Bank #2 - 3rd October 2014
Bank #2 on 7th June 2013 was where I did my first ever violin performance on the London Underground and I was thrilled that I got more money for this session than I had been getting playing piano accordion on the street at the time, plus it was freeing not to have to worry about the possibility of being hassled by bullying police officers or disgruntled shopkeepers.
Playing folk violin this morning at Bank #2 had a different feel to it: It's a more darkly lit pitch that most of the others across the network and up until recently, it's felt like a cosy place to play and be guaranteed a good amount of dough in the hat. Of late people haven't been as responsive, however, and sadly I've come to look on it as being a bit of a last resort to play when my favourite pitches are all booked up.
The darkness felt gloomy and oppressive, making it difficult to think positively (especially when some annoying toddler whined at his dad, "She's only got a pound"), but during the first few minutes I got given a £5 note by a suited commuter followed by another couple of quid... and then nothing, virtually, for about an hour and 45 minutes! Fortunately things improved financially in the last 10 minutes (as often happens, strangely), but it wasn't half hard work and what I did earn I spent immediately on food for the day (such is the nature of the 'busking' beast).
Oxford Circus #2 - 4th October 2014
I love playing on this pitch at 8 am on a Sunday morning; the first hour in particular, during which interesting characters tend to be out and about. Since I've been paying close attention to my posture whilst playing violin I've been experiencing a lot less pain in my arm and hands, and as I played I thought back to what my violin teacher in Walsall - Mr Warne - taught me about holding the neck of my violin as if cradling a canary.
On leaving the house at 6.40 am this morning, there was a distinct autumn chill in the air which from a busking-inside-the-hot-Underground point of view, I've been craving for months - and for the first time in weeks I arrived at Hainault tube station dry (as in not bathed in sweat)! At about 9.40 am, the stately black man with greying hair who has twice given me carefully folded £5 notes here at exactly this time on a Sunday, got my attention with a soft, "Chhh-Chhh" as I was finishing off wiping the excess rosin off my strings with a tea towel, and pressed a crumpled £20 note into my hand. Naturally, this made my day - to the extent that I graciously let a little Asian lad who'd roughly grabbed my violin because he wanted a go on it, have a play (normally I object very strongly to anyone who has the nerve to touch my instruments).
Charing Cross #1 - 4th October 2014
I felt energized following such an encouraging session at Oxford Circus and after snacking on a hot porridge and strawberry jam from a McDonald's on Oxford Street, I headed off to pitch #1 at Charing Cross. It had been a while since I'd played here because people passing by Charing Cross #2 seem for some reason, to be in better spirits and more generous than those headed towards the Bakerloo line?!
It was a pretty nondescript session; the highlight being a posh-voiced elderly gentleman giving me £1 then asking me if I was going to play some symphony by a composer called what sounded like "Octogenarian", and I had to remember to give the newsagent beyond the ticket barrier 5p for a packet of chewing gum I had been short of cash for. I ended up leaving early because a panicky feeling and nausea (PMT) overtook me.
Green Park #1 - 6th October 2014
On the way home yesterday, I saw a fellow accordionist sitting on a fishing stool as he played and I decided that I'd try to get one because it's portable and will save my back when I'm busking on accordion. This morning, though, while I was at Green Park, I changed my mind because what with all the extra work I've been doing at the gym to build up my physical stamina, I coped with the weight of the accordion a lot better; indeed by the second half of my set I felt as if I'd passed through the 'shoulder pain' barrier altogether.
Out of the corner of my left eye while I was having a breather, I saw the actor Bill Nighy coming towards me. He's given me money when I've been playing violin here before, but we've never had a conversation. I always wonder if he recognizes me because I was his dresser at the National Theatre for a fair few months about 14 years ago. I like that he appreciates my music because I've always admired him both as a person and as an actor.
An Asian man walking with a stick dug around in his bag and handed me £1 when I was in the middle of a song and said "Good morning!", bless him, and I had to call for assistance from the station staff when I became concerned for two young children (maybe brother and sister) who'd been sitting down fiddling with their mobile phones for over 20 minutes at the bottom of the escalator. It turned out that their father / guardian had just left them there while he went off to do his thing: Unbelievable!