Sunday, 1 January 2017

Musical whoring? - 19th - 26th April 2015

Oxford Circus #2 - 19th April 2015
As I approached the pitch at 8 am I almost bumped into a man with a lumpy red eyebrow; an indication that he'd recently been in a fight. I felt emotionally drained, and really wasn't in the mood for dealing with ruffians this morning, plus there were engineering works on the Central line meaning that it was going to be quiet. As ever, though, my steely determination won through and I just got on with it.
"YOU'RE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!" a pissed black guy bawled at me repeatedly, and later on another one taunted, "You're supposed to be playing!" while I was writing a quick note on my iPhone. A teenager who fully expected me to be intimidated by him asked, "Do you take requests?" "Yes, for Irish fiddle tunes," I replied. "You don't know any drum and bass, then?" he challenged.
A proliferation of idiots copied my playing with their 'choirboy' vocals, then a woman with an ID card strung self-importantly around her neck gave me a cross-examination: "What are you doing here?... Are you doing this just for pleasure, or what?... Do you do anything else?" I told her that I'm a professional musician and that I'm here to make money. "But is it enough [money]?" she probed. I wonder how she would've reacted had I asked her the same questions about her line of work? 
I received a smile of approval from a handsome black guitarist and made sufficient money which compensated a little for all the above asswipes I had to contend with.
Tottenham Court Road #1 - 19th April 2015
Some guy was being nabbed by a plain clothes ticket inspector for having no credit on his Oyster card as I was setting up.
An elderly lady who resembled a female version of the poet, W. H. Auden, commented that the folk fiddle music I was playing sounded "very dancey"; a lot like the English folk music that she goes dancing to, and a much younger woman thanked me sincerely.
I might as well have been an open door for most people as I stood there, and so I played a ballsy jig using double-stopping to celebrate.
Green Park #1 - 20th April 2015
The accordion set I performed here today was greeted in general by lots of beaming faces and decent donations, including one from a woman with long blue hair who appeared to be very studious.
Mostly I was preoccupied worrying about the prospect of TFL stopping buskers performing on the Underground: I can't imagine a future of not playing my musical instruments for a living - even though busking can be tough and pretty thankless sometimes.
Liverpool Street #2 - 22nd April 2015
There was a freezing cold wind blasting down the corridor where pitch #2 is situated and I was on the violin, meaning that I didn't have the accordion to keep my middle warm.
A hulking young black lad with 'twiglet' hair who looked as if he worked in one of the shops nearby hung around and first of all helped a lady with a pushchair and then somebody with a wheeled suitcase down the steps, and I got a salute from an old man who dropped me some change.
Immediately, a man I looked in the eye and smiled at turned away as if I was diseased. I cheered myself up with a delicious 'breakfast pot' and an avocado from the friendly fruit seller lady with pink hair whose stall is located just above the station supervisor's office.
Green Park #1 - 25th April 2015
A few days ago, after having to fight not to have my questions and concerns ignored, my boss emailed to inform me that for now my job as a busker on the Underground is safe, but that I may have to re-audition for my license (I thought last September that it was too good to be true that TFL renewed our licenses up until September 2017). I'm so glad that I'm a member of the Musicians' Union, as I may be needing their services shortly.
I was battling with tiredness during my accordion performance, and the new unprotected strip lights were making the pebble-patterned floor jump out at me. Consequently I felt the beginnings of a panic attack mounting inside me.
A member of staff I swear I'd never seen before said that he didn't recognize me with my accordion as he'd been used to seeing me with my violin. He stated with regards to my being able to busk on two instruments, "You must be really talented, then." Girly women waltzed in circles down the concourse to my music, and some jerk shouted out, "Play something uplifting!" (I thought I was).
A Chinese woman yanked her little daughter away from listening to me really roughly, and back in the office the station supervisor I'd given one of my handmade double bass-themed postcards to at Knightsbridge remarked that the busker who plays Vivaldi on a yellow violin is good; the kind of player one would want to be sat next to in an orchestra.
Oxford Circus #2 - 26th April 2015
Coughs and sneezes and morning breath invaded me on the tube journey into work for an 8 am start, and once again I predicted a sluggish session because engineering works were being carried out at the end of the Central line - but you never know...
A chocolatey-eyed woman grasping a coffee gave me some coins and commented about my folk fiddle playing, "It's wonderful!" I was surprised when a mob of boys who were taking the mickey out of my playing tossed some dosh in my case, as did a mother and daughter who looked as if they'd just stepped off the set of Mary Poppins.
Black teenagers threatened, "Take her violin off her!"
As I was about to leave the supervisor's office a distressed cougar-like blonde came in claiming that she'd lost her bag full of personal effects after she'd left it on the platform. Luckily for her somebody had handed it in. I told her that I was happy for her, and for a minute my faith in human nature was restored.
Tottenham Court Road - 26th April 2015
My heart sank as soon as I clapped eyes on the new vinyl (to indicate that this is a busking pitch), as it had been positioned in the middle of the concourse in-between two commuter tunnels. As a consequence, the people coming off the escalators could no longer hear what I was playing on violin because they were too far away - and as predicted, my session was a complete waste of time save for a bald man who came out from around the corner to give me £1, a grey guy who gave me 20p and urged me to "Keep playing!" and an exotic black lady with her young, violin-playing daughter who declared, "That's her favourite!"
I finished early and mentioned to the station supervisor about the incorrectly positioned vinyl to which he responded that the pitch is just being trialled, and that they're still working on the measurements because sometimes buskers' music can interfere with the announcements. I told him that it had been crap for me today and he informed me that it's mostly tourists who frequent this station and that everyone was dashing off to the London Marathon today. To cheer myself up I went to Foyles on Charing Cross Road and treated myself to the beautiful book, The Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry by Mary Ann Caws. It did the trick.

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