Diary Of A Busker Day 351 Sunday April 7th 2013 Winchester High Street 1. Opposite Oxfam. Time: 2:33-3:18pm 2. Opposite Vodafone. Time: 3:25-5:15pm
I would have gone for the middle spot if not for a young strummer set up nearby. Strangely, I can’t remember what he was crucifying today although it’s just come to me what he was doing the other day up at Barclays; English Rose by The Jam. So, down the road to old faithful…en route I walk past three blokes with beards and hats, playing an acoustic guitar, ukulele and bass, all going through a small P.A. system. I think maybe THEY think they’re ZZ Top. They don’t sound it; they’re doing Delilah. They’re not too raucous but loud enough to be a constant rumble from where I set up. Hmm…I wonder if we can “co-exist,” as some idiot official put it to me one time. They were still on Delilah when I started up, which I could handle, but their next one is a fair bit louder; maybe they’re working up to their appearance. I can’t tell what the song is, it’s just a slightly more annoying rumble than the last one. I wonder if they’ve turned up a bit because they could hear ME. I also start to wonder if the racket created by all of us is getting on people’s nerves as no one’s giving me any money. In fact I’m seriously thinking today might be that day: the day I’ve been fearing ever since I started, namely The Day When I Get No Money. Because come it WILL!
It’s gone half an hour and I’m about to pack up and not one person has stopped. NOT ONE. How can this happen in a supposedly civilised country, and then, during Mr. Sandman, two kids on bikes stop and one puts a coin in. I thank them, both of them then look in the bucket. One penny. After half an hour, I’ve got one sodding penny. If I’d seen what they’d put in I would have given it back. I actually shout out ‘One penny!’ – not to them, to anyone, and shake my head. Oh dear. I carry on playing, thinking I’ve got to do at least forty-five minutes…then someone else stops and puts something in. I look – it’s a 5p coin and another penny. I carry on till my time is done. No one else stops. 7 lousy pence for playing my butt off for 3/4 of an hour. How? I despise the collective meanness of people. There’s no excuse, how can there be?! I keep saying it over in my head – “I’ve made 7p in forty-five minutes…” I have to try somewhere else; how can I go home with 7p?
The Vodafone spot is free and I’m in luck because Ragtime Phillip turns up just after I start and is holding a blessed POUND COIN! But I thought too soon. He can’t afford to give me the pound; can I give him 50p back? I look, but don’t have 50p, do I? Now, if he’d wanted to give me 93p, well, I could have accommodated that. BUT, he’s a lovely man and he gives me the pound – the whole pound! Now I’ve got £1.07p! What a decent bloke, and I know he’s not loaded. In fact it gets a bit better, so much better that the second set’s takings make up for the first set’s disaster. However, it’s not without it’s offender, in the form of a posh Winchester woman out with her poor husband. ‘Do you play garden parties, that sort of thing?’ ‘I sure do’. ‘Oh good, we’re thinking of having one in the summer, at our house. How much do you charge?’ ‘It depends. How long would you like me to play?’ ‘Oh, say four hours?’ ‘Four hours? Not straight through, though?’ ‘Um…no, say four times forty-five minutes.’ ‘OK, and it’s here, is it? Your house?’ ‘Oh yes, just up the hill, um…do you play classical?’ Now, and for the only time, the husband speaks; ‘Course he does, that’s what he’s playing!’ Not quite – it was Ol’ Man River but if that’s what he thinks, fine. I butt in – ‘Well, yeah, it’s all fingerstyle, I mean, you want background music, like a wedding drinks party, that sort of thing, right?’ She – ‘Yes, so how much would you charge?’ ‘Well…say £200?’ She reels back in horror – ‘Oh my goodness! Um, I wasn’t thinking anything like that, um…’ (She’s obviously totally ignorant of what a normal function soloist costs because £200 is a bloody bargain!) Me, because I’m desperate – ‘Right, well…say £150?’ She’s still reeling but not so much – ‘Um…well, we were just thinking of…you know, if we had a party before my daughter and some students came around and danced a bit.’ I’ve had enough of this – ‘The thing is, if you go on the internet (or get the servant to), you won’t find any guitarist for less than £250. or ANY function musician. You won’t. You’re welcome to look but I’m saying you won’t get anyone…now, I do this for a living (I sound like Michael Caine)…forget what’s in the bucket, I usually get a lot more. But anyway, I’ll give you my card (get card from guitar case and hand it to her)…and my name’s Marvin.’ ‘I’m Juliet, OK thanks, we’ll discuss it and phone you.’* And off they go; Juliet in her posh Winchester sleeveless, quilted gilet and the virtually-silent husband, whose name I’m pretty sure wasn’t Romeo and if it was, he’s come down a peg or two.
After Twelve-String Shuffle, a woman in a wheelchair and wearing dark glasses and a burgundy coat like Marie-Therese’s but a bit shorter, says in a loud voice ‘Well, I LIKE IT!’ seeing no one had given any money.
Earnings: £25.86 (including one CD) All, apart from 7p, from the second set.
* I was relieved they never did.