The weather over the bank holiday weekend has been superb. The sort of weather that you really need to wear sunscreen in. Here in the UK we sort of forget about that – sunscreen is for when you go abroad, right? Well, take it from me, it pays to wear sunscreen.
On Sunday I decided to take my guitar out and try to raise some cash. Last time I went out busking, I got moved on by a disgruntled park warden.
“I can’t have you collecting money here, bruv”
“I’m not. people keep dropping it near my case.”
“But if I let you do it, then there’ll be loads of musicians in here soon.”
“Of course, that would be TERRIBLE, right?”
So I decided to pitch on the other side of town, outside the library. Now, the town library is situated right next to one of the town centre’s car parks, and also right next to the ASDA supermarket. So I was reasonably assured of a steady stream of people thereabouts. In truth, I was waiting for the library to open so that I could come and update my blog, but it was closed over the bank holiday.
So anyway, there I sat in the morning sun, playing a folk rendition of The Clash’s “English Civil War”. I know buskers are supposed to play happy feel-good pop songs, but I don’t know any. So I carried on playing, and a few coins fell into my case. I carried on, playing a variety of songs . They were mostly punk songs converted to acoustic folk, such as The Misfits’ “Dig Up Her Bones”, or Much The Same’s “New Years”.
Now, I was half expecting people to ask me to play a happy tune. But they didn’t. They sat, listening, and then dropped some coins, thanked me and went on their way. One old woman had no money to give me, so she gave me a handful of sweets. One man heard me playing as he was getting into his car, stopped, got out again and came over before literally emptying his wallet into my case. And then the Latvians came.
Here in the UK we have a lot of eastern European immigrants. They’re mostly a good lot, hard working, although they tend to keep themselves to themselves. A group of them came over and greeted me. Told me I had a great voice, and that I could make a fortune playing the streets in Latvia.
“Cheap houses, cheap food, cheap beer!” they exclaimed.
“But not cheap women, right?”
“My friend, you buy them a drink, they are yours!” they laughed. I even cracked a smile at that one. Maybe in the summer I might plan a trip over there.
Eventually, one of the Latvians came over and explained to me that he was a photographer. A fashion photographer, to be specific. He wanted to take photos of me. Not entirely sure why – I’ve never considered myself to be fashionable. Regardless, he gave me his business card and asked me to get in touch.
Later on, I saw a woman sitting and watching me. She’d been there a while, just listening. After I played “Long Forgotten Sons” by Rise Against, she came over, thanked me and left. She had a tortured expression on her face. I often wonder what demons these people are wrestling with. It’s somewhat reassuring to know that there are others out there struggling against themselves. A sort of terrible unbidden solidarity. It left me feeling almost uneasy and yet stronger somehow. An odd feeling indeed.
Eventually I decided to collect my takings (£22, some sweets and a business card), and go get myself a coffee. When I got in the coffee shop I noticed that I had burned on my arms. But not evenly. My strumming arm was burned on top. My other arm was burned underneath. It looks ridiculous, and it still hurts.
So what have I learned from this exercise? Firstly, that sad songs can be popular. Secondly that apparently I’m quite a good singer. Thirdly that the streets of Latvia are lined with gold.
Oh and most importantly, wear sunscreen.