Green Park #1 - 6th March 2015
I felt decidedly under the weather today, and standing playing folk fiddle in a raw wind tunnel wasn't helping any. I banked six £1 coins pretty quickly, feeling inspired after having listened to Annie Lennox talking about her feminist views on Radio 4's Woman's Hour from the WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre this morning, and then collected absolutely nothing for what felt like an hour and a half. Therefore, the 'Pret' small vanilla sponge cake filled with strawberry jam and buttercream icing from an 'office' man with shoulder length russet hair came as a lovely, delicious surprise - even though it did interfere with my diet!
As I was tidying away, a young black chap wearing a crimson fur hat requested to know where my violin is from. I explained to him that my friend, Helen Dunwoodie from Edinburgh sold it to me, and that I was told by a luthier at Pierre Jaffré Luthier on rue de Rome, Paris, that it's German. The inscription inside is blurred, but I reckon it says that it was repaired by a John Eadie (?) near Glasgow in 1874. To me it feels like a very Scottish fiddle. Anyway, the said chap then asked me if it was second-hand (of COURSE it is, I thought), before he raised his eyebrows and sloped off.
Oxford Circus #2 - 8th March 2015
It was another 8 am start at Oxford Circus which I never look forward to, but I do it because most times I'm guaranteed to get my bill money for the week.
When I arrived at the pitch an illegal, fat, Italian-sounding - albeit good accordionist was playing. I told him that I needed to set up and tune my violin as I was booked to start shortly. He refused to leave. I protested irately that he wasn't even supposed to be here, and then he snarled, "Nothing will happen to you if you let me play one more tune." Shaking but refusing to be intimidated, I pressed the help button on the wall nearby and asked the station supervisor for assistance. He brushed the threat off as being of little importance, but nevertheless sent staff down - by which time the busker had made a hasty exit.
I told a short, grey member of staff that I'd just been threatened and asked why staff allow illegal buskers to play here when the rest of us legal buskers have to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops and be security checked in order to obtain our license: CCTV surveys this spot and so they must have seen in the office where the screens are, that someone had been busking here before the pitch officially opened at 8 am. He didn't bother to ask me if I was okay and was patronizing, defensive and non-committal in his response to my question. "Fuck this - I'm going home! I don't have to put up with this shit!" I shouted after him - unable to contain my frustration any longer.
Almost as soon as I'd said this, though, I thought to myself, "No: You've paid to come here all the way from Essex. People are giving generously and appreciating what you're doing, so why let a bunch of assholes cause you to give up?" In the end - despite feeling scared of a some freak screaming a pop song all the way down the corridor, I achieved what I'd come here to do - but vowed not to come into London again tomorrow.
Charing Cross #2 - 12th March 2015
Trying to be friendly I asked the Irish station supervisor why Charing Cross is so quite nowadays at midday. He grunted that he couldn't say.
Even though I didn't expect to get anywhere dosh-wise because it was like a ghost station here, I decided positively that instead of positioning myself sideways on, I would face the oncoming commuters, smile and play my accordion extra boldly. As a result, I was greeted with lots of beaming faces, and it seemed as if similar versions of the same lady with grey bobbed hair and kind eyes were handing me money each time somebody made a donation.
All session I was pondering the prospect of planting out garlic cloves on my allotment later on.
Liverpool Street #2 - 12th March 2015
The little finger on my left hand ached from having overdone it with the double bass practise, I suspected, and one of the strip lights was flickering in my eyeline, but finally it felt as if it is going to be warm enough to play here again. Liverpool Street is also nearer to where I live in Hainault, which cuts the commute into London in half for me.
I persevered even though the accordion straps were sitting awkwardly on my shoulders. A middle aged man with sort of spiky light brown hair gave me a knowing, slit-eyed look as he flipped me a £1 coin as if it was a tiddlywink; I practised a new Irish tune, 'Breen's Fort', which contains some complicated phrasing, and a sweet Asian girl who'd just graced me with some change, scooped a 50p out from underneath my case for me but made it clear, "That wasn't my money."
Green Park #1 - 13th March 2015
Two glam older women came up to me: One of them remarked (regarding my accordion arrangement of jazz standard, 'Ain't Misbehavin''), "Brilliant!", and the other one said, "We must support the women!"
An elderly lady told me that one of my Irish tunes had nearly got her dancing; a cute little blonde boy gave me a genuine smile, and a female student-type crouched and scribbled down notes in the pad balanced on her lap then asked me what I was playing. 'The Shadow Of Your Smile', I informed her.
A random bloke took a photo of me without my permission and without giving me money - and expected me to look happy about it, but the sight of a matured Asian man who had dyed his hair and beard bright orange cheered me up.
Unfortunately my little finger was still paining me: I was wrong to believe that playing the accordion would be safe. I just hope that the tendinitis hasn't returned.