A German violin (in the middle of my other two) given to me by my friend, David Lee: The inside label reads, "Johann Ulrich Fichtl, Mittenwald 1763," and the carving depicts a walled city with a coat of arms, dated 1703.
Waterloo #1 - 3rd February 2016
Feeling hormonal, I was doubly reluctant to rejoin the perpetual procession of depressed faces that, for me, is central London.
On my arrival at Waterloo, the female staff member on the ticket barrier looked me up and down when I requested to be let through, then the superficially cheerful station supervisor told me, "We're very awkward here; please pass that on to your colleagues." In other words, "You buskers aren't welcome."
After that, I didn't want the further humiliation of playing folk violin to the void, and so packed up and left.
Green Park #1 - 6th February 2016
My new luxurious and thickly padded violin case.
Yesterday, my friend, David Lee, bestowed on me his beautiful violin, a new violin case (above), violin accessories, plus his 32-bass piano accordion; an act of kindness which meant so much, and that signified a kind of fresh start.
Fellers were cutting down the humongous conifer at the back of my allotment today, so I needed the distraction of performing folk violin to prevent myself from imagining it accidentally crushing my greenhouse and shed.
The layout had changed in the supervisor's office, meaning that I no longer had to wait for a member of staff to notice me before signing in, and it felt good to be busking again after a record six-week break.
I enjoyed a surprisingly painless session - especially good news given that I'd been practising my double bass again for five minutes every other day in the hope that latent tendinitis wouldn't put the kibosh on it.
To prevent it from collecting dust, I lined my new case with a leopard print scarf I found on the pavement of Thurlow Gardens, Hainault last week, and to my relief, people easily found a way to throw money past its protective magnetic flaps.
A jovial camp man made a donation then wished me a nice day; a friendly, auburn-haired guy commented, "Nice last note!" (a sustained, syncopated one), and an older, balding gentleman with a round, open face who looked like a Greek Cypriot apologized for having only 3p to give me, and promised me that "Next time..." (he'd give me more).
Rounds of applause punctuated proceedings; an Asian man chipped in that I sounded good, and I amassed nearly four euros which I took as another sign that I should return to Paris to play again soon.
Knightsbridge - 6th February 2016
Loud bangs accompanied my walk past Hyde Park to Knightsbridge. Given that London is still on high terror alert following the Paris attacks last November, people were edgy and looking around to see what was going on. I then heard someone say that it was the Queen's birthday; that the explosions were just gun salutes.
At the pitch, hardly anyone was engaging with my folk fiddling, but I probably would've continued to glory in playing if my left arm hadn't begun to ache. I'd expected it to be warmer here than it'd been at Green Park, but it was just as bitingly chilly.
A thankful old lady gave me pennies and I received £3 which covered my tube fare home. I then came upon my busker friend, 'alto sax' John in the ticket hall attempting to repair his saxophone he claimed was mysteriously leeking air. He wanted to know if I had a cold because I sounded "very Edgbaston" (I'm a Brummie), and suggested I try to earn more money as a film extra rather than as a freelance writer.
On the far right is my latest piano accordion; a 32-bass Weltmeister Seperato Standard "Bell" from David Lee.
Oxford Circus #2 - 7th February 2016
This was tame session for 8 am of a Sunday, during which I experienced a first: A slight, dark-skinned man deposited £1 plus a few pence on the floor beside my violin case as my brand new 'G' string sang nicely.
A smooth-headed Indian guy asked who the composer was of the Irish tune I was playing. When I said I didn't know, he confessed he'd identifed it as having "an Irish flavour"; a white-bearded gentleman passed by, carrying a very large, thin, triangular-oblong tan case and in his other hand, a small black case of a similar shape. I assumed that they were components of a musical instrument, but I couldn't think what, then he paused just beyond me and about-faced to give me money.
Two foreign guys fingered their respective red and white cigarette boxes. One of them was trawling his pockets for change to give me - or so I thought, until he sauntered off and his friend countered, "My friend..." Within, I was feeling overwhelmed by the state of my still unfocused business plan and was attempting to figure out how to narrow it down.
A small girl with long brown hair told me she was learning classical violin and unusually, I instantly warmed to her, wished her luck, and urged her to "Enjoy it!", then a drunk stared at me waterily. Fortunately, his female companion was there to pull him away - but not before he flung me a coin.
While I was packing away, a busker who is new to the scheme and sings pop songs with guitar, asked me how I cope during 'dry' busking periods, to which I replied that I try to be philosophical. She (sensibly) subsidizes her busking with nannying.