Monday, 2 January 2017

Seagull fun in Brighton - 21st - 27th June 2015


Green Park #1 - 21st June 2015
I'd never played on Green Park #1 at 8 am before, and didn't expect great things: Due to having been in Paris when I was supposed to have booked my sessions for this week, I'd had to take the pitches that were left over when I got home.
Once again inexplicable feelings of panic filled me at the start, but more or less as soon as I bowed the first note on my violin, a woman of Chinese appearance gave me a £5 note. This served to chill me out a little, and I serenaded the baby great tit my cat Tigger caught and broke the wing off in the garden yesterday. We got it to the nearest wildlife hospital, but the veterinary nurse said that it would probably have to be put to sleep.
It was quiet but busier that I'd anticipated down here, with a squad of skateboarders who noisily smacked their skateboards down and hurtled towards the escalator. A young family awarded me a £1 coin, then the father said to his daughter regarding my folk music, "You can skip to this," and duly did so.
Next up was saxophonist, John Shaw, who commented that the pollution which had been hanging around this pitch the other day had gone and that one of the accordionists who must be in his 50s and therefore more at risk of developing a bad back, had just purchased an electronic accordion complete with a range of different settings: Not my cup of tea at all, I'm afraid.
Green Park #1 - 24th June 2015
The ear-splitting sound of drilling was coming from around the corner where engineering works have been going on for weeks, now, and a man with his head in his phone kicked into my case. I persisted nevertheless, but it was a challenge trying to double the volume of my violin playing throughout.
A multicoloured balloon character drifted down the concourse, then was happily claimed by a cluster of commuters and a steady stream of cash came my way: An attractive lady with slate-grey bobbed hair said of my playing, "Sounds nice!", and a schoolboy peeled away from his mates to give me change. A polite big guy paid me then took my photo, but I turned away from a Chinese woman who was photographing me from all angles without my permission nor any thought of making a donation.
The 'classical' flautist busker I met while I was packing away told me that he'd only be playing here for about an hour - during which time he was sure he'd make the money he was after, and so I could come back if I wanted. He reflected that gone are the days when he used to perform for four hours at a time.
Brighton & Hove and Shoreham - 25th June 2015
Brighton & Hove had been my home for 12 years, during which time I'd had a successful career as a gigging double bassist. In those days the jazz bands I was in would get the majority of our bookings for weddings, corporate events and the like, through busking on George Street in Hove, at local farmers' markets and in central Brighton - mainly at the Pavilion Gardens Café. 
For various reasons, I'd been thinking about moving back here, and in the three years since I left under terrible circumstances that were beyond my control, it was reassuring to find that nothing much had changed - aside from the new tourist-targeted monstrosity about to be looming large next to the West Pier on Hove seafront; the Brighton i360 (an 162-metre observation tower).
It was good to be back: I popped a handful of my business cards by the counter in beautiful Hobgoblin Music Shop on the Queens Road, Brighton and caught up with old friends, Nicki Heywood, trombonist, Daniel Rehahn, and Pat at The Albion pub, Hove, who was a fan of mine when I used to play there of a Sunday with 1930s and '40s swing jazz and blues band, The Priory Street Stardusters.
I'd brought my violin with me as I usually do when I visit, hoping to earn back the money I'd spent on travel, but there were buskers already playing at each of my regular haunts: Matt and Ella were performing jazz standards on East Street, there was a guitarist playing his red guitar cross-legged on the pavement in George Street, Hove, a bangoist and singer was on the first ever spot I busked my violin in Pavilion Gardens, and the footbridge in Shoreham was closed.
By the end of the day I'd come to the conclusion that even though moving back to Brighton would free me from the clutches of London (which I hate with a vengeance), in a creative sense I've moved on and see my future as a musician in Paris rather than anywhere in England. I guess I must just keep plugging away at this dream which someday will hopefully become a reality.
Green Park #1 - 26th June 2015
I felt exhausted from all the walking I did in Brighton yesterday but musically refreshed as a result of the change of scene, hence why I was able to manage a stint on folk fiddle of two and a half hours resulting in a sizeable financial reward for my hard work.
A dollar bill to add to my collection was put in my case, and I thought, smiling inwardly, about all the Brighton seagull antics I'd witnessed.
A small latte-skinned fellow shyly covered his eyes with his elbow after grinning at me, chucked a coin his dad had given him from about four metres away that dropped like a limp flower, missing my case. His aim was spot on, however, once he'd edged nearer to where I was standing.
Calling me "darling" almost every other word, a motherly Italian woman with the reinforcement of who I'd assumed were her family, asked me which line they needed to take to get to Harrods in Knightsbridge. I couldn't think off hand and so I pulled out my tube map, gave her directions, and told her she could keep the map if that would be helpful. As it turned out, however, the woman seemed to be knowing where she was going all along?! She did give me a few coins for my trouble, though.
There was a baby riding on his mother's back in what looked like a large, wire mesh shoebox; an Asian lad mentioned something I couldn't catch about my violin, and a black male member of staff with silver curls raised his eyebrows in approval of my playing and smiled at me.
Green Park #1 - 27th June 2015
Since the last weekend session I did here at 8 am didn't go too badly, I thought I'd try it again today. I had a touch of a headache and as I was signing in, an unbelievably rude Underground worker wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket barged in front of me and started filling out the 'Visitors' form, unable to wait for the station supervisor to take my license.
Lengthy stretches of time went by during which I felt cold and got no money at all, but there were exceptions who gave quite liberally: A glam blonde who remarked about my folk fiddle playing, "That's beautiful"; the leader of a troop of boys in light blue shirts who was similarly attired, and the male companion of a woman with a sticker across her t-shirt stating, "Happiness is a choice."
A balding Asian man who keeps propositioning me here, deposited me 50p or so and asked why I hadn't phoned him and should he write down his mumber again, to which I responded that I hadn't had time and that I must keep on playing. "I'm a good man," he insisted: I'm not that desperate, but it's best not to rile these people just in case they turn nasty.
The accordionist I often bump into complained that everywhere on the London Underground network is shit to busk money-wise, and showed me his new electronic 'Roland' accordion that cost £4000 and plays backing tracks.
I said "hello" and smiled at a female staff member who always has a face as long as a kite as I was waiting to get back into the office to collect my license. She gave me a filthy, dismissive look in return and grudgingly let me through the ticket barrier. Having just found out that someone else I know has got cancer, I went home resolving not to let these people get to me and to make, as usual, the most of every minute.

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