Diary Of A Busker Day 672 Saturday November 29th 2014 Hythe (1. Opposite Waterside Furnishing shop, Time: 10:40-11:04am, 2. In front of barbershop, Time: 11:15-1:05, 1:55-3:40pm).
So here it is at last. The day of the famous Hythe Mistletoe Fayre. I don’t know what it is, but like yesterday, I get to Town Quay just as the ferry’s pulling away. There it goes – I just missed the boat again. But I can’t time it any better with the trains.
Anyway, once there, I find Chris and then Helen, who takes me to where she wants me to start playing, in a street I’ve never been to – I’ve only ever been on the one that goes from the pier to the centre of town/Waitrose. But this one’s a small street and there’s hardly anyone there…and then the woman from the furniture shop, opposite to where I set up, comes out and tells Helen she’s got some drummer and guitarist turning up who ‘play here every year’. One of those. This woman doesn’t know me, hasn’t heard me – doesn’t care, and doesn’t want me there. But Helen does, so the agreement is I can play, and pack up when the ‘regulars’ get here. I don’t mind being bossed around as long as I can get the £40 expenses!
So the woman goes back to her shop, Helen says ‘just do half an hour, see how it goes’, and leaves me to it. I do almost 25 minutes before I pack up. It was a waste of time. A bloke donated a pound and that was it. And the people at the stalls next to me, and the woman from the shop who came out several times, ignored me. So I left, found Helen at the centre of proceedings – near Waitrose, and we both walked down towards the pier. She decided I should now set up in front of the barbershop, which meant asking another middle-aged busker (with an acoustic guitar), collecting for McMillan Cancer, to leave. He wasn’t in front of the barbershop but he was nearby. I felt a bit bad about that, but Helen didn’t. He wasn’t anything to do with her or the fayre: he hadn’t been invited. I think he set up further down.
So, on my right were two women selling scarves and clothes, and on my left, a big bald bloke (BBB) in a tartan skirt (not quite a kilt) selling books, his own CDs and other things: trinkets and stuff. This was Ron Clooney, a local author, and he had a lot of copies of his new book which had a cover with Jim Morrison, called ‘Mr. Mojo Rising – ain’t dead’. After I played a few numbers, he started talking – ‘I’ve got a 335 (guitar) signed by Alvin Lee (Ron loves Alvin Lee)…I saw Jimmy Page: crap, made alot of mistakes, loads of mistakes…Eric Clapton: too slow…know any Alvin Lee?’ I said I didn’t – I do fingerstyle guitar.
Then Ron starts on about a couple of guitarists he saw who were ‘cutting heads’ – I didn’t know what he meant so I asked him. He said ‘You’ve never heard that phrase – cutting heads?’ ‘No’, I said, and he seemed surprised, and desired to explain – ‘It’s when someone plays something, then the other guy has to do the same but then to add something of his own, then the first guy has to do all that and add another thing, etc…’ Well, it sounds like a bloody waste of time to me. I’m not into all that showing-off rubbish.
Then Ron said ‘You should get some CDs made’, so I said ‘I do’, so he says ‘Do you?’ I say ‘Yeah, there’s a sign on the bucket’, and he says ‘Oh…I thought you’d have them in a tray or a suitcase’, so I tell him about travelling on my bike – I haven’t got room to carry any suitcases! Ron was offering two books for the price of one and he was doing alright. He had a few AUTHOR SIGNING cards scattered and taped liberally about his stall. I heard him say several times ‘and would you like me to sign it?’, because as far as I could hear, not one buyer said ‘Oh, could you sign this please?’ Maybe they were shy.
I did an hour and 50 minutes there before I packed up. I’d run out of songs and actually wanted to get away from Ron, who I beginning to find quite annoying. I think I went away with one distinct impression from him: EGO. I took a break…and let Ron look after my amp – a small price for him to pay after inflicting me with his EGO.
I had my pitta bread in the little green area overlooking the harbour, then went in search of Helen…who was down the road at the usual place. She now thought I should play near the library (in Winchester we now call this The Discovery Centre) under the gazebo, where there was large bunch of people who’d just packed up. So I went back to Ron, got the amp, came back, set up and had just started Albatross when this loud banging starts up from somewhere. I couldn’t believe it. I put the guitar down and got up to see what it was – a construction bloke nearby said there were a few drummers down the road. It’s from the place where I set up when I got here, I reckon.
Anyway, I sit down again, try to see if I can ignore it…I can’t, so I pack up. As I’m walking off, an old bloke at a stall says ‘And I was enjoying that!’ Cheers. I find another spot, next to a small fairground carousel: there are a few of these things for the kiddies here and there, and I spend 5 minutes deciding whether or not to set up…when my decision is made for me: one of the operators switches on a CD player, so that was that.
So there was only one place left – back to where I’d just done almost two hours, and next to Mr. Clooney and his book signings. I forgot to say, he’d thrust one of his CDs in my hand as I was going off, saying ‘It’s got a very special dedication’. And it did indeed. I wasn’t surprised to read on the back:
“This album is dedicated to the memory of Alvin Lee 19/12/1944 – 6/3/2013 The finest guitar player I ever knew and an inspiration to me.
May we meet again around the next bend on the road to freedom. ‘ROCK ON!’
Ahh, Ron really did love Alvin Lee (Rock on!)
…so it was an hour and three quarters of the same stuff. An old guy came up, said something about he used to sing Frank Sinatra songs, so I said ‘Well, I love Frank’, and then he goes into My Way, which I knew awhile back but have forgotten, although I did remember enough to be able to remind him when he couldn’t remember some of the words – ‘I did what I had to do and…(me) saw it through…with…(me again) without exception’. But I just sat there while he sang it right to my face! What else can you do?…apart from say ‘Please go away’.
After packing up, I went down to Waitrose where Chris was still banging the sides of the box he’d been sitting on for the past six hours. They’d got the snow machine going on top of Costa Coffee, in readiness for Santa. I took some photos but you can barely see the ‘snow’ in them. Santa turned up after a bit. As he was on the roof but before he came to the edge, you could see the top of his hat for 10 minutes! When he eventually came to the edge, he chucked a load of sweets from his sack for a few minutes, then his hat blew off. One of the safety people – there were no less than FOUR in high visibility gear – stuck it back on. He waved, then sort of shrugged and then opened his arms wide as if to say ‘Sorry, that’s it!’, and disappeared. Apparently, according to Chris, he was really nervous on the ferry(!?) on the way over – not in his outfit. Which I can understand, after seeing it all. I mean, there were hundreds of people – loads of kiddies looking up at him. I think he was just a young bloke. Maybe he didn’t know what he was letting himself in for when he agreed to do it.
When I was watching the whole Santa/snow machine charade, Bosnian John was at his usual spot and I have to admit I felt sorry for him. I mean, here are all these people, all happy, going on about Christmas, and he’s sitting there for hours trying to shift a few Big Issues. When he saw me, he came over and tried to get me to buy one and I didn’t…so I couldn’t have felt too sorry for him! I did remind him I’d given him £2.50p yesterday, and that was just for him, no magazine.
After that, I got my £40 expenses from Chris, helped tie up the leads to his P.A., and carted around some equipment to the church where they were storing it. They also had loads of Christmas trees in there for sale, Helen said, but I didn’t fancy taking one on the bike. I then joined – in a very rare instance of socialising – Chris, Helen, and a young singer/songwriter with a somewhat weasel-like face, for a drink at The Lord Nelson, near where I was playing. I had a pint of Lancaster Bomber, a pint of Guinness, and rounded it off with a double Glenfiddich – straight, no ice.
We sat out in the back garden where you could see the pier, more or less next door on the left. Chris said that the first bunch of people that were supposed to be on, turned up an hour and a half late, because instead of going to Waitrose in Hythe centre, they went to Town Quay in Southampton, where the ferry leaves to come to Hythe, then to Morrisons! They said ‘It wasn’t our fault!’ and Chris said ‘Well…it was!’ – he had all of it in text messages to prove it.
We started talking about all the ceramic poppies they’re shipping out to the people who bought them for £25 each. The ones that were at The Tower Of London as part of the First World War centenary stuff. Chris said that just before his grandfather died, he admitted that he’d been a conscientious objector, something he was obviously ashamed of. And a great-great grandmother of his – also before she died – said that somewhere down the line there was a black woman in the family tree!
We were joined by Sylvie(?) and her boyfriend who both then joined me on the 6:10 ferry. Sylvie, who’s lived in Hythe all her life, said her grandparents are one (or two) of the people who have their names inscribed on the wooden planks of the pier. No date, though, which is a shame. There should always be a date on anything like that!
At Southampton Central, the young guy who operates the plank when the ferry comes in, was getting a train on my platform. I think he might live in Winchester. Money-wise, about £40 for 4 hours playing, although the £20 a day expenses helped, so it put it up to £50 profit a day. But for Hythe standards, not very good per hour coinage. And no CD sales for both days.