Diary Of A Busker Day 354 Thursday April 11th 2013 Winchester High Street 1. Opposite Oxfam. Time: 2:30-4pm 2. Opposite Vodafone. Time: 4:37-5:45pm
A look at the weather website reveals a temperature of a sweltering 10.4 degrees. I make that about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Even so, after an hour and a half, my hands are starting to freeze up somewhat. Again, I notice the flat-capped, tall old guy who never speaks to me, sitting across the road. He’s one of these people who’s always there; part of the flotsam and jetsam, I suppose. He turns up five minutes after I start and only leaves just before I do.
A nice old French lady with very short hair talks to me. She says she always knows it’s me when she hears the guitar, then we talk about, what else? – the weather. ‘Everyone talks about ze weathair – what else is thair to talk about?’ she says. ‘Well, yeah, but then again, we’re always under it. It’s there all the time!’
After my break, I’m up the road and sure enough it’s that capped bloke again! But there are no benches here so he just sort of hangs around near the Vodafone shop and the women’s clothes shop entrance. I feel a bit sorry for him; has he got nothing better to do than to stand around listening to some guy playing a guitar on some street corner? Or maybe I just happen to be playing wherever and whenever he’s hanging out, who knows?
A mother and baby come up and she makes a song request (the mother, not the baby). It’s Bye Bye Blackbird and it’s her baby’s favourite, apparently. I don’t know it but I thank her for the request, by way of my usual reply in these circumstances – ‘It’s good if people say songs I wouldn’t normally think of. Sometimes they work out well for solo guitar. I’ll look into it, definitely.’ At the end of the session I pack up and the old guy’s STILL there! When he sees I’m finished, he walks away. A stalker? I reckon just an old guy who’s a bit shy or who just likes the music..or some freak! Again, who knows?
Later on, in the evening…the guy who wanted me to have a look at his guitar/amp set up, picks me up and drives me to his place in Micheldever. I worked out what the problem was. He was playing the guitar really loud with the headphones on and because he had a lot of distortion (he loves his Whitesnake and AC/DC) he’s getting all the hugely amplified, extraneous sounds of the fingers on the fretboard; all the buzzes, harmonics, hit-by-mistake open strings and all the rest of it, in fact everything apart from the right notes! I managed to convince him to play without the headphones and through his Micro Cube rather than his ear bashingly loud Marshall. That way he can also follow the tuition on his DVDs without taking the headphones off all the time. He had a lot of framed photos in his front room; of his wife, who was a bit older than him – he’s 60 this year – and his mother who ‘made it to 94.’ AND, he was actually BORN in the house! You don’t come across that much these days.
I felt a bit sorry for him; I’m feeling sorry a lot today, because he was very reluctant to test out his new set-up in front of me – ‘I’m not a guitarist, I can’t play in front of an audience, I’m no good.’ I had to tell him it’s the same for all of us. I mean, with my hand problem, I’m rubbish, but you’ve got to take it slow – ‘make sure your left hand is in the right place before you strum or pick the notes with your right hand.’ ‘I know, I want to run before I can walk.’ ‘Yeah, you’ll end up getting frustrated and depressed and that’s no good. I know…I do the same!’ I do. He hasn’t got any children although his wife has two from an earlier marriage – ‘but they were useless,’ he said.
One curious thing. He had quite an extensive collection of Red Indian figures in a glass cabinet. Something to do with men of that age? I don’t know, but there are others like him. ‘Greatest people who ever lived,’ he said, ‘they were only defending themselves against people taking over their land. We’d do the same.’ Too right, I can’t argue with that.
On the drive back he related his encounter with ‘Mr. Timpson’ – The No. 1 Busker-Hater Of Winchester. ‘I took a watch in – the back ‘ad come off. I only wanted ‘im to put it back on again. Thirty-five pounds, ‘ee said! “Thirty-five pounds!” I said. “I don’t want to buy the bloody machine that does it!” I couldn’t believe it. I said no thanks, I took it ’round the corner to another place, they did it for nothin’.’