Diary Of A Busker Day 312 Saturday December 22nd 2012 Winchester High Street, opposite Oxfam. Time: 12:17-1:54pm, 3:30-4:15pm
Finally, a mild day with no wind, and my poor hands are certainly grateful. The whole street’s full of the usual; part-time Christmas buskers, brass trios/quartets, groups of carol singers – mainly teenage girls, clarinettists – all teenage girls. I plonk my stuff down near The Buttercross but then hear it; from nearby, the almost inaudible sound of a penny whistle. There’s a drongo sitting down against a shop wall a few doors to my right. He’s looking towards me but not saying anything – I’ll leave it to him! Goodwill towards all men and all that.
Down at the always reliably vacant Oxfam I get one of the more unusual requests: A man of about 30 asks if I know any Clash, which makes me laugh, before launching into my now-standard ‘(name of inappropriate musician/group) doesn’t really lend itself to solo instrumental guitar music, sorry’ routine. We start talking – or rather he does, and he mentions it’s the 10th anniversary of the death of Mr. Joe Strummer. I remember I’ve been reading about him recently in Andy Kershaw’s No Off Switch where he said that, in 1980 he put The Clash on when he was Entertainments Secretary at Leeds University – he said it was the high point of his time there.
I say that I heard Joe Strummer had a heart condition. ‘Yeah, apparently he’d had it all his life. He didn’t know about it and it could have happened anytime’ says my informed friend. Anyway, I recommend Andy Kershaw’s book to him.
Later on, there are two men and a girl who I’ve seen walking about handing out leaflets. The men are quite noticeable as all they’re wearing is tight leotard-like leggings. Now they want their photo with me. The girl takes it and I ask her to take one with my camera, too. Then I enquire as to what this is all in aid of. They give me a leaflet – it’s for Boudoir Blush, a shop somewhere near here selling Anne Summers gear – ooh missus, naughty things!
Local architect/draughtsman Andrew Rutter drops by. He tells me he has to wait five months for his hip operation – ‘That’s what it’s like when you get old’ he says. ‘So I’ve got all that to look forward to, do I?’ Then he tells me about the 15th century ceiling beams up the road in Boots which they were going to get rid of but they’re still there because of his intervention. Then he tells me about a farmhouse he was invited to sketch and how he’d been past it many times and wondered what it was like inside and then he finally found out – ‘All marvellous things, you know. But people are very reluctant to let you take photos or drawings of their things, I’ve found.’ I ask why. ‘Well, they think someone’s going to nick them.’ What a shame, I think, Is this how the world has become; everyone suspecting everyone else? ‘…but it’s amazing what’s behind the doors, that you wouldn’t know from just seeing a building’ he says. Indeed, much like a book, I suspect. Andrew Rutter, ace architect and potential Alzheimer’s victim then tells me again about the old lady in St. Thomas Street who wanted him to sketch the street but after leaving it a bit he then found out she’d died. The whole thing must have left a rather depressing impression on him because I know he was quite upset about it the first time he told me and I can tell he’s still troubled by it now.
One of my old-lady-regulars (which reminds me, I haven’t seen Delia for weeks) drops by, which is better than dropping dead. She’s very tall, or maybe that’s because I only ever look up to her from down on my stool! I still don’t know her name and haven’t got a photo. She asks how I’m doing, in the cold. I say I’m OK today – I look at my watch and say I’ve been playing more than an hour but my hands aren’t cold. In fact I could easily do another hour, maybe even two. She feels my hand – I don’t think she believes me! I ask if she’s been up the road. ‘Oh yes, madness.’ I agree – ‘Yeah, loads of people, noise, all the Christmas buskers and everything.’ ‘Yes, and pissed people’ she says as she walks off.