Charing Cross #2 - 10th October 2014
Once again (unnecessarily) deafening station announcements made me jump out of my skin every two minutes and disrupted the flow of my piano accordion playing: Unnecessary because the station was relatively quiet and buskers aren't allowed to use an amplifier here so customers can definitely hear what's going on. I'm beginning to think that this is the staff's subtle way of getting rid of buskers at this station, but then most of the staff are friendly and welcoming people, so I don't know what's going on?! I keep meaning to ask the supervisor about it, but no way would they turn the volume down just for me...
My biggest pet hate is being ignored, for reasons which go way back. I know that as a busker, being ignored by the vast majority of people is par for the course and I can dissociate myself from that, but today I had swollen glands and had just had an almighty row with my partner, so stoicism went out of the window. In the end I closed my eyes against dolorous faces and the garish Effie Gray movie poster opposite me, bragging Emma Thompson's "terrific" performance and Dakota Fanning's moon face I was in the mood for sticking pins in. The accordion vibrating warmly against my chest as I pushed and pulled its bellows, however, matched and calmed my breathing, and I dreamt of booking my next trip to Paris.
Bastards in suits jangled loose change in their pockets as they passed me by as if to say, "Here's my money, but your're not getting any of it - HA!" and I started to believe that the public are no longer interested in live music. One sweet lad, however, gave me £1 - after I'd finished, and it was good finding out that I wasn't completely invisible when a Scottish member of staff on the gate commented that he'd noticed that I was playing a different instrument. When he was younger he used to play in an accordion orchestra.
Green Park #1 - 11th October 2014
About four sets of parents with children stopped to listen to my folk fiddle playing at Green Park, during which time I performed a new Irish tune called 'Gan aimn' (for some reason, many Irish tunes are called by this name)? A dark, stubbly man stopped and I thought that he was going to harangue me, but eventually I understood he was showing his appreciation and asking for nine £1 coins in exchange for a £10 note.
An old lady with glittery eyes gave me money and exclaimed, "You were even playing on two strings, then!" and a girl with her father asked me if I was playing the fiddle or the violin; a good question: "When folk music is being played on the violin, it's more commonly referred to as a fiddle," I replied, and she gave me a £5 note. I then got given another £5 note by an elegant American woman with a gorgeous dog who thanked me so much and then a shouty protest march invaded the corridors. I was glad I'd made the effort to come out today, because it had been an easy session.
Oxford Circus #2 - 12th October 2014
Two things happened this morning, that in all my 10 years of busking, I'd never experienced: A git mimicked me saying "thank you" to somebody who'd made a donation, and a bespectacled gentleman struggled to get me a £1 coin from his bag which bounced straight out of my case and unbeknownst to him, ended up lodged under the wheels of his shopping trolley. He bent down, picked it up, and walked off: I obviously wasn't meant to have it! Before I left the house I'd smothered my face with M&S 'Royal Jelly & Pure Honey' hand and nail cream because I'd run out of moisturiser. This had been a bad move because it was so thick it melted into my eyes which stung like hell all through my performance. As I was packing my violin away, though, an Indian lady tapped me on the shoulder and gave me £1 to add to my substantial hoard, which (I think) had been a kind gesture.
Charing Cross #2 - 12th October 2014
I treated myself to a copy of Rosemary Tonks - Bedouin of the London Evening - Collected Poems and made the money back for it on violin again at Charing Cross, where a charming, very lined American lady confided to me that the Grammy-Award-winning violinist and conductor, Joshua Bell had recently been busking on the New York Subway and nobody had known who he was.
Even though I don't work for London Underground I frequently get asked for directions to the trains etc.: I explained to a woman that the toilets were upstairs but she seemed reluctant to go up there, then my African-Parisian guitarist and singer busker friend (whose name I don't know) arrived as this little exchange was coming to an end. I was pleased to see him because I'd felt lonely all day and he is one of those people with a radiant smile who made me laugh when he told me that once he was so desperate for the toilet, "I weed on me."
He'd begun busking down here back in about 1997, when more often that not buskers could go home with £100 for a day's work, but since the Tories came into power, he said, people haven't got the money to give. We agreed that we can only do what we can and that the best way to attract money into the hat is by being relaxed about it.