Diary Of A Busker Day 569 Saturday June 7th 2014 Winchester (1. Opposite Bellis, Time: 1:15-3:35pm, 2. Opposite Pavilion, Time: 4:38-6:23pm).
Another day of fine weather and – weirdly for a Saturday afternoon – no one at The Butter Cross. Sod it, I’m going to take advantage! So, who turns up after not even 10 minutes, but Rick Tarrant. I ask him if he wants to play here. After all, he’s come from out of town…and he’s a nice bloke, but no, he’s going to set up around the corner.
The coinage is pretty steady for 20 minutes, then I do Blowin’ In The Wind and get about 8 donations – I couldn’t believe it! I award it the coveted Song Of The Day status. It’s a really long set. The longest I’ve done for…oh, years: 2 hours and 20 minutes. After an hour and a half, I was thinking ‘I should pack up now’, but then I thought of Rob and those two guys who set up camp on the bench, and how they’re all here for the whole day, or 3 hours at least, and then I thought ‘sod it (again), I’m staying!’, just this once.
Other points of interest: I got my first request of the day: a woman asked for La Vie En Rose. I’d done over an hour before so was pleased to do it again. In fact, I would’ve done it if I’d done it just before she came along, a request’s a request and all that.
After the 2 hour mark, a man walked past, stopped, put his hand in his pocket, came back, looked in the bucket – and I could see he was holding plenty of coinage, then walked off. Maybe he was thinking ‘I’ll see if he’s got much in there and if he hasn’t, I’ll donate’. Then I got some genuine applause, in the form of clapping, from a family on the bench opposite. This was after the Wheels/Yellow Bird/Third Man (zither-style) G-tuning set. Also, I did something I’ve done not even a handful of times since I started this ‘job’. After I finished the marathon stint, I skimmed off £10 from the bucket, and I reckon there was at least another £25 there, and I thought ‘This could be a very good day…for once!’
Even so, at one point, Pete – another guitar player I sometimes see – came over from the bench after Albatross and remarked about all the people who WEREN’T contributing. He said ‘People don’t realise how long it takes to learn how to play like that’. I reckon he’s right. But some don’t give a damn, anyway. He told me a guy gave him a £20 note in Fareham the other day, and then, as he was walking off, came back and dumped a load of change in his case – about £2 worth – ‘So that one guy gave me £22’. I said it’s amazing when that happens. It can change the whole day, everything. Thinking about it, if it’s going bad, selling just one CD can change everything.
After packing up, I went to the toilet, then to the bookshop and looked through a book of transcripts of all the Secret Policeman’s Ball shows. The Peter Cook – The End Is Nigh one was funny. After that, I had a chat with Glen, who was having a ‘breather’ outside Gieves & Hawkes. He never did the recording thing yesterday. It was called off, as he or the people he was doing it with, didn’t have anything organised! He’s a nice bloke, and I found out he’s a big Alan Partridge fan. He said he left a hotel once and he said to the receptionist ‘I’m leaving you, you cow!’ – of course, she had no idea what he meant. (A)Ha!
Anyway, I thought I might as well do a 40 minute set and make the whole lot up to 3 hours, so I set up up the road from ‘Glen’s’ (I might start calling Gieves & Hawkes that), up at Pavilion…which was a bit slow to start off with but picked up soon enough…AND I sold a CD, to Anna who’s getting married in Gloucester in August. She liked what I played but upon my inquiring of the suitability of me entertaining in some small part on the ‘special day’, said she wants something a bit more ‘jazzy’ for her reception. She took a card, though.
After The Third Man, and just after I’d finished the hour and had the guitar on my lap, about to pack up, a man comes up from a table outside the place on my right, where Posh BrYan usually sits. He says ‘Before you start(!), what was that?’ So I tell him everything I know about it – who was in it – ‘Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, that woman…Valli. She was known as Valli – V-A-L-L-I. I don’t know what her first name was (Alida, I remembered later)…Carol Reed – director…1949, set in Vienna (by now, the bloke was walking back to his table!)…and it was played on a zither – very difficult instrument to play, by this bloke Anton Karas…’. What else is there to know?!
Then I get a load of requests – and this in now well past the 3 hour mark that I’ve promised myself I won’t go beyond. Firstly, a girl (early 20’s) from a table outside The Slug & Lettuce wants Mr. Sandman. She must have heard me before. Methinks she’s (over)familiar with my celebrated repertoire. I have to admit, I’ve been somewhat neglectful of that one – one of the few I knew from way back when I started. Thinking about it, I only knew about 5. I say I’ll do it but apologise beforehand for the mistakes.
So I play it, and there were plenty of them…then a young guy comes over – I think he was at the girl’s table – and asks if he can play my guitar, to which I reply ‘No, sorry’, to which he replies ‘Why not?’, to which I reply ‘I don’t let anyone play it. Are you a musician?’, to which he replies ‘Yeah’, to which I reply ‘Are you sober?’ to which he replies ‘Well, uh…no, not really’, to which I reply ‘Well, there you are, sorry’, to which he replies ‘Well…I’m not like Pete Docherty…you know’, to which I reply ‘Well, you don’t look like him’ – he had light hair, this guy.
I think he got the message, in the end. But he had a request – ‘California Girls, you played it before’. A request from a drunken youth, to play my guitar, I can’t handle. A request from a drunken youth for ME to play a song I did earlier, I can handle. So he gets California Girls…(I really have to sort the intro out. My arrangement’s pretty good but I need to memorise the bloody thing!) After that one and a few others, because I now need to round it off to an hour and a half, a woman on the bench at the cathedral grounds entrance comes over and requests The Third Man! Now she’s definitely heard me before!! After that…and another one, it’s an hour and three quarters, which makes a total of 4 fours and 5 minutes playing, and my brain is starting to go.
I’m packing up and there’s a man who’s been sitting and talking with the woman for about 20 minutes – before that, he was outside the posh place with a glass of red wine – he comes over with his wine, puts in £3 and says ‘Great, excellent, as usual’ and starts heaping on more compliments. I see this guy around town alot, when I’m playing, and also on the way home – I think he might even live on Greenhill Road – but he’s never spoken to me until now. I reckon it’s the wine.
When I got home and counted up, I couldn’t believe it. I thought there wasn’t more than £50. So for once, a really good day – double the usual rate. It’s a lot of playing, though. The left side of my right hand first fingernail – the one that does all the work! – was noticeably worn down.
Earnings: £82.20p (Including 1 CD)