Diary Of A Busker Day 87 Tuesday April 26th Winchester High Street (1. corner of Marks And Spencer, Time: 1:35-3:50pm, 2. opposite Clinton Cards, Time: 4:21-6:08pm.)
Three days of no busking (buskless?) seems like a long time these days and it took awhile to get back in the swing, as it were. The weather was agreeable – not too warm with a breeze and I was able to play non-stop, apart from the half hour break between pitches. Even so, I still have a few problems, some easier to solve than others. The newest set recruit – Vincent, isn’t coming along too well and there are a couple of times where my mind goes blank and I forget what comes next in some parts of other songs, like during a particular section of Barrios’ Choro De Saudade, a piece I can play reasonably well at home but which often falls apart out here. When this happens, I immediately stop and go into something else – another song. I think this memory blank might be due to ‘nerves’ – being self-conscious. I’m also having problems with Wheels, where I need to use three fingers of my right hand but I only have two that work. In other words, my Focal Dystonia is proving detrimental to the correct execution of this piece! The nerves I can solve by just a bit more practise, the Focal Dystonia is another thing…
My regular, George, turns up. He says he’s got my music for Ave Maria in his car and he’ll go and get it. He said he’d go and get it two weeks ago but he went and never came back! This time he does come back – “Are you going to be here tomorrow? he says. I say I will, especially if it doesn’t go well today. “Oh good, I’m going to bring someone to see you – someone who you’ll recognise.” Someone I’ll recognise, eh? Someone famous George? He won’t say. I’m intrigued and decide to be here, at this place, at this time if today goes well or not.
Later, a man in his sixties who I’ve spoken to a couple of times – not enough for me to be honour him with the title of “regular”! – stops to give me some shrapnel – 1 and 2p coins. He talks about a version of House Of The Rising Sun by an orchestra in 1947 – no singing. I say I’d like to know the name of the orchestra but he can’t remember. I ask him what he thought of The Animals version from ’64. He thought it was great. And what about Dylan’s version on his first album – that’s where they heard it. He doesn’t answer but says he doesn’t like “some of these modern singers – they take some of the old songs and mess them up.” Indeed they do, my good man.
I finish up here. I haven’t done too well – about thirteen pounds for over two hours playing. I go over to Bertie before I head on up the road. He’s curious – “So, what’s that style you play? I’m not being funny (that makes a change) but it sounds like you do two different songs at once – two melodies, with the bass thing…what’s that called?” I explain the Merle Travis fingerstyle technique which evolved from Ragtime piano – the palm-muted bass part, the mid register chordal stabs, the higher register melody – all played with different fingers. This naturally leads me on to my describing my two useless fingers. “So you’d be alot better if they worked?” “Yeah, I would!” Bertie’s sister plays alot of Spanish/classical guitar. “Ah, that’s how you know to whistle to some of the ones I do!” “Yeah” he says, “she’s really good. She should come out here, I say to her.” I agree, she should. After my toilet break, I go to the cathedral grounds, eat my small orange then head back to the high street and set up halfway down the covered stretch.
A regular whose name – Mick, I find out today, chats to me about work on cruise ships – “It pays well, I hear” he says. Yes it does – but being stuck on a boat for a week and sharing a small cabin with some other boring middle-aged musician, well, I’m too old for all that now! Mick informs me of the best time to buy discounted food at Waitrose – six o’clock. What day, Mick? “Every day. Yesterday I got some prawns for…” I like Mick, with his permanent cheeky smile. He’s also got a habit several of my other regulars of a certain age seem to have – standing just behind and to the side of me and whistling along to whatever I’m playing before presenting themselves. Mick’s also a musician which doesn’t surprise me – Mick being a good name for a musician…of a certain age
Later on, it’s ninety-nine year old Henry Gray but he doesn’t stop on his way up the high street. He’s bombing up at four miles per hour in his motorised buggy. “Hello Henry!” I shout. He smiles. Goodbye Henry, soon to be one hundred.
Money-wise, it’s been an OK day – £33 (well, almost) for four and a half hours. I’ve had worse and five minutes before I stop a young Chinaman puts a £5 note in the bucket.