Green Park #1 - 23rd March 2015
I had a fluey bug and my nose was streaming before I started my accordion set but it abated, fortunately, as time went on.
A nerdy fella revealed that he loved the accordion and that he'd like to learn how to play it. I sighed inwardly when it dawned on me that announcements about today's reduced escalator service where going to be repeated every two minutes throughout my session: I stuffed an earplug into my left ear to dull the din, consciously adopted an 'I'll play to the best of my ability' mindset, and gradually this irritating communication became mere blah.
Recalling how on the train here I'd read in the National Union of Journalists magazine, The Journalist, that there exist quite a few openings for freelance writers in my beloved Paris (I'm attempting to find paid writing work), I flushed with excitement.... then I began to catastrophize about how I could suddenly drop dead in a similar way to how the American news anchor and reporter, Lisa Colagrossi did of a major brain aneurysm while on assignment in New York last Friday: If I think about it too much, the subject of life and death really messes me up.
After 20 minutes of playing my accordion case gaped empty, and a little Asian boy stared into it so hard I imagined that he was going to disappear face-first into it. I glowered at the back of his head, then he un-scrunched his hand to show a mouldy 2p just for me. 15 minutes or so later, I'd still only made roughly £1 and had to turn my back on an ignoramus with a brilliant white camera who was filming me as if it was his God-given right.
On hearing 'Ain't Misbehavin'', a beard-wearing black man chucked me some coins and asked if I play 'I Get A Kick Out Of You'. I said that I didn't (but immediately I heard a great accordion arrangement of it in my head and vowed to learn it). Instead, I performed for him 'My Way' in the style of Matt Monro following his caution, "I've got 30 seconds" (before he had to go).
A classy woman under a black hat extricated a £2 coin out of her sizeable purse for me; a lad clutching a tall, dirty gold beer can hollered across that he didn't have any money on him but that he liked what I was playing, and the five bites on my right wrist I received while I was up my allotment yesterday, started to itch intensely.
Tottenham Court Road #1 - 26th March 2015
Since its refurbishment Tottenham Court Road Underground Station is totally unrecognizable, and it would seem that surrounding Soho is being reduced to rubble.
There was no vinyl on the floor to mark the brand new busking pitch which is situated on the concourse leading to the Northern line where groups of youngsters congregated and kept having to be moved on. As I'd been told by an Australian singer-guitarist blonde at Green Park some weeks ago, it was (acoustically speaking), indeed like playing my accordion in a bathroom; the sound carried well without me having to make any extra physical effort.
All session there was a member of station staff standing nearby directing confused commuters and so I felt obliged to vary my set, conceiving that at least if they hated the accordion, they wouldn't have to listen to the same tune more that once.
People were very complimentary about my playing: A scurrying lady remarked, "You don't often see female buskers," and thought it only right that she support me with a few coins; a ghostly man hastened towards me with his contribution and said, "I LIKE the accordion," and a muso carrying a guitar gave me some cash and a comradely grin.
Having first sought permission from a bespectacled woman staff member standing opposite to approach me, a lanky, gap-toothed individual presented me with a weighty 9-carat gold necklace with an ankh or 'breath of life' dangling from it and said, "I paid £300 for this. Take it to a 'cash for gold' place and make yourself happy.... Hug?" I hugged and thanked him for this lovely gesture (though felt uncertain as to whether he'd given me this out of admiration or pity), and the staff member he'd spoken to and I smiled at each other as he departed.
I performed a new Irish tune, 'The red-haired girl' for the first time and the chap on the ticket gate advised me to return here of an evening at 9.30 pm "when they're all coming out of River Dance" because then I could be guaranteed good money.
Green Park #1 - 27th March 2015
My partner Jan, and I had had an awful row the night before, and so I felt exhausted but determined to do well so as not to feel that she'd got the better of me.
Generally I'm not a fan of children but I did find a pair of accordion-curious, Asian identical twin toddler girls in pink puffy jackets and plaits surrounding their faces, very cute. A lady I recognized from playing here before and who looks a lot like my mentor on the Chichester jazz course, pianist and singer Ann Odell, gave me some change.
Engineers/builders were clanging bits of metal by the escalators around the corner but this ended up not being too much of a distraction, fortunately.
As she passed by, a timid, red-cheeked woman smiled sweetly at me, then fell slightly against the wall as she strove to get £1 out of her purse. I finished my song and knelt down for a break as she flipped the coin into my case, then frowningly complained, "I get my money out to pay and you stop playing... It's happened three times today." (?!)
Before I left, John the alto saxophonist busker and I nattered about gigging in Paris and he wished me luck after I mentioned that I'd got through the first round of the selection process for the casting of a BBC 3 TV programme called The Orchestra in which I hope to be playing double bass in a classical chamber orchestra on a UK tour in July.
When he found out that I don't drive and get around on public transport with my double bass, he labelled me a "lugger" and said that the bespectacled woman staff member who I was playing accordion next to at Tottenham Court Road yesterday, had told him that I'd been playing very nicely, which was an inspirational morale booster.
Liverpool Street #2 - 27th March 2015
An Underground worker in the supervisor's office told me after finding out that I'm an accordionist, that he was taught both piano and keyboard and that he enjoys playing "soppy songs" such as 'Moon River' (like I do), with his left hand down an octave to add more soul and depth. He would like to write an arrangement of the 1981 Jon & Vangelis number, 'I'll Find My Way Home', and have it played at his funeral.
I had to give up playing after a short while because my arms were knackered from all the accordion pushing and pulling, but not before a scaled-down version of my friend, Nicola made a generous donation. I noticed that people who walk down this corridor between staircases are more intent on pulling their phones out of their pockets to check them than on retrieving their wallets to give me money, and the station supervisor reminded me to not forget my piano next time, as I pushed at the office door to leave.
Oxford Circus #2 - 29th March 2015
I'd slept awkwardly on my left shoulder, the blade of which was really paining, and this, combined with a continuous, unnecessarily loud announcement about engineering works taking place on the Victoria line today, would have been enough to make even the most hardened of buskers lose it: Why, for God's sake, can't TFL just trust customers to be aware of what's going on around them? The Paris Métro seems to run much more smoothly with a minimum of staff intervention.
People marched by with umbrellas in their hands but I persisted, and was pleased with what I earned, finally, given that it was so noisy. I spotted a mother and daughter with matching corkscrew curls; a teenaged boy pinched the top of his nose between his eyebrows with his eyes closed as if he was about to collapse, and a Chinese girl who stood around with her family painstakingly produced 1 yi yuan, which could be of no use for me whatsoever, and I wondered if she'd known this to be the case and had been taking the piss.
Needless to say, I was very glad when the train pulled out of the eastbound Central line platform, the whole length of which had been plastered with 'Made by you' Converse Sneakers advertising, with me on it.