Green Park #1 - 1st April 2015
My violin got its first outing in a while, today. A lass gave me some money before I'd even got started which boded well, and not long after this, a jovial elderly man handed over a £1 coin and enquired, "Is that Bach?" "No," I replied. "It's an Irish folk melody, but folk music can often sound quite baroque." Unexpectedly I was passed a fiver by a beard-adorned fellow; an Italian-looking guy asked me if I knew any Mozart, and finally an ugly irritant of a kid did a 'Loser' hand shape on his forehead, frowned deeply and shook his head.
Just as I was about to exit the ticket hall I got an email through from my boss: "In review of the role of a busker on the TFL network, we have decided to include the function of Travel Ambassadors to our customers in addition to performing. Due to budgetary constraints, we have been unable to obtain the required investment for the new uniforms and in turn, from today, we will be introducing a new levy for all busking performances. This levy will be in place until 1st April and will require that all buskers pay 10% of earnings from a pitch performance before leaving the station."
Immediately I retorted, "This had better be an April Fool... TFL can sing for their 10%!" Even though I knew that this was a joke, it stressed me out because I honestly wouldn't put it past TFL to actually implement such a thing in the future. When I got home I developed a migraine which lasted for two whole days.
Tottenham Court Road #1 - 4th April 2015
Not only had I forgotten my notated music prompts which help me to recall the tunes with impossible-to-remember Irish names from my folk fiddle set list, but I really needed the loo. I asked the station supervisor if I could use the toilet, to which he responded that they were being cleaned and to come back in 10 minutes. He had no idea where to put my busking license, one half of which buskers are required to leave in the office as evidence they're not impostors, so with my impatience rising, I asked him for reassurance that he wasn't going to misplace it.
"It's nice to hear REAL music played by a REAL musician," volunteered an onlooker as she cast a coin into my violin case. Feeling heartened as a result of this comment I repeated what tunes had stuck in my brain, and another woman who gave generously said, "My dad was a violinist." "So was mine. We're sisters!" added her companion.
A man backed up after he'd walked down the corridor a bit then accompanied by his donation, he wished me "Happy Easter!" I received more that £2 from about three people, and a father whose daughter looked really like him gave me money and the pair stood fidgeting on their phones for what felt like an age.
At the end of a more lucrative session than I'd originally hoped for, John the alto saxophonist who took over from me and the colourful violinist who's also a member of the busking scheme, reckoned this pitch is a great space to play on if you play really slowly (the acoustics make the sound echo). John's been to Paris twice recently, and he's memorized the numbers of the buses that go towards Hôtel de Ville. We ruminated on how combative other buskers can be towards each other over Facebook conversation threads (which I steer well clear of for this precise reason).
Green Park #1 - 9th April 2015
While I was waiting to sign in the station supervisor put out a call for whoever the parents were, to please stop their kids from running up the 'down' escalator?! Then as soon as my session had got under way, another busker pitched up and said that this was his 10 am pitch and fully expected me to roll over and depart. Fortunately I had this week's busking roster on me to prove that it wasn't his pitch at all.
Excellent comments about the standard of my violin playing abounded, but unfortunately many of these charmers gave me only 10p in return. As I packed away to try my luck at Liverpool Street, I heard a kid whining to its mother, "What's she got a violin for?" and a banging of metal around the corner started up.
Between sessions, however, I saw a couple of fascinating characters: A member of staff at Pret A Manger, Green Park wearing a hairnet on his beard, and a woman struggling with a giant butterfly that had decided to attach itself to her neck. I also bought (with the £8 I'd just earned) the above orchid from M&S for Jan to say thank you for all the help she'd given me on my allotment.
Liverpool Street #2 - 9th April 2015
As I played my violin I attempted to imitate the birdsong I hear of an evening on my allotment as the sun is dropping but this was difficult with stiff fingers and a painful chest.
A striking black male walked past whistling 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music and a guy who thumped his wheeled suitcase down the nearby staircase looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face because I'd stopped playing (unable to contend with the rumpus). He gave me the thumbs up and having obviously thought about it, proceeded to lift his case while he descended the next set of steps - quietly this time.
Along with a £1 that initially missed my case when a lady with a grey bob who looked like a botanist attempted to throw it in, I made off with just over a tenner and relived the sight of the business man who had for some reason planted himself next to me as I was playing, dropping his books and papers all over the floor.