Friday, 30 December 2016

A violent assault at Oxford Circus - 22nd - 29th October 2014

Green Park #1 - 22nd October 2014
My partner's brother, David, very kindly bought me a 40 bass red Royal Standard piano accordion last summer, and this morning I decided to give it it's first airing on the London Underground. I enjoyed trying out all of the different sounds produced by pressing its switches down. It's got new Italian padded straps on it which (even though it's heavier than my other accordion), makes it much more comfortable to play.
The old Scottish song, 'Annie Laurie' proved popular: A man with wild curly hair and an English accent said that he didn't have any money to give me, but that he wanted to know what this Scottish tune was, and an older guy leant against the wall, listened to me playing, then gave me a handful of change, commenting, "That was lovely."
A young foreign lady emptied all the change out of her purse for me and after I said thank you she told me, "Someone did something nice for me today." She also left behind a little silver key which I handed in to lost property as I left, just in case she came back for it. Lots of people smiled at me which was very welcome after the disappointing sessions I'd had last week.
Charing Cross #2 - 23rd October 2014
Ear-erecting 'Poppy Day' announcements blasted down the corridor, destroying the illusion of freshness and space supplied by the bright white 'iPhone 6' poster on the wall opposite me as I scratched away on my violin. The anxiety rash on my neck was getting pinker and more painful and I heard a suited male telling his similarly attired friend, "The Feminist Library? That had to go, didn't it?" I couldn't believe they were for real.
A homeless-looking bearded man gave me his loose change and told me that he was talking to himself; teenagers took the piss out of me with their usual lame impressions, and a hipster's whistling weaved in an out of one of my Irish melodies. 
Oxford Circus #2 - 26th October 2014
8 am on a Sunday morning at Oxford Circus, has been my favourite time and place to busk on the Underground. All that changed today.
More or less as soon as I started playing a hopelessly drunk idiot barged onto the pitch and started singing. I tried to ignore him but it soon became clear that he wasn't going anywhere. A member of staff happened to walk by and I told him this guy was bothering me. He didn't respond, but fortunately his mere presence made the drunk move on.
Then, completely without warning, I witnessed a violent assault between three men which resulted in all three ending up in hospital with potentially life-changing injuries. Crowds of people were approaching the scene and rushing back towards me as the fight continued. I asked a French-sounding man if he'd press the help point to alert staff that assistance was needed. Finally police and the London Ambulance Service arrived and I was advised to keep playing my accordion.
I was scared, but my music lent to the place a feeling of normality which seemed to have a calming effect on the public and just as I was packing away and the cleaners where dealing with the messy aftermath, the stately black gentleman who often generously shows his appreciation, slipped me a £10 note. I thought to myself that I'd really earned that and was so pleased to see his wide smile for the first time.
Later on in the afternoon I had to give a three-hour statement to a police detective and was warned that I may have to appear in court to give evidence. This was a really traumatic event, the nature of which is apparently rarely experienced on the Underground.
Green Park #1 - 29th October 2014
This morning I decided to 'get back of the horse again' after a few days recuperating from the above incident at home. I was proud of how I'd handled the assault, but naturally I was nervous knowing now more than ever, how vulnerable I am as a busker.
Alarm bells rang as a man loitered after making a donation then came and asked if I was playing Irish dance music, and laughed?! He was harmless enough. It was good to get some violin practise in before Paris on 31st October. 
In the supervisor's office at the end of my session, the member of staff I'd given the 'Ode to my Double Bass' postcard to that I'd made (because he was a double bassist when he was younger and a Brummie like me), told me, "You were sounding good down there today."

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