Diary Of A Busker Day 663 Saturday November 1st 2014 Hythe (Opposite Harvey’s Sandwich Bar/In front of Waitrose, Time: 4:25-5:55pm).
I’m not having a very good week. I had just chained up the bike and was at the ticket machine at Town Quay, getting the coins from my pocket, when I thought ‘There’s something not right’. And what was not right was I didn’t have my guitar with me. I’d left it on the train when I got off at Southampton. I couldn’t believe it. It was on the rack above my seat. I don’t know what I was thinking about…out of sight, out of mind?
Well, I got back on the bike and got back to the station as fast as I could – I was sweating when I got there, asked a station bloke who said to ask one with a high-vis(ability) jacket, and HE told me to go over to the other platform to the information room. So I did that, carrying the bloody bike up and down the stairs. I told the bloke what happened: what carriage I was on – the second, whereabout – at the front near the bike racks. He phoned up Bournemouth, which was the next stop, to ask them to see if they could get the guitar. This was at 11:50. The guy at Bournemouth says the train’s due in about ten minutes so I go to wait in the next room – the waiting room, and I’m still really sweating – I even took my coat off. And then, at 12 o’clock, this guy who’s dealing with me, comes out, locks the door and buggers off to get a broom leaning against the wall and goes out onto the platform. I thought ‘What about the phone call?’
Then another bloke goes into the office so I knock on the door, he lets me in and I go through the whole thing with HIM! So HE phones up Bournemouth and there’s alot of ‘Right, I see’, and ‘Hmm…’ing, and the situation is this: At Bournemouth, they’d spotted the guitar but they couldn’t get it off the train because there were so many people getting on and off that the bloke couldn’t get on to get it! So the train left Bournemouth with the guitar still on it! (It only occurred later to me – couldn’t they have phoned a guard on the train? There must have been one – I’m sure I saw a ticket inspector before I got off it).
So now what? This is now what: the next station they’ll be able to get it is Weymouth – the end of the line, in other words. That’s not the next station but it’s the next manned station (what about Poole?). There are some smaller ones on the way – Wool, Hanworthy, but they’re unmanned so there’s no one to get on the train and get the guitar. Of course, I could get unlucky and some asshole – a young male HOODLUM, no doubt – might see it and try their luck and nick it, but I’m trying not to think about all that.
So the bloke at Bournemouth has phoned the bloke at Weymouth to ask them to get the guitar when the train gets in, at 1 o’clock. The other thing is, if it’s still there, they’re not allowed to send it back, which means I HAVE TO GO AND GET IT FROM WEYMOUTH. Because that’s the way everything is now because no one’s going to take responsibility for anything. So I have to wait here for 45 minutes for a phone call from Weymouth to say they’ve got the guitar. I have a think about this then say to the bloke that I might as well go down there on the next train. I mean, I’m not sitting here for 45 minutes…and assuming it IS still on the train, the sooner I get down there, the sooner I get the bloody guitar and get back here and get to Hythe and do some playing!
So I drag the bike over to the other platform, chain it up outside, get the amp off the rack, get a return ticket to Weymouth ( £17), and get on the next train there – Weymouth or bust. ETA at Weymouth: 2 o’clock, which is an hour after the ETA of the 12:24 – the Guitar Train…if it’s still there. And the train I get just happens to stop everywhere. It took bloody ages…and I don’t have anything to read, and it must be the only train in the country that no one’s left any papers on.
When we get to Bournemouth, there’s 3 minutes before it sets off so I get off and ask a station guy if there are any newspapers about, like The Metro. He says there are – on the other platform, but there isn’t time for me to go and get one. And I don’t have anything to eat because my sandwiches and crisps are in the bloody guitar case! I started to think ‘I’ve done a really stupid thing – leaving the guitar on a train, and I should be punished, and the punishment should be this: when I get to Weymouth and get the guitar (if it’s there), I have to busk in Weymouth. No, No, NOOOOO!! Yes, it was a hell of a long journey. The weird thing is: for the 1st half hour, I’m on a train, following another train which my guitar’s on. And there’s bugger all I can do about it.
Finally, at 2 o’clock, we get to Weymouth, and there, standing at the barrier, is a station bloke with the gigbag. I go up and say ‘You won’t believe how pleased I am to see you’, and he says in an American accent(!) ‘This yours, eh?’ I say ‘Yeah, thanks alot. I can’t believe I forgot about it’. He says ‘Hey, no problem’. I say ‘I think I’ve got Alzheimer’s or something’. He says ‘Well, there was a guy, he left a real shiny saxophone on the train’. I say ‘How can you leave a thing like that?’ – even though I’ve just left something even bigger – then I thank him again and he says ‘Hey, no problem, buddy’ – it was bizarre: that accent in deepest, darkest, dangerous Dorset.
I should have got a photo of him: re-enacted, holding my guitar, but I would have had to give it back – there was no way I was going to let go of it, get the camera out. And there was a train, 20 feet away, going to Waterloo in literally one minute (2:03), so I jumped on it and that was that. I was in Weymouth for a total of two minutes. I couldn’t believe it – I got it back, and everything was still intact: capo, tuner, lead, camera…and sandwiches and crisps, so I had all that (sandwiches/crisps) pretty well straight away. Mmm…
What a relief. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t there (the guitar, not the sandwiches/crisps). If I’d got off and the bloke was there with a sign saying SORRY, NO GUITAR. I mean, I haven’t got a guitar that could replace that one… Anyway, after thinking about it for a bit, ie: what to do now, I decide that, as I have to get off at Southampton to get the bike, I might as well resume the original journey – which I’d almost forgotten about – and go to Hythe, even though I reckon I won’t get there before 4 o’clock, and who knows what it’ll be like, I mean, it’s a tiny place: there might be no one about, but there’s only one way to find out. It’s got to be done.
So I get to Southampton – and I keep the guitar NEXT to me, not above – I get the bike and bomb down to Town Quay and get the 4 o’clock ferry – Great Expectations (that still amuses me), and of course, by that time it’s already getting dark…and when I get to the town centre, as predicted, there’s not alot about and most of the shops are shutting, like the sandwich place opposite – Harvey’s, and the photographic shop next to it. The big Waitrose behind where I play is still open, though. And Bosnian John’s there, too! I say hello and he says ‘Big Issue?’, so I say ‘I don’t know, not yet. I left my guitar on the train, that’s why I’m late’, and he doesn’t understand a word so I do a strumming action with my arms and he looks about and holds his arms open, indicating (I’m guessing) that there’s no one to play for. Yeah, I know!
Anyway, I set up and start up Albatross and a young guy on a bike says ‘I’d give you some money but I haven’t got anything’. I say ‘It’s OK’…then he comes back five minutes later and drops in a £2 coin! He goes to rejoin two other cyclists who are to my left. In fact, although there’s hardly anyone about, the coinage was not bad. Not bad at all. And I was pleased I’d come here (eventually) and not tried my luck back in Winchester, which did cross my mind while I was on the train.
An old guy came up after the Gymnopedie and said ‘Wasn’t that in some advert? There was a man trying to find a book in the Yellow Pages…’ And I couldn’t remember what it was but there was a vague memory in the back of my mind. Then this guy says ‘Yes, the Yellow Pages, and it turned out he was looking for his book’, so I’m thinking…and then I remembered, and it was years ago, it must have been 20 years ‘or more’, as I said to this guy. Fly Fishing by J.R. Hartley – a really famous ad on the TV. The old guy had the Yellow Pages and was going through all the second hand bookshops – phoning them up, trying to find a book he wrote years before, and no one had it. Then his daughter appears and says something like ‘Never mind, dad, keep looking’, and he finds a shop that has a copy – ‘You’ve got it, oh good!’, and that was the end of the advert.
It got darker and I took a photo of my view of no one there! Not even Bosnian John, who left at 5:20. I gave him a pound as he walked by. No Big Issue this week. £2.50? You must be joking: it’s cost me £27, this excursion! At 5 o’clock, Helen, who I have to get the OK to play from, came up (I didn’t recognise her), so I gave her an abridged version of the escapade. Then, at 5:30, Pauline – another friend of Chris’s, turned up, so she got the tale, as well.
I stopped at just before 6, making it an hour and a half, and it really had dried up by then: very dark, and no one about apart from the odd one (there’re odd people everywhere) coming out of Waitrose. But I did alright, all things considered. £21, which just about covered the expenses: 6 quid short…so it wasn’t alright, really. Oh well. For the first time, I took the little old train down Hythe Pier – only one on it apart from the driver. ‘Fasten your seat belts’ he said as he walked back to the engine. I reckon that train does 5 mph tops. And I was the only passenger but one on the ferry. Pitch black, it was. I won’t do that again. Leaving the guitar, not the ferry.
Earnings: £21.49 Expenses: £27
…I really couldn’t believe they couldn’t phone the guard on the train and get him to put the guitar in a safe place.