Day 2198

Day 2198 Wednesday July 19th 2023 Southampton, Above Bar Street
It was high time I laid the ghost of my horrendous busking debut in Southampton to rest. After all, 13 years is a long time to carry something like that around with you. It’s now time to find out if it was the town that was crap or just me that was crap. I hope it was just me.
One good thing; the train fare is a measly £6.35 which is less than half that of anywhere else I go to.
So, up that bloody hill from the station and turn right…keep going until the right spot presents itself. And it happens to be just up from my debut. I’m pretty sure because it’s almost opposite the Yorkshire Building Society, possibly the only business still there from 2010, which I remember being opposite. I think someone came out of there to tell me I was too loud and they couldn’t hold a meeting with a customer. Anyway, I’m in front of Primark and opposite Boots.
Back then I wouldn’t have said boo to a goose and it took me half an hour to get the courage to set up. Since then I’ve busked in London, Toronto, Paris, Istanbul…and the hellhole that is Reading.
I wonder who I’ll meet today…I remember that German lady who, after I told her I’d moved from Canada to seek my fame and fortune, uttered those immortal words “Unt now you are here? BEGGING?” I bet she’s dead now.
 One thing I don’t recall being here before are all the benches in the middle of the street, so I’m hoping there should be good pickings from the static audience.
Thankfully, I’ve got a bigger repertoire than then – around 6 songs, as I recall, but to hell with it, why not start with what I probably started with all those years ago, namely Albatross (or Albert Ross, or Alcatraz, as it’s been called).
Here Comes The Sun came early on and brought forth a very thin punkish woman who started singing it, then stopped and said “Yeah, The Eagles, you like The Eagles?”
“Actually no, it’s a Beatles song.”
“Yeah, Eagles…great, well done.”
A man came up, possibly her carer and led her off.
Next up, someone I swear I’ve never met before but seemed to know me. We seem to have a mutual acquaintance in the violinist busker, Kai, who coincidentally, I saw yesterday in Salisbury, having not seen him for yonks.
Man – “I saw that Korean bloke the other day – he plays the violin.”
Me – “Oh yeah, Kai.”
“Yeah, I says to ‘im ‘You still on the fiddle?’ and ‘ee didn’t like that, haha! Then I says to him ‘Well, it’s good to see you again, me old china’ an ‘ee went fuckin’ nuts!”
“Yeah, I bet he did – he’s Korean!”
“Yeah, I know, South Korean, haha!”
I’m trying to place this bloke so I asked him about when we last met.
“Oh, just before Covid, and I was about to be on Britain’s Got Talent as the oldest contestant – I’m 77 now, and me old man got rushed to hospital and was in a coma for two days. Well, ‘course I couldn’t go up for the show and when ‘ee came to, ‘ee said ‘So, how’d you do son?’ and I ‘ad to say I fucking missed the show and ‘ee said ‘For fuck’s sake son, all I wanted was for you to do it and see if that fuckin’ Simon Cowell ‘ad the nerve to vote you out, you know, vote out the oldest person.’
At this point a bunch of young girls with very short shorts walk past and into Primark “Cor” he says, “I can see why you picked this spot!” Dirty old bastard!
I ended up doing 2 1/2 hours straight through, as the coinage was quite acceptable, and also, when someone donated, they would often then go and sit down on a bench so I felt obliged to give them another one and this happened a few times. I also sold two CDs using the usual “This one’s an hour long – it’s a tenner, and the other one’s a bit shorter, 48 minutes long so it’s £8, or I do
two for £15, special offer just for today.”
Breaktime was on a bench facing the Bargate, and a sandwich of strong cheddar, bought from the market in Salisbury, coleslaw and cucumber, and a packet of Snackrite crisps. I  amused myself by watching around a hundred pigeons and one seagull mooch around for food on the ground and they weren’t bloody getting any of mine.
Back up the road and looking for a different spot, I had a chat with a charity worker – a girl of about 20, outside the entrance to the mall.
“I see you’ve got a guitar, you gonna serenade me?”
“I’ve got to find a spot first. I was over there for two and a half hours. I need a change.”
“You can set up here.”
“Well no, there’s some blankets there – is there a homeless person about?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen anyone. Why, would they cramp your style?”
“No, I just don’t want to set up near a load of blankets!”
“Yeah, fair enough…what sort of stuff you play? What’s your name?”
“It’s Marvin. Oh, really old stuff. You wouldn’t know…or maybe you would. Some Beatles? Here Comes The Sun?”
“Yeah, I know Here Comes The Sun…any Carpenters?”
“Bloody hell, that’s old stuff. No, no Carpenters. I think I’ll go up the road, anyway. Just up there a bit.”
“Yeah, I should still be able to hear you…Marvin?”
“Yeah, what’s your name?” – she’s got a name badge but I can’t read it.
“Tyler. It’s a boy’s name but I’m not a boy.”
“I can see that.”
She then holds out an elbow to me, which confuses me.
“Chicken wing” she says.
“You like chicken wings?”
“Chicken wing, you do the same, bump me there (on her elbow)…see ya Marvin!”
“Right, yeah, see you Tyler.”
Up the road, I set up in front of a big fence in front of the closed HSBC office, and start up. A few songs in, a man turns up with a shopping cart with three things inside; a very old Tesco bag, a three foot long branch…and a baseball cap. He’s very interested in the CDs so I stop playing, hand them to him and give him the usual spiel. A couple of minutes later he says “Yeah, really good…but I haven’t got any money.” Of course he doesn’t, because he’s a bloke with a shopping trolley with an old Tesco bag, a baseball cap and a fucking three foot branch of a tree in it!
I needed to do an hour and a half there but had to stop fifteen minutes short, due to someone starting up down the road. I packed up and headed down to see whoever it was who cut my set short. Not that I minded; the coinage wasn’t very good and the novelty of my grand return to the birth of my illustrious busking career had definitely worn off.
I bumped into Tyler again, outside the mall entrance, and told her why I’d stopped.
“Oh yeah, he said he was gonna set up here but you were there so he went down there (pointing towards the Bargate.”
“Well, he’s bloody loud, I can barely see him!” He was loud but he was blasting UP the road towards me, while I was only blasting across the road.
And that was that. I ended up clearing just enough after the train fare was taken off, to make the trip worthwhile. So, getting back to whether it was the town that was crap or me that was crap all those years ago, I reckon it was me.
Sent from my iPhone

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