Happy Halloween from my allotment!
Oxford Circus #2 - 1st November 2015
Reluctant to play at 8 am the morning after Halloween when people off their faces on drink and drugs were sure to be out in force, I dragged myself from my bed at the last minute - and typically, as soon as I left the office after signing in, I spotted a guy zigzagging down the corridor with fake (but very realistic) blood all over his shirt.
After I'd settled into my folk fiddle set, however, I enjoyed observing those in Halloween costume; one man dressed as a mangled gorilla in a cage, and another with a ghoul mask on. For some reason, a number of male revellers were done up as clowns and one had what looked like a lime green sleeveless wetsuit on?!
Compliments about my performance abounded: A black bloke commented, "You've got a beautiful smile," and "That sounded lovely!" from a blonde with long curls who stooped to put money in my case.
At one point I found myself surrounded by a pack of noisy pissed teenagers, but was inadvertently rescued by an Underground staff member who just happened to be walking past. Thankfully his presence alone was enough to prompt them to bail.
An Asian fellow asked if he could take a video of me on his phone. I let him, then he came and stood next to me, breathing alcohol, and wanting me to play a chord so that he could sing with me. I said no because I needed to carry on making money. He gave me a fiver and carried on pestering, but in the end gave up and left me alone.
A bald, fat, Italian-looking man tipped me some coins and lingered beside me, listening, sipping from a bottle of water and expressing gratitude for what he'd heard; an elderly Chinese woman made an offering then wished me a good day, and a passing black man stated, "Freemasons!"
My patience and stamina (two qualities essential for being a successful busker) paid off today because I came away with over £45.
Green Park #1 - 1st November 2015
An American family waited for me to start, as the children were clearly interested in my violin. After having already busked at Oxford Circus this morning, the fingers on my left hand had given up the ghost. Nevertheless, the mother told me, "That was very pretty!" and rewarded me with £2.
I was on a sugar high from an almond and chocolate croissant I'd just treated myself to, and a father remarked to his son that I was sounding "Lovely!"
A boy in a clown outfit chucked a nut I couldn't identify at my case, then I left the pitch, exhausted after half-hour.
My 'alto sax' busker friend, John, said to me outside the station supervisor's office that when he was performing here recently, the spring on his 'G' key busted, meaning that he was able to play modes with a flattened third if he so desired, and before this incident, he'd had to borrow a screwdriver at Oxford Circus to repair his alto when it suddenly began sounding like an aeroplane with a failing engine: He might buy a plastic saxophone for the £400 to £500 it was going to cost to repair this one.
He also informed me of a "beautiful boy" sex pest who tried to kiss him while he was busking (at Oxford Circus, I think). He didn't know how to handle it, and couldn't punch him because of the C.C.T.V. cameras. The guy left him alone, eventually, and John said that what he should've done was pack up and return to the pitch later on. I said that part of the thrill of busking for me is the not knowing what's going to happen - but sometimes we can find ourselves in really dangerous situations, with little protection.
Knightsbridge - 5th November 2015
I felt troubled before my session; was giving myself a hard time for not having achieved this and that over the past 10 years.
The dazzle of the rectangular neon light directly facing the busking pitch was a bit agitating, and both of my knees were "clicking like castanets" (to quote Tim on this evening's Coronation Street): I hoped that this was just down to stress.
I heard whistling in the same 'Irish folk' style that I was fiddling in, but was unable to identify who it was coming from; a man covered in badges wearing a white Guy Fawkes mask with luminous orange fireworky things drawn in the corners of it, gave me change; I was shot nearly five euros that rapped the inside lid of my violin case by three guys who all looked like the actor Danny Dyer; a black lad in some sort of bright green and yellow football strip tipped me, and a middle-aged gent who had his navy coat hooked on his shoulder (which took on the guise of a superhero's cape in my imagination) passed by, seeming as if he was going to turn back and present me with some coins. I duly performed extra well, but he merely exited the station.
I sweated more than I had throughout the majority of this summer playing on the Underground, but the occasional raw blast of wind negated this.
Very surreally, a male voice over the station tannoy said, "... and he was the son of the Lord."
The 'folk fiddler' busker with wispy light grey hair took over from me. I thought he'd had a crack-up the last time I saw him (staring very strangely at me as if we'd never met) while I was busking at Tottenham Court Road. That was months and months ago: He mused that we can see buskers we know three times a week or not at all, then played the Irish tune, 'The Maid Behind The Bar' I'd ended my set with - much faster than I'd done, but with zero feeling.
Back in the office, the station supervisor was informing a member of staff over a walkie-talkie, that he / she was breaking up, possibly because they weren't presssing the button of their walkie-talkie down for long enough.
Green Park #1 - 6th November 2015
I sat down on a stool to play accordion, which was much better for my increasingly painful knees and didn't feel as vulnerable, seated, as I anticipated I would. I also sang and played simultaneously for the first time, but distractingly, was bursting for the loo.
Quite a few people with older faces whom I recognized paraded by, I realized with a pang how grey my fringe is getting when I took the above selfie, and admired London Underground staff in their new 'Fuzzy-Felt' blue jackets.
A mother demonstrated how the bellows of my accordion work to her little girl; I noticed an old Asian / Chinese lady chewing gum that was poking wetly out of the side of her mouth; a foreign guy commented that my rendition of 'My Way' was a lovely tune; a lady with smoky hair told me she was sorry she'd missed my performance (I'd just been snatching a break), but gave me money anyway; overseas students sang along in a piss-taking fashion, save for a few of them that made a donation, and I collected a fiver from a smart young man who resembled a chic-a-boo I was sure had given me a fiver here before.
It took me ages to learn Ella Fitzgerald's take on jazz standard, 'I Get A Kick Out Of You', but it was worth it because another elderly gentleman obviously enjoyed it.
Amongst my excellent proceeds, I found a shilling from 1958 and an old 5p from 1987, although I'd experienced a dry period while peoples' long and short-length brollies had been out.
I quickly had to stuff over £40 worth of change into my purse when the 'blind singer' busker showed up with her assistant - and amazingly, it all fit.
Knightsbridge - 13th November 2015
I got tiny electric shocks from every metal rail I touched on the Underground before I began?!
The hostile / officious station supervisor assumed I was new here: Initially he questioned it after I informed him that I'd busked here lots before. He then apologized and made sure that I knew where the emergency meeting point for visitors is.
Once again the dry air down here gave me a sore throat and I played folk violin through the painful stiffness of my left-hand fingers, the sides of which appeared saggy.
A dark-haired, brown-eyed man who gave me money as I was taking a breather commented, "I haven't heard you play, but I'm sure you're very good."
The 'navy superhero cape' guy (maybe) I saw here last time, smiled at me as if he knew me, then stood opposite listening for the entire length of a tune performed as best I could for his benefit. He then waved a dismissive / farewell hand and was off, and a blonde gave me over £1 or so. She looked like singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, but with a bob instead of a mane.
For about half an hour in the middle of my set, the majority of people I encountered were being lead by the nose by their mobile phones (bloody Wi-Fi), and I ended up making the majority of my coinage in the last 10 minutes.
Busker, John 'alto sax' asked me how life was going at "Boyd Towers" and if I had anything exciting going on - to which I replied, "No." Shortly he was going to visit friends in Italy; a part of which he goes to (I forgot the name of), "makes Loughborough look like Las Vegas." He spoke of a "dotty" jazz record seller called Birdy someone-or-other, the American jazz bebop alto saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader and composer, Phil Woods, and the small interiors of Smalls and the Village Vanguard jazz clubs in New York. He told me too, of how the scheme's G.L.A. buskers (who aren't fully licensed), play monstrously loud on the Underground's acoustic pitches, thereby potentially threatening them with closure for the rest of us who had go through a rigorous audition process to gain our licenses: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!