The view from the Golden Jubilee Bridges, London, I used to perform violin and accordion on back in 2012 - 2013 before I got my busking license for the London Underground: Even though I love playing in the open air, it's great being able to earn money whatever the weather these days, below street level.
London Bridge - 12th February 2016
I arrived my usual 10 minutes early so that I could sign in and set up in time to start folk fiddling at 10 am, but as soon as I entered the office, I was ordered to leave and to come back at 10 am (when the pitch officially opens), by the prickly station supervisor who was on duty the last time I played here. Thinking that this was a fair enough request, I was headed for the door when out of the blue he laid into me and demanded, "Where are you going?" "Outside to wait until 10 am as you asked," I replied, taken aback.
Once outside the offfice, a male Scouser staff member who'd witnessed how the supervisor had just spoken to me, apologized on the supervisor's behalf, confided that he was a stickler for the rules and that he was like this all the time (in a bad mood) with everyone.
On my return to the office dead on 10 am, the supervisor started having a go at me again (for having followed some contractors into the office without waiting to be buzzed in, and for not having asked his permission to sign in). In over two and a half years of busking on the London Underground, no staff have complained about my attitude: After the umpteenth time, the 'signing in' process just becomes automatic, but I'm always polite and respectful.
"Why are you being so horrible to me? I haven't done anything wrong," I protested, to which he responded by accusing me of being "aggressive," of not playing by the rules, and called in a burly black male staff member for back-up. "Oh, so I'm not allowed to stick up for myself, then?" I asked, by this time losing my cool. He then threatened to report me to my boss and threw me off the station.
I refused to leave, stating once more that I'd done nothing wrong, that I'd paid extortionate money to get into London, and that he was eating into my playing time (I was supposed to have been down on the pitch 10 minutes ago). I told him that he was welcome to call my boss, looked him straight in the eye and told him "You don't scare me."
After having another niggle about the way I'd filled out the visitor's signing in sheet and patronizing me some more, I pretended to listen just so I could get out of there and start work - which he let me do - because he knew he didn't have a leg to stand on and that he'd made a prick of himself in front of the entire office.
Even though I hadn't allowed this bully to intimidate me, I was shaken and couldn't believe what had just happened; that I'd been the innocent target of an completely unprovoked verbal tirade. I was determined to perform in the face of it, though, and ended up doing well; a lady told me that my playing was "really beautiful."
Towards the end of my set, the male Scouser member of staff passed by and I told him what had happened earlier. He gave me the supervisor's name and offered to vouch for me if I wanted to make an official complaint about him to TFL. He agreed with me that this supervisor is a bully and said he'd reported him himself for abusing him twice before: He and the other staff reckon that he's dominated by his wife at home then comes to work and takes it out on his colleagues.
Oxford Circus # 1 - 13th February 2016
Feeling eager to 'get back on the horse' where the busking was concerned after yesterday's uncalled-for bollocks, I was hoping that this morning I'd meet a sane station supervisor - but no such luck, unfortunately: Today's asshole supervisor, who spoke to me with real contempt, accused me of lying about having booked a pitch on Oxford Circus #1 at 8 am. I offered to show him proof that I had made the booking, but he didn't want to see it. He then warned me that he didn't want any fighting if another busker was to show up to claim the pitch (as if I was some kind of thug): This guy had never met me, yet he felt he could treat me like dirt. They say that misogyny is on the increase, and here was the evidence.
It was beyond freezing, with virtually no people: The ones who appeared did a right into another corridor before they got to me, and the vast majority were either glued to their phones or plugged into them.
I played my accordion expressively and passionately in the face of the exact opposite (partly due to the fact I was so relieved that the nerve damage I'd sustained in one of my fingers while making last years' Christmas cards, had finally healed); a man whistled along to my rendition of 'La Vie En Rose', and someone videoed me on his tablet without any thought of making a donation.
On my way home I bought a scratch card with one of the four pounds I'd made - and won nothing, plus I'd learnt from this delightful session never to book leftover pitches ever again.
Green Park # 1 - 17th February 2016
On the tube into London, I was tearful because my OCD was so chronic, however I still managed to smile at the young chestnut-bearded busker who was about to commence playing on pitch #2 - and received a filthy look in return.
My 'left hand' fingers kept twanging as the bitter cold crept into my bones; I spotted a bijou, wafer-thin greyhound with a navy and green knitted jumper on; a man shot me an eyelidless stare, which reminded me of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face post acid attack from the 2008 film, The Dark Knight, and an elderly gentleman wearing a mint green deerstalker cap (in the style of Sherlock Holmes), took great pains to locate and give me change.
It was school half term: A tiresome girl impersonated me coughing, and as a lot of kids do, warbled like a choirgirl along to my folk fiddling, plus many people thanked me for my music.
It was mostly silvery-haired men who furnished me with coins.
Since having had a bust-up with my Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna, I realized that she WAS Paris and for that reason, the place didn't hold the same appeal for me: I asked her dead partner and my friend - violinist, Peter, to send me a sign to help me determine whether or not our friendship was truly over.
A sloshed guy with white facial hair commanded, "Toilets?" I got no thank you from him for pointing him in the right direction, but was pleased with the violin duster my friend, David Lee had bought me (lightweight compared to the tea towel I used to use to wipe my strings).
Charing Cross #2 - 19th February 2016
The refreshingly warm station supervisor recognized me as having once been a regular busker here, and remarked that he hadn't seen me for a while. I told him I'd been doing other things (for over a year), which he deemed, "Fair enough."
A woman swathed in an assortment of woollen items enquired of my folk fiddling, "Is that Irish music?", to which I gave an affirmative response; an American (or Canadian) lady commented, "That sounds grand"; a black guy swerved my case in the manner of a Scalextric slot car, and a James Corden (English actor / comedian) double did an impression of me playing my violin. I raised my eyebrows at him in disbelief.
Singer / guitarist busker, Pierre walked by and said (what I heard as) "Peace."
The remains of a vegetable samosa I'd scoffed before I arrived, had greased up in its bag behind my case; five to seven-year-olds with painted faces, hummed and did their irritating thang, and a woman with grey hair and what looked like a daffodil in her backpack flashed me a sweet smile.
Oxford Circus #2 - 21st October 2016
This morning at 7.50 am, the station supervisor with regards to pitch #2 told me, "It's very quiet... You're welcome to it." I said I usualIy do well here at this time, (and was bent on doing even better today): I played for three hours and five minutes because nobody turned up to play the 10 o'clock slot. It was worth it because I received well in excess of my bill money for the week, including a £10 note and two £5 notes which fell into my violin case from two 'angels' who didn't stop.
I had to wait a while for the drunk singing of a man in a nearby corridor to disappear, because I had no doubt my playing would've attracted his attention, meaning I wouldn't have been able to rid myself of him.
A mousy, ruddy-faced bloke and an old lady with a grey bun and many wrinkles told me that my folk fiddling was "very nice"; a Scottish lady all wrapped up in red exclaimed that my playing was "superbe" (or some other compliment begining with an 's'), and a chap whistled in the style of my music as he went on his merry way.