Rob Berry would do, and she seemed to get that. But she said my guitar sounded like a zither, and I hadn’t even done my Third Man zither-style arrangement! I reckon it was because of the bass and melody parts played together. To the uninitiated, it could all sound the same: guitar, zither, what have you.
Now, and I can’t remember how, but we started talking about the Canadian mountie who shot the Islamic bloke – Ohana(?), and I said that must be weird: killing someone, and I wonder how he feels about that. There were photos of him walking down the corridor holding the pistol just after he killed the guy. (What do you think about just after you’ve killed someone?) She said ‘he was crying, apparently’. Then we were saying, when you get mad it’s easy to think about killing loads of people – if someone’s annoyed you! She said, ‘You can just imagine turning your guitar into a machine gun, can’t you?’ Yeah, I can’, I said, ‘Especially when I’ve played for ages and got nothing’.
Then we were talking about Liberace for some reason. How he used to turn his head right to the side and smile while he was playing. My good lady said maybe I should try that! I said Liberace was better than me, I mean I need to look at the fretboard or I’ll mess up. She remembers the Cassandra piece: the guy who said Liberace did it with ‘he, she, it’, meaning he was accused of bestiality, too. I said I didn’t know about that bit. But he had to stick by that – that he wasn’t gay, for the rest of his life because he won the court case against him. The lady went off eventually, so I went into the zither-style Third Man, then Jesu, The Rain Song…then she came back and mentioned she could hear The Third Man and Jesu, in a shop just down the road.
And then we start talking again! Now it’s about old music. She says, ‘I don’t suppose you do any Rolf Harris, do you?…not now, anyway!’ I said I didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t remember anything he did. She said, ‘Well, when you think of it, they’re all suggestive: Two Little Boys, Tie Me Kangaroo Down (ha!)…My Didgeridoo’ – was that the name of a song or a line? Quite a funny lady. Tie Me Kangaroo Down – that made me laugh.
For about 45 minutes there was a man painting the window ledge of the shop on my right. He was only 3 feet away which made me a bit self-conscious, but he was quite a nice bloke and chatted a bit, inbetween songs. He was sort of painting around my bike. I offered to move it but he didn’t seem to mind. Later on he moved to the far side of the shop, and at the end, a mate of his came up the street and shouted ‘You’ve given him something to listen to!’ before they both finished and went off. He said goodbye, though. He knew I was local, somehow – I think he’d seen me a few times before.
So, no rain again, although the sky was grey…and a good coinage result for once…and they didn’t shut the door on me, either…because it was already shut! But the seemingly more friendly blonde one was working there today, not The Bitch. Also, today marked the debut of my green Halloween bucket – a fraction smaller than the orange one, which was getting on a bit and starting to look pretty sorry for itself.
I forgot to say, Otto walked by during the long set. He said ‘hello’ then went to a bunch of people on the bench at the entrance to the cathedral grounds, who just shook their heads at him! Then, when I was walking the bike through the alleyway, I stopped to say hello. He wasn’t out of it, he was just sitting down lighting up a cigarette – and not a roll-up. Maybe that’s what he was trying to get from someone on the bench. I said I was going home now and he said, ‘Maybe have a drinky boo boo later, eh?’ I said maybe – maybe a bit of wine. Then I said goodbye and ‘enjoy your cigarette’, because I’ve never seen him smoke a proper fag before. I can’t believe that guy’s still alive!