Green Park #1 - 12th January 2015
Once again the actor Bill Nighy (who I dressed at the National Theatre here in London nearly 15 years ago), chucked me a £1 coin; a man (who perhaps appreciates old jazz standards from the 1930s) paused and tuned in to my accordion version of 'I'm in the Mood for Love', then showed his appreciation, and an idiotic fellow ran like a monkey all the way down the concourse after he heard me doing my thing.
My right-hand thumb began to pain with all the tension I was holding in my body as I ran my fingers over the keyboard, but with the session well under way I waltzed a little with the accordion in an attempt to make myself altogether 'larger' and therefore more noticeable to my audience. This also served the purpose of relaxing me.
I returned to the pitch after a brief toilet and snack break keen to earn back the £4 I'd just spent on M&S salads, and more or less straight away a lady with a winkey face and granite bob gave me four £2 coins! Then a venerable old gentleman asked me if was Romanian (according to him, most accordionists are). He plays the piano like I do, but would love to be able to play the accordion. I answered affirmatively when he wanted to know if the accordion is heavy and hard to play, and so he (slightly worryingly) came to the conclusion that I'd have to help him play it, and gave me 20 cents I'm convinced he thought was a £1 coin. This will, however, come in useful when I retreat to Paris early next month.
A towering man in his twilight years with a foreign accent rounded on me with the question, "Are you Italian?" "No," I replied. "Scottish?" "No." "Irish?" "No." "Where are you from?" he asked, pushy. "I'm English." He demanded I play something Italian and when I told him I couldn't, "Play me something English," so I played Cat Stevens' 'Morning Has Broken' then before I knew it, he had placed his hand over mine on the keyboard in an attempt to "teach" me. When I abruptly backed away and objected strongly to him randomly touching both myself and my instrument, he said that that was a shame and bade me good day.
Green Park #1 - 14th January 2015
A guy gave me three £1 coins as I hit the pitch with my violin, which hopped straight out of the case again. These paid for the ridiculously expensive single 'peak hour' ticket I'd just bought to get into London (I really don't know how TFL can justify putting ticket prices up TWICE a year, since the tube service never seems to improve and they're cutting back on staff members)?!
It was cold down here again; especially because I didn't have my accordion strapped to my chest protecting me from the gusty wind. The black woollen shawl I found in the road where I live in Hainault protected me to some extent though, mercifully.
Oxford Circus #2 - 14th January 2015
I took over from my guitarist and singer-songwriter friend, Edwige (with the purring Parisian accent and a face of beauteous, soft features). She told me that she was due to play at Bank #2 next, but wanted to find somewhere warmer because she'd like to avoid contracting bronchitis again and asked me if I massage my fingers / arms when I get tendinitis. She literally got blown off her feet while playing at Chancery Lane once, and recommended Bond Street as being quite a good pitch.
Neither of us enjoy playing at Piccadilly Circus; Edwige said that all people do there is take photos of her: When I used to busk my double bass on the Pont des Arts in Paris, I often felt like a tourist attraction. Generally I pull a face to ruin the photo when people snap away at me without asking permission first or neglect to offer me any money in exchange.
A guy turned back and asked me if it was Scottish or Irish tunes I was playing on my violin. I told him that they were Scottish when in fact they were Irish, for some reason, and an elderly couple enquired about how to exit the station (I often get mistaken for a member of staff who knows where everything is).
I braced myself for another nasty fight here when some aggressive bloke commanded an Irishman to stop swearing on the Underground, but fortunately the Irishman swore back at him, then ducked down the overflow corridor.
Green Park #1 - 16th January 2015
A lady described my accordion version of 'Summertime' as being "joyous," which made my year so far; a father and boy skipped hand in hand to the bottom of the escalator along to my performance of some folk stuff, and a foreign lady with silvery-streaked blonde hair held in place by hairgrips asked me what I was playing. I informed her that it was a jazz standard named 'I'm in the Mood for Love' to which she responded that it sounded "lovely." I in fact got bags of compliments from passersby this afternoon, making this a morale booster of a session and a real pleasure to play.
One of my beloved goldfish (a red-headed comet) died this morning after putting up a valiant fight against his illness and I think I played with more heart as a result: Playing beautiful songs while thinking of him was my way off giving him a good send-off.
An Irish 'amplified guitar' busker who I always seem to bump into at Waterloo when I've got very little dosh in my case, looked at me pityingly because (naturally, being as I was at the very start of my second session here today), I had no money to show for my efforts (I'd put the takings from my first session away in my hat). I thought to myself, "You know nothing, mate, now bugger off and patronize someone else!"
I did learn a valuable lesson, incidentally, which was to never attempt to crouch down then try to get up with my hand and wrist still inside the accordion strap, otherwise I could crack my coccyx.
Walking past Oxford Street #2 on the way back to the tube home, I overheard my busker friend, Sid, describe his melodeon to a customer as being very similar to a mouth organ in the way that the instrument is manipulated to produce the notes, which fascinated me, and I had a feeling that something had seriously clicked with regards to my accordion playing in that it's sounding far more fluent (I only fairly recently began learning to play it).