Oxford Circus #2 - 7th January 2015
Part way through my folk fiddle set I noticed a leggy metal contraption on the floor beside me that had maybe been left behind by guitarist and singer, Claude, who wears tall, bright-coloured velvet hats and illegally sells his CDs. I put it in my bag to hand in at the office later.
Ever since the violent assault between two men I witnessed here while I was busking back in October, I've been nervous playing on this pitch. Yesterday I received a letter from the British Transport Police thanking me for all the help and co-operation I gave during the prosecution of this case, without which a satisfactory outcome could not have been obtained: Both men got suspended prison sentences. I felt proud of the actions I took on that day in terms of summoning help, but what happened will always prey on my mind while I'm busking.
At 10 in the morning, it wasn't as overloaded with people as it normally is here, and those that passed by were an amiable bunch. One lady threw a £1 coin into my case which promptly jumped back out again. She labelled it "the one that got away."
Green Park #1 - 7th January 2015
As I walked through Piccadilly on the way to Green Park Underground, I saw a man wearing a 'Save the Humans' jacket. Personally, I feel that there are more than enough humans on this planet, especially in London, where I was appalled to find that Gail's Artisan Bakery on St Anne's Court in Soho (who used to give me free cakes and hot chocolate when I busked opposite their shop a couple of years ago), are now charging £6.50 for a salad the size of a mug of tea?!
12 pm is usually a profitable time to busk on Green Park #1, but today commuters in the main just blanked me; mesmerized by their phones as I stood there freezing and resolving not to continue performing for peanuts: After an hour and 10 minutes I'd made enough money for a single train fare and earned back the £3 I'd just spent on lunch.
I did see a guy who reminded me of Mr Hoppy played by Dustin Hoffman from the BBC's recent adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, Esio Trot, though, and pondered the possibility of live reviewing for Jazzwise Magazine the new jazz festival at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham later on this month. This is set to feature a couple of musicians who taught me music at the University of Chichester in the late 1990s.
When I got home, having obtained my 'bill' money for this week, I was delighted to find that the picture called Eighth Eye my friend from Canada, Richelle Turner painted for me, had arrived: The musical note in the eye's centre reminded me that sometimes I need to see beyond toil and the disappointments I often encounter as a musician and know that music is what I love to do: It has brought so many good, enriching experiences and people my way.
Oxford Circus #1 - 8th January 2015
The guitarist with loads of 'amplification' equipment I took over the pitch from at 10 am hung around for about 10 minutes, packing his stuff away. I hate it when buskers do this because I become self-conscious about my playing knowing that a fellow musician is listening to me. I gave him 20p that he'd dropped, then he announced that he was now going home to his wife and kid "where the real work starts."
For 20 minutes just a dribble of indifferent folk wandered by but I persisted, noticing that my technique on the violin had improved in that I'm no longer moving individual fingers high off the string anymore, and thereby expending unnecessary energy that also does the tone of my playing no favours.
For some reason I lacked the patience today to wait for someone to notice me and make a donation and so I decamped to see if there was anyone playing on pitch #2. There was - my friend, Edwige, and once I'd failed to negotiate the one-way system back to my original pitch, I was close to tears and so decided to give up.
I handed in the 'guitar' contraption of Claude's that I found yesterday to the station supervisor, and headed off to the Poetry Library at Waterloo where it was too much trouble for the librarian to look up from her computer screen and help me with my enquiry. Unaided by the torrential rain, I felt London's 'greyness' seeping into my bones again, and we were only just over a week into the year.
Charing Cross #1 - 8th January 2015
A 'buddy-buddy' male staff member on the ticket gate put me in a better mood by asking about my violin music, but as I was signing in I heard the station supervisor announcing the suspension of all trains on the Bakerloo line (near where I was about to busk). We both agreed that there was little point in me attempting to play, being as nobody would be around.
I commented that the rain aside, it was unusually hushed here, and he told me that outrageously, TFL have increased the cost of a travel card at this time by 25% to £12, hence the lack of customers. Knowing that this news didn't bode well for me as a busker, I left after today's two sessions with no cash in my purse at all.
Liverpool Street #2 - 9th January 2015
It had felt important to go and busk today, given that I'd felt so despondent about my lot yesterday, and it turned out to be the right decision: At the start a man came into the supervisor's office wanting to pick the staffs' brains about something, and one of them piped up, "There are none of those in here!" He he!
Cash poured into my case steadily for the first 40 minutes or so and I played tunes such as 'Ain't Misbehavin'' that I usually make excuses for myself not to play because they're difficult. Then there was another dispiriting lull.
A very white old man with pale ginger hair and beard walked past and then stopped and stayed there with his back to me as the melody I was playing, 'The Shadow of Your Smile', caught his ear. Realizing this, I continued playing this tune slowly and deliberately and after what felt like a long time he came up to me and said, "Do you know what that reminds me of?... Paris... It's beautiful... Especially in light of what's happened (the 'Charlie Hebdo' massacre)." His comment made all my efforts today worth it because my music had touched him so.
Shortly after this, a woman with a weighty grey bun on the back of her head dropped all of her change everywhere as she was searching for £1 to give me - bless her!!