Green Park #1 - 27th February 2015
Having spent many days relishing the tranquillity, and listening to the song of a conifer full of birds on my allotment, it was easier said than done to have to return to the rush and crush of central London but as I slowly warmed up into violin-playing mode again, I comforted myself with the thought that after this session I could treat myself to another allotment visit.
I tried playing Scotch snaps and got given four £2 coins - one of them from a youthful, snappily dressed Chinese guy I thought had given me money before; an actress-type lady wearing a tweed flat cap set me a-buzz as soon as she lifted her chocolatey eyes to meet mine made a donation, then walked back past and we smiled at each other.
The amiable classical violinist who took over the pitch from me quipped, "It could be worse - we could be working for a living!" I can't stand it when fellow musicians have this attitude towards performing in an age where we are having a hard enough time being taken seriously as it is. He was waiting for something "exciting" to happen; either for a gig to come in, or for a gig to go to, and complained that he plays his heart out at Angel (where I was headed to next), but that the North London crowd just don't seem to get it.
Angel - 27th February 2015
A dark accordionist with a foreign accent I hadn't encountered before, virtually commanded me (without a "please") to fetch his busking license from the supervisor's office for him. I couldn't be bothered to get into a confrontation and so fetched it for him as I had to go up there anyway. The station supervisor told me that this bloke is a regular who never wants to vacate the pitch for other buskers - in fact he tells everyone it's terrible here so that he can have the pitch all to himself.
Most people headed straight down the escalator, but a carrot mop-haired man carrying a guitar with colourful stickers all over its hard case zipped after a £1 he'd unsuccessfully tried to throw in my case and told me to take care of myself, plus a woman with wiry curls that I recognized gave me £1. Sometimes when it's a slow session I ask my violinist friend, Peter (who died) for help, and just after I did this an elderly gentleman with a plant in his bag gave me £1 and thanked me very much for my folk fiddle playing.
Charing Cross #2 - 28th February 2015
Filming for a movie was taking place at Charing Cross tube station this afternoon: Staff in the rejigged supervisor's office were tittering at the actors sat on the floor one in front of the other, with their legs stuck straight out in front of them. I debuted a tune, 'The Bright Dawn of Day' from a book of Peter's called Tunes of the Munster Pipers - Irish Traditional Music from the James Goodman Manuscripts edited by Hugh Shields that his partner, Nuna, had given me the last time I was in Paris, and increased the tempo of tunes I was more familiar with.
A crowd of balding drunk men showed me the most interest out of every dead-eyed passerby: They sang a deafening / intimidating choir rendition of 'Amazing Grace' accompanied by myself on violin, then furnished me with pocketfuls of small change. As peoples' indifference mounted I felt as if I may as well have been invisible and pined for the magic of Paris. I was almost in tears by the end of my session, and all this for a profit of just £4: A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME AND ENERGY!
Knightsbridge - 2nd March 2015
Feeling rested and inspirited by a conversation I'd had with Nuna (who is from my world) the day before, I arrived at Knightsbridge with the intention of just having a blow and of making enough bread for my train fare home. I'd forgotten my bottle of water. The station shop is getting the 'Starbucks' treatment so I asked the miserable-sounding station supervisor whether there was anywhere else on the station I could get some water. He replied, a flat "no."
Soon after I started playing my violin (in a draught that mercifully wasn't too cold), a nonnative man sporting a beard handed me a sweet cup of coffee and said, "You... Coffee." I was heartened by and grateful for this gift given that I was dying for a drink. A vibrant, smooth-skinned lady commented that my music was "wonderful", followed a while later by a man telling me, "That's beautiful."
I earned much more that I imagined I would, but towards the end of the session was experiencing the beginnings of a panic attack triggered by the caffeine hit and having stood performing beneath the stare of neon lighting for over two hours. On my return to the office I asked the tiny female supervisor who was now on duty for a glass of water and she immediately went and got one for me.
Green Park #1 - 4th March 2015
A blonde, tough-looking Australian woman on guitar and vocals I took over the pitch from said that she hadn't been here before and loved it (as if I need any more competition for my favourite pitch)! She told me, "No offence, but I was hoping that you weren't going to turn up," and that the new pitch at Tottenham Court Road is "like a bathroom" to play on; in other words, the acoustics there are great.
The session was hard work in that I felt really tired and I was a bit tentative through being careful not to pull any muscles in my left shoulder as I had done the last time I performed on accordion (which sounded sharp). Two slouching guys clutching bottles clapped out of time to my music and a string of vile school kids nosed in my case and laughed at my meagre cache after I'd only just begun. A kind gent fished out a £2 coin which spurred me on, however, and another took aim and fired a coin into my case from way across the concourse.
The station supervisor back in the office who has taken a shine to me, I think, couldn't believe that I'd been busking for two hours. I certainly could!