Diary Of A Busker ~ Day 131

Diary Of A Busker Day 131 Friday July 15th Winchester High Street (1. outside Pizza Hut, Time: 10:55-1pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 1:34-5:05pm).

There are a few buskers out today – one, not a musical busker but a puppeteer. He has a little puppet show with a very old fashioned backdrop and puppets which he operates from above and has dangling and dancing away to Singin’ In The Rain. Rather quaint and refreshing – a nice change from all of us guitar people.

I have to wait awhile for my first coin – for Yellow Bird from an old lady who says “that’s lovely.” I thank her, ask her name – Helen, and inform her she is my first “customer”. Just after this, 5 foreign teenagers walk past, one puts a penny on my knee. I’m not having this, it’s an insult so I call them back and give their penny back. 15 minutes later they walk past again and one drops a straw in my bucket. I’m not having this, either. I shout after them, “Oi! Oi!” One turns around and says “Na” or possibly “No.” They probably think I’m demanding money – something I would never do. They keep walking. It makes me angry and frustrated for a couple of minutes, then I forget about it.

One of my regulars, a tall lady in her 60s, comes by with a friend for a chat. She despairs the state of modern (popular) music. I say I have no idea of any of it (as I don’t listen to it), “I don’t ever play new music” I say. “No! and don’t you EVER play new music!” It’s an order, not a question. Next up is Colin, the birthday “boy” – he’s 64, and tonight’s the night of his party, at which I’m to play – just up the road at The Royal Oak. Colin has bought a disability scooter at a drastically reduced price, however, as he says, “I feel slightly ashamed, as I’m not disabled…but I’m a bit mentally disabled, so I reckon that’s alright. I may come into the pub on it, later.” See you later then, Colin.

A lady has a request I cannot (and sadly will never be able to) grant. She would like to hear Requerdos de la Alhambra, the famous piece by Tarrega, sometimes known as the “tremolo study”. It’s execution requires the player to have 4 healthy, working right hand fingers. The right hand thumb plays the bass notes and inbetween each bass note, the 3 fingers – forefinger, middle and “ring” play the same note, rapidly, one after the other. It’s possible to “fake” it useing two fingers for the three fast notes, but that’s still one more than I’ve got working. I knew the day would come when someone would ask for this, and come it did. All I can do is apologise and relate the Focal Dystonia part of my “hard luck story.”

Another lady, standing near the shop wall, just behind and to my right – I can see her out of the corner of my eye, comes forward. “My son-in-law used to play the guitar.” “Oh, did he? …and then he stopped?” “Well, he died three months ago.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” “Do you know The Shadows?” “The Shadows?” “Yes, do you know the people – their names?” “Well, um…Hank Marvin, Jet Harris” She interupts – “Yes, that’s him.” “Jet Harris? He was your son-in-law?” “Yes, well they weren’t married – my daughter and him, but they were living together, in Parchment Street (nearby).” Yes, now I remember when he died and apparently Jet, (who at 71 wasn’t much younger than his mother-in-law – I pointed this out) was touring up untill last September. I say I don’t play any Shadows songs – it’s difficult without a group, but I do play a couple of songs that have a “Shadowy” feel, with the reverb up. I demonstrate by doing a few notes, wobble-ing them with the vibrato arm, which unfortunately only serves to cause distress to the sad lady – “Oh…oh dear…” so I apologise! Oh dear.

Half an hour later, up the road, a young “lad” gives me a coin and stands nearby with his parents, listening for a few minutes. They go away but come back after 15 minutes. “Oh, hello again – you like the guitar? Do you play?” I ask him. “Yeah.” “And are you good?” “Yeah, I’m good!” I reflect how good it must be to be so confident at his age. As I’m about to pack up for the day and am in a(n) (unusually) sociable mood, I throw down the gauntlet – and offer my guitar for him to play. He picks up the gauntlet – of course, and I ask him his name, “James Gardner – Jimmy G, that’s my stage name!” Stage name? Out here, son, all you get is a pavement name. Jimmy G sits on my camping stool and starts up an AC/DC tune – Black And Black, I think it was called. he gets a couple of coins*, too, which is good – he plays pretty well. He finishes and goes into another one – Sweet Home Alabama, by those hairy Yankee boys Lynyrd Skynyrd. Soon he’s got a small, but not insignificant, crowd watching him. His dad’s filming it all, including me – looking ever more concerned at being upstaged by this youngster – who’s now on his 3rd number, All Right Now, by those hairy Englishmen from the early 70s, Free. Yep, he’s pretty good and he knows his stuff, alright – at one point he says “I need more GAIN.” And the people like him, however it’s time I regained my position – and possibly restore my reputation, after all – this isn’t the Jimmy G Show, it’s the Marvin B Show…but I’ll be looking out for his name in the future.

Earnings: £47.70p.

* At the end I was (perhaps wisely) forbiden to hand Jimmy G his earnings which I reckon were at least £5, but managed to slip him a single pound coin as he handed me back my plectrum.

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