Knightsbridge - 10th April 2015
When I arrived at Knightsbridge a drunk with a cut head was being refused travel by the station supervisor. He laughed in her face.
Surges of young women with 'Mickey Mouse' ears clamped to their brains and quizzical glances surrounded me wielding my violin.
A dapper man displayed his gratitude for my folk fiddling by presenting me with approximately £4 and a tiresome little lad did his pissy impression of me performing.
For what seemed like an eternity an expensive-coated lady stood by a pillar listening, then gave me a £2 coin. She informed me that she plays the violin and asked if she could she play mine for two minutes. I refused on the grounds that I'm protective of my instruments; naturaIly, I would've thought?
It was a slow, slow session and naughtily, perhaps, I asked my dead violinist friend, Peter for help and a sign that he's still around. Not long afterwards a smiler put some cash in, and man with a distinctive face doffed his green cap in greeting as he headed towards the 'down' escalator.
On the way back to the office I noticed both that my 'wedding' ring was loose (I've dropped three dress sizes in three months), and a pair of knickers slung on a flight of stairs.
"The people with real money around here don't use the Tube. If they did, maybe there'd be a gold ingot in there... It's not a bad bunch that we get down here," bantered a different station supervisor, encouragingly.
Oxford Circus #2 - 11th April 2015
Very foolishly I resolved to try and do this early morning session on accordion with a migraine, thinking that the physical act of playing would relax me. I was wrong: Hundreds of people mixed in with the black dots before my eyes pulsing past, increased the feelings of disorientation and nausea until I was swooning, leant up against the handrail behind me for support. I amassed a grand total of £3.90 for my half-hour effort and had to trudge around the back backstreets of Regent Street until the symptoms wained sufficiently for me to be able to get on the train home.
Tottenham Court Road #1 - 13th April 2015
I was pleasantly flooded with memories of working as an usher and box office assistant at the Shaftesbury Theatre on the musical, Rent for 10 months from the December of 1998 as I walked down High Holborn (on which this theatre is situated), to Tottenham Court Road station with my violin at my back.
Nevertheless appreciative customers (which included many men carrying guitars in black cases and a woman sporting a dyed red bob and a bright, tri-coloured jacket) threw me lots of small change, interspersed with an elderly gent with a pallid, patchy face who gave me a £2 coin and wished me good luck.
Someone who bore a striking resemblance to the Queen bestowed £1 on me for my premier performance of Irish ditty, 'On St Patrick's day [when I was in the public house]', plus a grinning ginger man gave me another £2 coin. Annoyingly my chin rest kept clattering to the ground and while I was crouching down taking a break from it all, a guy surprised me with £5 note.
A baffled Asian woman asked me if the British Museum was around here. I told her that it's in Holborn. She didn't seem to understand what I was on about, then sauntered off without so much as a thank you.
All of a sudden a newspaper came sliding down the side of one of the escalators while two businessman-types with pot bellies and ID cards strung around their necks looked as if they were searching for something one of them had dropped on the 'down' escalator. Failing to find it, they then lurked around inspecting gadgets on all three escalators. I forgot to mention to the station supervisor on leaving that I'd found this behaviour a bit strange.
Tottenham Court Road #1 - 16th April 2015
A suited, ginger-bearded Irish man with passion in his eyes said of me that it's very unusual to see a woman playing accordion - although it wasn't so in the early days in Paris. In his opinion, the accordion is the best instrument to busk with because it doesn't need amplification, but it's advisable to play it sitting down (unlike me who stands up to play it: What would he know)?
He recommended that I learn two great songs for accordion: Edith Piaf's 'Hymn to Love' and 'La Vie en Rose'. He sang 'Hymn to Love' to me in a good bass voice, correctly identified that I'm a Brummie, confessed, "I whistle 'La Vie en Rose' on the tube," and informed me that he was going to whistle it going up the escalator for me to listen to... then I could carry on playing.
I'd accumulated about 50p for an hour's playing then a fellow using sticks nearly hobbled into me with his money. There were more characters to follow: a lady with a red wig who put me in mind of business ace, Hilary Devey, a teenager with a propeller on top of his hat of rainbow segments, an Italian-seeming male with leathery eyes, and a grown woman with the voice of a little girl gave me £1 and hoped that I'd have a good day (her good deed for the day done).
A gang of adult-led students that had congregated in this massive hall of a space, trampled all over the edges of my accordion case even though there was oodles of space for them to walk around me, and a group of corporate sorts with their IDs hanging down their chests decided to stand and have a loud, 20 minute-long meeting nearby. I couldn't hear myself playing above their din, and so I asked a dozy-looking member of staff to move them on. All he did was to go up to them then walk away: "They work here," he said, as if this was a valid reason for letting them carry on. "So do I, but obviously I don't count," I thought.
"To see a WOMAN...!" an old lady exclaimed on clapping eyes on me, dropping me a 50p, then asked me if if I'm a professional musician and what other instruments I play.
Green Park #1 - 18th April 2015
Yesterday I received a confusing email from my 'boss' suggesting that it's only going to be a matter of time before TFL withdraw buskers' licenses. I'd predicted as much back in November, but nevertheless I felt as if I'd had the rug pulled from beneath my feet with no real explanation as to why and when this would be happening.
After a night of self-destructive smashing, I resolved that if I'm going to lose my job, I might as well go out with a bang.
As soon as I started on the fiddle an idiot gave out a short, deafening shout, obviously designed to startle me. It did, but I was damned if I was going to let it show.
"You're a lovely musician," said a chunky Italian-sounding woman whose way of looking at me made me blush. She asked me if one needs a license to be able to busk on the streets of London. I told her that three years ago, no, but now, mostly yes, because busking is now classified by councils like Westminster, as being a criminal activity. I told her that she'd be better off busking in Paris.
A man who looked like the radio and television presenter Chris Moyles, remarked regarding my playing, "That was lovely,"; a soldier in British Army uniform threw me a coin, and I saw a guy carrying a large, shiny silver ball. I have no idea what it was.