Diary Of A Busker Day 117 Sunday June 19th Winchester High Street (outside Debenhams, Time: 1:57-4:14pm.)
Coming through the Westgate and into the high street I hear a loud rock, or in this case “rawk” sound, then, straining my eyes, notice a seated, cowboy hatted figure. It can only mean one thing, it’s Rob – the American music playing Englishman, from Portsmouth to be specific. I would normally walk past Rob but I’m going to avoid him today and take a series of narrow back streets down to the far end of the high street. The reason is thus; Rob was quite offended a few months ago, when in one of my diary extracts published by the Hampshire Chronicle, I referred to him as being an American. As I was busking, he walked by saying that although he played American music, he was/is British. He sounded somewhat indignant and offended. I noted this down and assumed that, if not American, he must be Canadian as nothing offends a Canadian more than being mistaken for an American. I wrote this in a diary entry then forgot about it.
I’ve met Rob a couple of times since then – he’s a nice guy, despite the fact he plays very loud and with backing tracks – I like him and he speaks with an English accent, as he is English. Then, a couple of weeks ago, this very diary entry – where I said Rob must be Canadian was among those that appeared in the follow up feature, in the paper. If he read the first article he may well have seen the second one where he is now assumed to be a Canadian – offended at being mistaken for an American, which may offend him more, although as far as I can tell, given the choice, most English people would rather be mistaken for being Canadian than the other. So, where he was originally assumed to be American, then a Canadian wrongly “accused” of being American he is now in truth an (possibly very)offended Englishman wrongly assumed to be a Canadian offended at being called American. I’m a bit embarrassed about it all so I’m going to “chicken-out” and avoid him. Of course he might not have read it, but I’m not going to take the chance.
On reaching the other end of the street I come across an even bigger sound than Rob, and this can only be The Meridian Drum Corps – and it is, and they are standing outside Debenhams blasting away anything that comes near. There are 8 of them – making the noise of 800. They have three others with them, safely standing to the sides (in front they’d be killed by the blast) and they all have black T-shirts with CREW written in big white letters on the back, like the kind of people – riggers, P.A people, lighting people, roadies, caterers, etc., usually seen in big rock gigs (concerts) such as staged by Motorhead – who are quiet compared with this lot. I can’t work out what these people, the “crew” are doing as there’s no rigging, lighting, P.A – they don’t need one, or anything else besides the “musicians” and their tools of total destruction. Surely the “musicians” are capable of packing away their stuff.
I venture forth to ask a lady “crew” about when they are leaving, so I can busk (this is the only place I can play, anywhere else on the street is too near Rob). I have to shout my question, she shouts back “I don’t know, I’ll ask her!”, indicating a “crew” next to her. She has to shout to her, as well. She turns back to me and shouts “In about 15, 20 minutes!” I seek (hopefully quiet) sanctuary in the nearby cathedral grounds but can still hear them banging away (it’s like artillery fire in a war film) in the not distant enough distance. I eat my apple and a few minutes later it appears the artillery fire has stopped, perhaps their re-loading. I return to find the Meridian Drum Corps across the road, huddled in and around a market stall – their own – maybe this was what the “crew” did. I look at them, one sees me and must have worked out why I’m there – he gives me the thumbs up (or maybe they can they only communicate with sign language – I wouldn’t be surprised). But it’s OK, I can play now. Thanks, pal, you better get busy clearing up the corpses.
I set up and play and I think it’s a relief for the market stall* owners to hear me – some mellow instrumental guitar music after the other lot, banging on the doors of Hell, although to be honest, I think they’d prefer not hear anything for awhile but we all need to make a living. Actually, during my set here, 3 market stall owners come over to tell me how relieved they are to have me instead of the last lot. One lady, Rose, even told them to go away as the noise they were making was driving away potential customers. Another lady asked if I was free to play outside her stall next week, during the Hat Fair** – she couldn’t pay me anything but there would be alot of people about, of course she’ll have to find out if she can get “permission from the council”***
* On Sundays the arts and crafts stalls. The fruit and veg(etable), fish, and others are further up the High Street, Tuesday – Saturday.
**The Hat Fair – big annual Winchester event not even worth describing.
***She couldn’t – the council refused permission on the grounds that if they let me play, they’ll have to let everyone else.