Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Tube riding - 4th - 23rd October 2015


Green Park # 1 - 14th October 2015
An itchy rash on the backs of my ears and legs, plus chronic OCD due to the fury I felt at Barclays' incompetence / lack of care regarding their ongoing investigation into the theft of hundreds of pounds from my current account, made it hard for me to leave the house.
I took over the pitch from a likeable busker who plays popular classical pieces (very well) on a bright yellow violin along to an inoffensive backing track. While I was waiting for him to finish, I watched people giving him handout after handout and dropped my juicy allotment-grown apple, which rolled into a black corner of the concourse.
His act felt like too much to live up to this afternoon. The two of us berated the ill-functioning busking line and the lack of decent pitches available during the booking session on a Tuesday: The same old group of about 10 buskers nab all the best pitches and swap them amongst themselves. "C'mon... fair's fair," he complained, and told me how he'd concentrated on the movements of his right arm today during his performance.
Having not played the fiddle for nearly three weeks, my fingers felt stiff and so I stuck to executing technically easier folk tunes, and practised the technique of accentuating notes using the weight of my 'bowing' elbow.
Commuters I vaguely recognized gave me money, and memories of the gig I attended at Dunfermline Folk Club last Wednesday had a happy effect on me.
The pale blue 'Cheaper Insurance?' flyer on the floor in my line of sight, though, was irritating me. Eventually I slid it out of the way with my foot but it was replaced by sweet wrappers dancing at the shore of my case.
I imagined that the white-haired and bearded gent who made a donation, wearing round, red-rimmed spectacles with a punnet of oranges in string hanging from his hand, had just stepped out of a still life by Picasso.
I felt vulnerable and didn't want to be looked at, or the blazing white light of a kid's video camera in my face, and as happens most times I play here now, a 'suit' booted my case due to his phone having a mesmeric hold over him... And all this bollocks for a measly £10! I quit early.
A character on the tube back to Hainault came to my rescue, however (see the photo of him above): He entered the train with a large drum in a plastic bin bag he set down next to the door, started doing fitness warm-up activities and addressed the carriage: "Great atmosphere in here!... Everybody's happy!" Most people looked anything but! He then did some reps of pulling himself up on the overhead handrail and some surfing, working up a sweat.
Myself and another guy with mile-long dreads were the only ones who found this funny. Next up, the guy dangled out of the door at St Paul's and bellowed at those on the platform, "MIND THE GAP!... IT'S A TRAP!... MIND THE GAP!... IT'S A TRAP!" and turned to my steely co-passengers to explain,"I must warm up... like psychotherapy... It's my project." He made my day (a bit of LIFE) and got out at Bethnal Green, I think. 
Oxford Circus #2 - 18th October 2015
The chummy station supervisor in the office commented that I was early for my session and added that if I hadn't have been, my Parisian guitarist-singer busker friend, Pierre, would have seized it in his perpetual hunt for vacant pitches around the network.
I asked the dark-bearded staff member at the ticket barrier to let me through because I was about to start busking. He confessed that he was new at the station and so hadn't recognized me. Later on, we smiled at each other as he carried out his tour of checks along the 'Central line' corridors.
My fingers were stiff playing the violin again, I felt slightly removed all the way through this 8 am session, and I contemplated including folk singing in my set.
An Asian lady with a kind, lined face gave me money and commented with emphasis, "That's very nice!" and the cash flowed in steadily. A fellow female violinist grinned at me knowingly, and an elegant black woman took my business card but didn't tell me why she wanted it.
Unusually for this early on a Sunday, the session passed without incident, save for I got tossed a screwed-up receipt from someone.
Green Park #1 - 21st October 2015
It appeared to be raining inside, too, as I approached the escalator to go down to the pitch, what with the trillions of spots of rain that'd been shaken from peoples' umbrellas, and I felt rough given that I'd been up for four hours in the night with terrible period pain.
Business was slow today as it always is when it's raining, plus most passers-by were preoccupied checking their phones. Money worries kept breaking my concentration, and so I resorted to asking my dead Polish violinist friend, Peter for help...
A tall office worker with brown hair and blue eyes exclaimed (regarding the Irish fiddle tune I was playing), "'Harvest Home!'" after he'd chucked me some coins. He was correct. Then a small Scottish guy with frosted glass in his spectacle frames turned up next to me. I thought he was another busker because he had a pass attached to a cord around his neck. On closer inspection I discovered that it was a travel pass. He told me that he was searching his person for change to give me. In the end, though, he discovered that he didn't have any - but could I change a £20 note? I couldn't. I said not to worry and that it had been nice of him to stop. 
I left with enough money in my purse (thanks, Peter)!
Oxford Circus #2 - 22nd October 2015
While I was killing time on Oxford Street waiting to begin my session, I noticed an insanely loud electric guitarist performing a load of shit just outside the station entrance which was going to dramatically reduce my earning potential inside, then as I was getting my violin out, someone playing the mouth organ wandered by.
I took over the pitch from the singer-guitarist busker who sings with his chin pointing at the ceiling. He let on that (as I'd experienced for myself last year), being able to have a successful busk at Charing Cross is still hit-and-miss - partly due to the sentorian station announcements.
Fragile, clone-type women did witless impressions of me playing my fiddle; a '2 pm slot' phenomenon, perhaps?
I had to stop half an hour early because I got too hot, but was pleased with what I'd earned.
The Irish staff member wearing a diamond stud earring I met when I requested he let me through the ticket barrier to collect my busking license from the office shouted after me, "Keep playing that music!" and sang the "Let the music play" line from the Barry White song, 'Let the Music Play' released on 2nd January 1976. Here it is: https://youtu.be/V3eOuK_-c34 Love it!
Green Park #1 - 23rd October 2015
The station supervisor from the Midlands (as am I) who used to play the double bass, stared at the accordion case on my back mock-disapprovingly and declared, "There's only one kind thing you can do with an accordion; stab it!" (Asshole). I said that I hadn't been a fan of the accordion - especially bullying Parisian accordionists that line the Seine (but that's another story), until I started to learn how to play: I love the physicality of the bellows vibrating in a grounding way against my chest. "Well, so long as you don't play 'Tetris' (https://youtu.be/y05HGFeXsXw) or 'Zorba the Greek' (https://youtu.be/JKWMUr_2c0A)," he warned.
An Asian schoolgirl described my playing as being "Very nice!" and it was exhilarating to be back performing on my accordion even though my troublesome knees didn't agree. Lots of people responded with great fondness to the instrument, I'm pleased to say, which raised smiles from Underground staff and commuters alike.
Two girls of about nine, both with long dark blonde hair, held hands and danced around in circles to one of my more folky numbers, and coincidentally later on, a pair of identical twin girls of about the same age and hairstyle but with matching clothes and pink and blue straw-textured Alice bands, walked past.
The father of a small boy I hallucinated was a Saint Bernard dog as he approached, gave me some money; my accordionist busker friend who was on his way somewhere sang along to my rendition of 'Summertime'; a diaphanous snowy-haired lady with her snowy-haired husband appreciated my, 'The Shadow of Your Smile', and a middle-aged man who made a donation remarked, "My dad used to play one of those... a long time ago now, though."
I caught sight of a person who had fallen with a clunk down the 'up' escalator onto his / her wheeled suitcase before disappearing into the heavens. I think it was an old man who attempted to intervene by stopping the escalator - but he switched off the wrong one! I got the impression that nobody got seriously hurt in the end, however.
HMRC are about to assess my worth to society as a self-employed musician: In my heart there is no other job I can imagine doing where I'd feel like I'm flying as I do when I'm performing on my musical instruments.

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