Diary Of A Busker Day 103 Sunday May 22nd Winchester High Street (1. corner of Marks And Spencer, Time: 12:40-1:12pm, 2. opposite WH Smiths, Time: 4:05-6:05pm.)
These days there seems to be as many people in town as on any other day, and as I didn’t come in yesterday… I take the obligatory reconnaissance to see who’s in the strategic targets, in other words – who’s busking. Outside the HMV Shop, near the Marks And Spencer busking spot there are 8 people wearing black shirts and standing next to assorted percussion and brass instruments. I go up to find out information like when are they going to start playing again and when are they leaving. They’re having a break, they’ll start again in half an hour and they’re playing ’till 3 0’clock. “OK, I’m going to set up over there (I point to the nearby spot) and when you start up, I’ll stop, OK?” Yes, it’s OK. I set up, the sun’s out (a woman asks “Are you enjoying the sun?” “Oh yes, they usually only let me out at night.” “Oh, that’s a good one!”) and I get through quite a profitable half hour – I take £10 – very good. (In fact I get through another half hour but take only £1.50) However, at the end of the half hour the band seem to have gone marching off up the road to the other end. A man comes by and I ask him where they are – I can hear them. “Up at The Buttercross – they’re very loud!” “They’re way up there?” “Yeah, up the other end. They’re noisy, all right!” Five minutes later a trio of drama students, one holding a sign which has A SILENT SUBURBAN MOVIE written on it, walk past dancing to La Vie En Rose. “It’s not that silent now, is it?” I say. Then a bit later, another drama trio appear and set up their tape machine in the middle of the street – right near me, and go into their routine. This annoys me somewhat, but I’ve had a good half hour so I’m in a good mood so I sit back to see how long this goes on for and fortunately it’s no longer than 5 minutes before they’re gone. I start playing but after only a couple of minutes, BANG! it’s getting louder, it’s the drum/brass band. I look up the road but they’re still nowhere in sight. BANG BANG! Now I can see them…and now they’re here, BANG!! They go past me and stop at the corner and I can see the band name on their shirts – Meridian Drum Corps. I reckon in brackets afterwards it should say “THE LOUDEST THING YOU WILL EVER HEAR” When they went past, it was distorting in my ears. Where will they go next? Back to where I first saw them, outside the HMV Shop, to blast everything to smithereens again. I’m getting out of here. Up the road, near The Buttercross, I meet Frank with his accordion and cart with furled umbrella attachment. All he wants to do is a couple of hours of quiet busking too, but the drama people have set up there, as well. I warn him about the thunderous monster from hell which is the Meridian Drum Corps, very mobile and unpredictable in movement and destination (attack location). The student/drama/mime act here goes thus: There are two girls, dressed in 1950s clothes for some unexplained reason. One sits on a side of a bench. The other goes and sits right next to her, annoying the first girl who gets up and goes to sit on the other side. The 2nd girl moves and sits right next to her, again annoying the 1st girl who moves back to where she was to begin with, etc… There’s some guy filming and alot of people about, preventing Frank from making his way past. The only way is to walk in front of the camera guy, which, after thinking about it for a minute, he does. (Frank didn’t come in yesterday as he thought there’d be loads of buskers about, as there usually is on a Saturday, but it turned out there was no one here. Maybe everyone thought the same thing – too many other buskers, let’s not go in.) I decide to go home although I almost set up opposite the Zilli restaurant, but don’t want people eating their posh pasta or whatever to start complaining.
One and a half hours later, I’m back in town and it’s alot more quiet now that the mime people have gone(?!) I hear from a beggar that Frank is down in the alleyway (the acoustics are good there, Frank says) where the flowerman usually is. I set up at the “old familiar” opposite WH Smiths. A lady with three children, none of which look like each other or her, come up. The lady says the boy would like me to play some rock and roll – Buddy Holly? I have to think quick about this…I’ve got it, I put my capo (devise for raising key) on the neck – 5th fret and do That’ll Be The Day, something I learnt years (decades) ago, I even attempt singing a verse. Later, a man in a suit, quickly becoming a regular, asks for Here Comes The Sun. I’ve done this for him before, so, capo again – this time up to the 7th fret. Then he wants The Third Man, and yes, I’ve done this for him before. An American couple walking by correctly identify the arrangement and stop for a chat about Chet (Atkins). A couple of others stop which is what happens sometimes when people see a small crowd, like when someone sees someone looking up at the sky, they do it too. So I’ve got about 7 people in front of me which I find quite un-nerving. One – a woman, calls her young daughter, who’s running around, over. “That’s in Spongebob isn’t it? – what he’s playing.” “Yes, I know but it’s from a 1949 film originally, you know…Third Man…Orson Welles…” After a while they all leave apart from my suited man who tells me about a lady he just met in a bar nearby – he’d been talking to her, then suddenly she was gone. “Didn’t you get her phone number?” Nope, she just drove away in her car. Oh well, I say. It’s almost 6 o’clock and I say I’ll be leaving in a minute. My man says wait. He goes over to a cashpoint machine, come back and puts a £10 note folded up so it’s tiny, in the bucket. Well, this is the 2nd day running this has happened – I’m on a roll. I offer my standard “Would you like some change out of that?” No he doesn’t but can he have Here Comes The Sun again? Sure, he’s entitled to that, at least. He can have it 5 more times after that if he wants. “Oh well, maybe you’ll see her again.” I say as he walks off.