During recent busking sessions, thinking about the peace and sanctuary of the heavenly patch of land that's my allotment has influenced and inspired my playing.
Green Park #1 - 27th April 2015
Today's was a fairly unremarkable session, save for an Asian lady who reminded me of bride, Sara, whose wedding I played at last September at the Tithe Barn in Petersfield. She gave me a £2 coin. The blazing, unprotected neon lighting that has recently been installed here made me feel swimmy again and I came to the conclusion that from now on if I want to play on this pitch, I shall have to wear sunglasses.
The station supervisor I clicked with because he used to play the double bass (my main instrument) in his youth, joked that it was too bad that I was on violin today because I should be "keeping up the bass line" - or words to that effect.
A small aside: Here is a poem I re-drafted last month as part of a 'Poem-a-Day' challenge, with a busking theme:
The Fourth Apple, Paris
Cutting a square through brushed aluminium skin,
a busker breaks into the railroad worm palace
of The Fourth Apple's holey flesh for the night
and somehow manages not to drown in juice.
Within, she remembers James's Bramleys -
ton upon ton: rosy-cheeked children in snow
throwing a cricket ball to an excited dog;
the wrapping of bruised baubles in newspaper.
Pocket watch halves when sliced in two,
the glug-spit glug-spit of boiling one thick saucepan
required ten tablespoons of sugar to give
sheen to the plectrumless sauce.
Mashed apple butter dissolves on her tongue.
She listens to Paris's insect men pushing drugs
on Place de Clichy; its sandy over-sized buildings
down whose straight lines the rain falls differently.
Knightsbridge - 29th April 2015
I think that the 'I am an immigrant' poster campaign I spotted as I was ascending the escalator to the busking pitch is intelligent, and a brilliant way of raising awareness. I especially like how music is given some import here, too.
Australian singer and guitarist busker, Kath, said that like me, she can only do one performance a day because it's physically draining playing non-stop for two hours without a break. She also recommended that even though the vinyl busking spot has been put in a stupid place at Tottenham Court Road, to continue to stand near the escalator anyway to catch people because the staff probably won't mind or even notice.
A kindly couple who looked moved by my accordion playing scrabbled around for ages - for three quarter dollars to give me; an infant brother and sister collided as they ran to put change in my case; a troop of tourists burst into a fit of clapping, and an attentive man commented, "Nice tune!" regarding my arrangement of 'My Way'.
April showers had soaked passersby, who for the most part completely ignored me for the majority of my performance. At times like this I have to change my mindset and think of busking as an opportunity to practise my set, otherwise I get so depressed.
I began to feel better from the sheer enjoyment of playing. A very red-in-the-face bald bloke gave me £1, and I got tossed a £2 coin from a guy with tight curls and a dark olive complexion: It was great being able to see peoples' faces more clearly with my new glasses on, too.
In the end I was glad that I'd toughed the session out because at the eleventh hour an Italian-seeming man and his family gave me over seven £1 coins and as he departed, he looked back in approval of my playing.
Liverpool Street #2 - 1st May 2015
Even though the weather is supposed to have warmed up, it was cold again here this lunchtime. The thought that I'm going to be returning to Paris to play my accordion in Montmartre at the end of the month, however, together with the the inspiring conversation I'd just had with my Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna, about Sylvia Filus - a composer based in Paris that she's introduced me to, buoyed my spirits.
I turned around after pulling my accordion out of its case to see that I'd been dropped 10p. I was wrong to think that this boded well for a high-income session, though, because unlike the other day at Knightsbridge, all the session really boiled down to was an opportunity to practise outside of my bedroom - with H&M posters of models in bikinis resembling overcooked sausages, invading my eyes.
A parade of suits checking their phones, bewildered Chinese women and tourists with noisy wheeled suitcases followed, interrupted only by young women wearing heavy makeup 'country dancing' along to my music, and a black lady with a charming smile gave me £1 for Irish tune, 'Breen's Fort' which proved popular with a few people today. I'd assumed that it being a Bank Holiday weekend would have put people in a more generous mood.
Back in the station supervisor's office I met a busker laden with a guitar and saxophone who had a narrow face and a white beard. He looked as if he could be my type of musician. He told me that he'd just got his busking license renewed after a break of a number of years, and reflected that it's not very good for buskers on the Underground during the day: The session he'd done recently at King's Cross hadn't been very lucrative.
Green Park #1 - 2nd May 2015
I couldn't stop listening to the beautiful song by David Gray and Andrew Barlow entitled 'Birds of the High Arctic' on my way to work this morning. Music like this which really strikes a chord in me, naturally lifts the feeling implicit in my own playing. This happened during my busking session.
A drunk Irishman called Carl (or Karl) was pleased with the Irish tune, 'Gan Ainm' he'd requested that I play for him on violin, and (for incomprehensible reasons) he said that I was better than other buskers he sees around.
Lots of piss-taking twats bouncing on their heels to my playing and nosy kids who made a beeline for my case to see how much money I had, were out in force. Fortunately there were some exceptions: A dark-skinned foreign man placed a coin down and described my playing as being "so nice," and a very freckled, lanky young man asked me where Soho is, then lobbed me some change. A fascinated little girl sat cross-legged on the floor listening to my folk fiddling and her mum told me that she's just started learning the violin.
Kath, the Australian singer and guitarist busker who took over from me said, with regards to busking early in the morning, that people are either grateful for a bit of music or hung-over. I'd acquired more money than I thought I had this session, which was pleasing, and back in the station supervisor's office a member of staff was being informed of the arrival of Kate Middleton's royal baby: "I don't care... I don't even like kids," she retorted. Hear hear!
Oxford Circus #2 - 3rd May 2015
Today's was an 8 am slot typical of the last three weeks in that even though there were no engineering works on the Central line for a change, it was pelting down with rain in the world above and so the umbrella-grappling crowd were more loathed to put their hands in their pockets. Oddly, I made virtually the same amount of money I'd done on the last two occasions of playing here at this time: A sufficient amount, albeit a good £10 less than what I'm used to.
It wasn't long before my left shoulder began to ache because of the awkward clothing I was wearing interfering with my the accordion strap, but thankfully the pain ebbed away once I'd stripped down to my t-shirt. I was playing Irish melodies and a flame-haired Irishman who had been pacing back and forth asked, "Do you want to come for a drink?" He accepted that I was in the middle of work and walked off (phew)!
With respect to jazz standard, 'The Shadow of your Smile', a chap commented, "Nice!" and made a donation, and so did a balding man who reckoned that my playing was "very good."
I got asked the way out by a middle-aged lady during a period of approximately 45 minutes of getting nothing, and as I was signing out, the station supervisor mused that we were both eating apples on the go.