Oxford Circus #2 - 18th January 2015
This morning at 8 am I felt thankful to be underground playing folk violin somewhere warm.
An Asian man called out "Bless you!" as he made his offering, followed by a crew-cutted guy who shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out one pink and one blue long cylindrical object which clacked onto the floor, then to my surprise and delight, produced a £5 note to give me.
Then more surreality: A (Bosnian)? young man who looked as if he was off his face, proffered "Excuse me," mumbled something incomprehensible, and came and stood beside me. I asked if I could help him, then his mate joined him (who looked very similar to the guy who'd just given me the fiver)?! This dapper pair then presented me with about £4 between them, thereupon they stood opposite me chatting loudly. Silently cursing these loitering pests, my annoyance turned to horror and confusion as the friend of the 'Bosnian' chap lent over to feel the Bosnian's ankle and foot inside his shoe: Was he checking a bomb that had been planted in his sock? Anyhow, to my massive relief, they both moved on.
Red London buses cheered up the leaden sky looming over Piccadilly Circus and feeling nosy, I popped into St James's Church, Piccadilly, to check out a caravan fair. As I was on my way out a dewy-eyed woman collared me, commenting that I was the second violinist she had seen today, and inquired as to whether or not I play in an orchestra. "I have done," I replied, and told her that I'd just been playing at Oxford Circus. She looked puzzled and when I elucidated what I do, she almost choked on the word "busker", and declared, "It's important to have SOME ability", and told me about a guitarist she knows who busks and just strums the strings after someone else has tuned it up for him, then softened this up with, "It's lovely to hear classical music when one is walking along."
Green Park #1 - 18th January 2015
I was three degrees this afternoon, and so after about an hour I had to give up playing because of the cold (I'm not prepared to risk getting tendinitis playing violin again). Just before I left there was a scarily loud banging: I couldn't decide if it was a mammouth wheeled suitcase being dragged down the escalator, or a bomb going off.
Liverpool Street #2 - 21st January 2015
As I was signing in the chipper station supervisor confessed that he doesn't look at the busking license plastic holders positioned above the 'Visitors' signing in book, and that he didn't care which pitch I go on to be honest with me, because there are always people on them who aren't supposed to be: I knew before I left home that it was probably going to be too cold to busk on pitch #2, and so I'd asked him if I could play on pitch #1 instead. He suggested that if I were to dance around with my accordion for a bit, I'd soon warm up.
Sure enough as I'd predicted, the bitter wind lacerated me on pitch #2, but a young girl instantly gave me £3. Within a short while, though, my fingers were iced, my brain was numb, and I was losing the ability to coordinate my movements and so with a fiver in my hat, I moved to the other pitch.
Liverpool Street #1 - 21st January 2015
Customers dove onto the platforms on either side of me, and playing accordion acoustically, it was impossible to compete with the deafening wheezing and farting of the tube trains in such close proximity.
I received £1 from a round-faced man whose eyes were full of tears. He reckoned that the accordion is an "underestimated instrument" and that he's got a "composer aged 85" and a little combo together that includes an accordionist and a singer. They play old Frank Sinatra songs, which I said I approved of. He wanted to know if I'd heard of the Morley Accordion Orchestra, based in Lambeth. I had indeed, because I studied poetry at Morley College for a number of years. He said that he thought they'd benefit from having a singer and his parting remark was, "You might do better in a combo."
Another elderly man who reminded me of the late actor, Buster Merryfield but with a gap shaved at the centre of his snowy beard, gave me £1, too. One of my OCD obsessions is to check that I've not left my musical instrument behind after I've done a performance, but today I was able to remind myself that I can be trusted not to mislay something so precious, and on returning to the office to sign out the supervisor labelled the public "tight" for not having been more generous towards me.
Green Park #1 - 22nd January 2015
I found three 20p pieces on my travels; one on the tube from Hainault, and two in a ticket machine tray at Green Park, which contributed nicely to my travel costs. Just as I left the supervisor's office I overheard that unattended baggage had been reported on the Jubilee line near my busking pitch. My philosopy, however, is that I value my freedom and so I won't cower under threats of terrorism.
A smart young blonde woman with a disquietingly fixed stare asked me what I was playing on my accordion. 'The Shadow of your Smile', I responded, and she proceeded to tell me that she had had a soft toy that had played this tune when she was about four years old. She hadn't heard it since then, and said that my "amazing" rendition "took me right back there - thank you."
One little girl who was part of a never-ending trail of school kids opened her hand out to me revealing that she had no money inside it to give me (lovely); an Asian-looking group of men each came up with money, and their friend took a photo as they posed over my case with the money to lob it in, and 'Softly As In A Morning Sunrise' caught the ear of an old man who listened intently as if attempting to decipher what it was, then sauntered off as soon as I started playing something 'folk'.
Charing Cross #1 - 24th January 2015
A sign like a slap in the face telling me that no trains would be running at this station this morning greeted me as I got off the tube to busk here, so feeling disorientated and edgy with PMT, I wandered down The Mall via St James's Park to see if there was a pitch free at Green Park. There wasn't. There was also nothing going at Oxford Circus: Grrrrrrrrrr!!! Better luck next time, I hope.