My allotment - spring 2016.
This blog is dedicated to all victims of terrorism and their loved ones.
Green Park # 1 - 16th March 2016
A sunny station supervisor and staff put me in a good mood to busk, and the tendinitis in the back of my left forearm had healed - though I was mindful of having to still be careful.
There was nothing / nobody I could bring to mind to uplift my folk fiddling, but it turned out to be a profitable session nevertheless.
I clocked a towering, silvery-haired man followed by a dog the size of a guinea pig who was toddling proudly; the 'American girl' head of a crowd of young 'uns that could've been students, gave me about three £2 coins then shouted back, "Beautiful!", and an old lady wearing a pair of square, flip-up sun lenses on her glasses made a contribution.
Many people with prepossessing smiles gave me money, which compensated for Chris - a steel guitarist from the Brighton area having wasted my time and money asking me if I could do two wedding gigs on double bass with a band he'd misrepresented, and for minimal pay.
If it hadn't have been for the unprotected neon lighting making me feel woozy (despite the fact I'd taken off my glasses in an attempt to reduce its impact), I would've gladly performed for longer.
Oxford Circus #2 - 20th March 2016
On the tube in, the bloke next to me was manspreading and stank of a Saturday night out which left my heart palpitating.
The furrow-faced male staff member on the ticket gate joked that he DID mind letting me through to the pitch, and weaving his way towards the platform was a painfully thin, ragged lad who looked as if he was totally out of it. I therefore concluded that this 8 am's was going to be a tense session, but it turned out to be pretty ordinary in the end.
As I was folk fiddling I thought about potential blogging opportunities and of how inspiring I find the I Survived documentaries on CBS Reality.
A woman with a smile like Meryl Streep's complimented me, and a seasoned lady togged up in pastel wool knit extracted some coins from her purse and remarked, "That was very nice," leaned against the wall to listen some more, then wiped her brow.
While I was taking a break to count my money after two hours of solid playing, someone put and empty beer can down behind me: Cheers!
A teeny black and white dog went by with a gold-embroidered blingy jacket on; a ginger-bearded guy who reminded me of my Norwegian guitarist friend, Eirik Zahl, made a donation, and posh girls I automatically felt physically inferior to commented slightly patronizingly, "Well done! Keep going!" They gave me a fluttery round of applause and a brown-haired man told me he hadn't meant to chuck his handout for me on the floor.
Tottenham Court Road # 2 - 24th March 2016
Following the Brussels bombings two days ago, I was determined (despite feeling on edge) that I was going to carry on busking on the London Underground in honour of all those who died and were injured.
The youthful male staff member on the ticket barrier exclaimed, "We're going to have some music!" I hadn't played on this pitch for almost three years, and it felt good to be back. It reeked of tomato ketchup, however, but there was none to be seen anywhere. I thought the smell might've been coming from behind the thin royal blue wall with holes in it next to me.
Within minutes of beginning my folk fiddling set, a cleaner (I guessed, going by the fluorescent yellow gilet she had on), asked if I play at events. I said that I do and gave her my business card. She explained that her daughter wants a "girl violinist" to play at her wedding in North Greenwich in August. To have been asked boosted my morale enormously.
A pair of police officers walked nonchalantly past a few times; a tourist-type girl parked herself next to me for ages while she tried to figure out a tube map; people gave me compliments I couldn't catch, and a vibrant black guy put a handful of good money in my case then wished me a good day.
My partner, Jan arrived, and hung about listening to and videoing me for longer than felt comfortable (I hate anyone I know watching me perform as I get nervous and play badly). She suggested I keep my business card on display all the time when I'm busking. TFL's rules state, though, that we're not allowed to advertise our services.
Knightsbridge - 25th March 2016
There was a man busking on accordion, squeezed into the gap between seated communters' knees on the tube from Holborn to Knightsbridge. I was amazed he'd been able to get away with doing this here as TFL don't tolerate buskers on trains like RATP do on the Paris Métro. I admired him for having had the guts to do it.
Excluding the couple who'd been enjoying the accordionist's music, I could tell, going by the 'on-trend' nature of the majority of the other passengers in this carriage and the vibes they were giving off, that today's busking session was going to be a waste of time, and a kid flailing his legs kicked my violin case as I disembarked.
Passers-by seemed to be extra miserable swinging their forest green plastic Harrods bags this Good Friday. The only exception to the rule was a young woman with long dark hair and a wrinkly-cheeked smile who proffered me a £2 coin.
A tall, blonde, 20-something woman's mincing, ridiculing skips along to my Irish fiddling pissed me off, then a blonde girl who could've been the child version of her busted some moves.
There was an icy wind blowing in my neck which made the whole of my skeletal system seize up, and an a tanned boy presented me with pennies accompanied by a smug, toothless grin. I then decided - after an hour and 10 minutes, to abandon the session.
Later on, as I was walking along Knightsbridge, I noticed that the sunshine had brought out a singer / guitarist amplified busker who was belting out pop songs just above Knightsbridge station where I'd been playing - which was clearly why my earnings had been so bad.
Oxford Circus # 2 - 27th March 2016
I felt washed out with PMT and my left shoulder blade was sore from having slept awkwardly, meaning I couldn't turn my head.
On signing in, the red-eyed station supervisor who'd been pessimistic about my chances of obtaining much money here at 8 am on Sunday the other week, was of the opinion (showing me the pitch on the monitor as proof), that there were probably going to be hardly any people passing through this Easter Sunday. I replied that I knew I'd taken a gamble in coming.
Immediately, a streak of a guy threw me in excess of three £1 coins for my folk fiddling which boded well, and a white Jack Russell with a black patch over his right eye who looked just like Sykes in the ITV drama, Midsomer Murders, did a poo and thankfully his male owner scooped the vast sloppy majority of it into a poo bag and took it away.
A black man with a chunky silver ring through the septum between his nostrils requested a CD of me playing fiddle. I told him I didn't have one but that he could listen to my music on my website.
I thought about the terrorist attacks in Brussels and how nowhere feels safe anymore, and recent words from my friends Nuna Kurek and David R. Aldridge kept me going.
An older lady of bright colours and a wodge of dyed orange hair peeping out from beneath her white knitted hat made a donation and wished me, "Happy Easter!"; more than a few communters had on Eastery mustard yellow coats, and the mother of a little lad in a plastic red and blue all-in-one bunny costume pointed at something in the vicinity of my case which I'm sure she told him was a "chicken"?!
Speeding by on a scooter with a wooden yellow chick head sticking out front was a boy; a lined, Mongolian-looking busker with his guitar (not a member of the London Underground busking scheme), revealed he was searching for a busking pitch. I suggested he try playing in St Anne's Court, Soho, where I used to busk successfully back in 2012. He reckoned, though, he'd need an amp to play in the open air and wondered if he should try playing on Tottenham Court Road. A grey-haired 'country' lady then commented that my playing sounded "Lovely!"
A woman set down the book, Chant and be Happy - The Power of Mantra Meditation - Based on the teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in my case I said a half-hearted thanks for, and a lady with heavy sandy-grey hair gave me £1 as I was packing up.
Back in the office, I pridefully told the cynical station supervisor that I'd done really well in the end for my first busking session on Easter Sunday.