Thursday, 23 September 2010


it's a bright sunny day
warm and generous like an old friend
i'm proudly sporting an 'elephant in the room' t under a brown jacket
flared jeans and veggie shoes
and a dylanesque peaked cap for authenticity
i have ventured to harborne
home to an electic mix of denizens
a place where the moneyed waitrose brigade
rub shoulders with the down-at-heel home bargains hoi polloi
i peruse the high street
choosing my pitch carefully
immediately the privatized corporatised 21st-century encroaches
the wide pedestrian precinct between sainsbury's metro and w h smith's
out of bounds - private property!
the clocktower adult education centre is draped in scaffolding
the pavements which border the shop frontages are mostly narrow
with insufficient space for passers-by to get past
finally i spot a small recess in front of a low wall by waitrose
plenty of pavement in front of me
although i wonder whether it's another privatised plot
inviting some jobsworth manager to emerge and move me speedily on
time will tell
taking some, i get set up
the music stand to hold my lyric and chord crib sheets
my guitar case on which i scatter four quid's worth of change
mainly 50ps and pound coins
to give the punters an idea of what to put in
and a couple of my recent cd's to boost my street cred... i'm ready
i warm up with a few covers
- old favourites that won't tax me too much
mainly too obscure for anyone to recognise:
'america' by simon & garfunkel
'high & dry' by radiohead
'providence' by kilbey & mclennan
'under the milky way' by the church
the traffic roars past
drowning out my acoustic strumming and unamplified voice
there are in fact far more vehicles than pedestrians
'did dylan and woody guthrie have to put up with this?'
i wonder to myself
despite the acoustic competition, i'm oddly grateful
for the background noise serves two useful purposes
1) it masks my various errors and cock-ups as i stretch
into half-remembered chord progressions
2) it forces me to pipe up and project a bit more
allowing me to compare
the quieter numbers that float up into the blue yonder
with the louder, more punchier songs that are more likely to get heard
despite the steady flow of waitrose customers
the place i've chosen has an obvious flaw
it's not conducive to anyone actually stopping as there's nowhere to sit or lounge
people simply hurry past on their way to somewhere else
again this has its advantages
i find myself replaying botched sections of songs
to get them right the second or third time round
it's almost like rehearsing at home in the front room
but my spirits are almost immediately lifted by the first tip
quickly followed by several more
the demographic is hard to pin down
equal numbers of men and women
but a definite bias towards the middle-aged
happily no jobsworth emerges from waitrose
and to my pleasant surprise i get no aggro
as i relax into my own songs
i begin to take in the street scene
the bus passengers staring through the grimy windows
as if at an exotic zoo creature
the high-vis workmen
the pretty girls
the mutton dressed as lamb
the little gawking kids and their embarrassed mums
the disabled in their little battery-operated cars
after an hour and forty-five minutes
my fingers are red raw from holding down the high-capoed strings
for songs like 'octopus' and 'feels like summer'
it's time to pack up and collect the woodle from school
my ambition was to earn my usual holland and barrett lunch
a pasty and a flapjack for two quid
so how have i done?
i scoop up the coins to do a count-up
it all adds up to the grand total of...
five pounds and twenty-eight pence!!!!
an hourly rate of exactly three pounds
only half the minimum wage
but busking sweet melodies on a warm summer's day
beats shovelling chips in macdonalds by a very VERY long way
i will be back on the high street...
once my sore fingertips have recovered

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