Busking On Blisters - Chapter 2
Busking On Blisters
By Paul McCann
The Fairy Tale Begins
The concrete coloured sky stretched over London as I got off the tube from Heathrow airport . I grabbed a taxi from Piccadilly to the Savoy Hotel and settled in . I read through some of travel brochures at the hotel and was instantly attracted to the East Anglia area . I made some enquires at the reception and was told I could get a train to Norwich from Liverpool Street Station . The journey would take about two and a half hours . I went that day and bought a train ticket which was to leave early the next morning . I went back to the hotel for my guitar and did some busking in Shaftsbury Square and Charing Cross . I guess the magnet of London had drawn me there where tourists threw their money into the depth of a waterless well . I stood there busking to the sea of pedestrians who were making their way through but I felt like I was drowning. It wasn’t easy sharing to a multitude who were too busy to notice . There were lots of interesting people from all over the world. My idea of busking my way around different places had begun here in London . I was very grateful to be there even though I had turned invisible . I had come a long way to do this first gig and was feeling ok to have this opportunity however couldn’t wait to get out of London. I made myself a promise that this would be the last day I would busk around London. Shaftsbury Square was a place where people stopped to feed crackers to the pigeons . I hoped the pigeons like my busking . Charing Cross was a place where people stopped to have food and do shopping . The London police were present and I was told to move along . I could see they had their hands full so after a long lunch I stretched my legs back to Shaftsbury Square for another try . I stood in front of one of the Lion Statues looking like a late lunch but performed about a dozen songs. I realised once again after about thirty minutes that nobody really cared for what I was doing. My music was having no effect on the passers by, but I do think that the pigeons enjoyed my music. To give them the benefit of the doubt I continued to busk for a further thirty minutes until my belly began to make strange rumbling noises and my voice turned from singing mellow blues to screaming out gravel rock. Fuelled by lack of appreciation I began to lift my voice louder until the people got the drift of where I was coming from. Eventually two young girls came over and gave me some applause . They even tried to encourage other people to stop and listen . At the end of the day I enjoyed my first day and made my way back to the hotel .
I stood there waiting to cross over the pedestrian crossing near St Pauls . I stopped for a moment unsure of the traffic flow. Only being in the country for a day or so I took it easy getting the feel of the city. There were tourists silently shouting in their sign language at the hustle and bustle as if they owned the city. I smiled as I saw a break in the traffic and decided to make my way across the intersection. As I crossed over a car narrowly missed me and the driver shouted out something in passing then he was gone. On the other side I saw all the construction work taking place around St Pauls .
Back in my Hotel room I rang for room service , The phone rang for a while but someone did pick it up eventually .
"Sorry to keep you, how can I help?"
"I'm checking out tomorrow and would like something special for dinner this evening as it could be my last meal in London ."
"You're very lucky, we do have a special chef here at the Hotel who is renowned for his steak dishes and the cost is like minimal compared to regular steak houses in London."
"Money is not a problem at the moment in any case but I’ll have the steak with an ice cream dessert . "
She tutted and said, "How long do you think are you going to be?"
"I'm not sure. What do you mean ?" I said
"I beg your pardon sir I was speaking to the porter . We have some tourists at reception waiting to have their bags carried to their room ."
"No problem . " I said ans she replied.
"Look, I'll keep the bed until 5pm. If you're not back by then , it's gone ok."
"Excuse me . ?" I asked .
“Sorry sir , I was on another line. Someone after a room . He handed me some excuse about being held up in traffic . All our rooms are almost booked .“
For some reason I was angry and I don't know why. Maybe it was just tired . But my anger soon dissolved into humility when she started to cry and tell me about the pressures of her job at reception . I don’t know why I did it but I asked her if she would like to have dinner with me and she said yes .
Later that evening I sat in my room with this beautiful receptionist from the hotel and we talked about music and our favourite songs until she had to leave Next morning I placed my bag and guitar in my hands and went downstairs to fix up the bill . The girl with gave me her phone number and for a brief moment I wanted to ask her to come to Norwich with me but realised I was on a busking adventure and not a someone in a lonely hearts band . I put her phone number in my pocket and got a taxi to Liverpool street station .
When I boarded the train to Norwich , I checked to see if I still had that girls phone number . Her name was Rita . I gave her a quick call . She was surprised to hear my voice and I told her about my busking project . She asked me to call her when I got back to London. I had a brief conversation visit with her before the train departed .
I had a reason now to return to London and put that into my schedule but for now I felt an itch of wanderlust at my feet calling me onwards .
The snow clouds filled the sky that hung over the English countryside. Little parlour houses were lined up like Lego blocks from Lilliput land . I was on a train from London to East Anglia with no idea where I was going what awaited me there . The sun was coming up and I felt ok in this new experience .With the thoughts of sharing musical moments busking in an unknown place excited me . I looked out the window of the train as it moved along the track . My mind drifted between shadows , that covered the fields like corrugated sheets of grass . Now and then a glare of light shot through the soft white clouds that welcomed a warm waft where I had awoke .
I wondered about life and how doing something different brought new inspirations . I felt a new flame starting to burn and the lonely sunrise was not as empty as before .
No raindrops fell on my parade because I had the promise of love in the sunrise that glistened in my eyes . I was slightly blinded by romantic thoughts but it was hard to hide how I felt .
I got off the train in Norwich and saw the snow fall soft upon the faces of all those who like me had ventured out on foot into the village. Both my feet were numb and my hands and face burnt with the coldness in the light of a winter's day. The fingers of my right hand were almost frozen and my grip on the guitar case began to falter. I could no longer hold the guitar so I stood inside the doorway o9f a shop that was still closed .
I heard the clock in the church tower began to ring out every note in the octave including each flat and sharp along the way up and down the scale. Suddenly the church bells rung out old melodies of Christmastide. It was nice to hear and stopped me from worrying about the cold . After a half hour some of the shops opened and I went to have breakfast in a café that was still silent and empty of customers . I asked the waitress if she knew of any good bed and breakfasts and she gave me a list of places to check out Already I had marked some busking spots in the town . From the window of the I watched the traffic passing by on the road and thought about those who were sitting at home in front of the fire or others who might be still under the blankets in their bed . All the cars passing by had their windscreen wipers going to push the snow from the front screen enabling the drivers to see their way along the road. It was that time of the year, good cheer and all that. I thought about Christmas trees, fairy lights, turkey and ham . The aroma of a cooked breakfast went up my nose as the waitress brought my plate on a tray . She placed in front of me , a good serve of bacon and eggs with a hot cup of tea and toast. After I had finished eating I raised my arm to signal the waitress to bring the bill . I took out my wallet and paid the amount owed . The waitress suggested that a should get a taxi to the bed and breakfast on the top of the list . Before leaving I gave her a tip for her kind service and then opened the door of the café . There was a taxi rank nearby and I got in to the cab .
"Where to?" He said and I gave the driver the address of the bed and breakfast .
"oK . I know that place . ." The driver said and took off along the snowy road .
We must have hit every red light in the entire town but its always like that when you’re watching the meter tick over . We slowly went along the road then he turned into a side road and another side road . I looked at the driver who seemed to be taking his time .
“Nice place this." I said .
“Its very popular here especially in the summer , but a bit quiet this time of year .“
He pulled up on the side of the road and said ,
“We’re here . "It's a good address here . There’s public transport outside the door that will take you to the town centre in five 5 minutes . Enjoy your stay , I hope you like our town .
"Ok, thanks for that driver " I said.
He reached out his hand and we shook . I went insode a booked aroom for a weekl .
My guitar and me moved into the room and I waited until after midday before going busking . Later in the day me and my six string and a small bag on my shoulder made our way in the pouring rain over into the town . I went to a spot where I noticed earlier in the market place . I had noticed earlier there was a few large umbrellas that were there with shelter underneath and lots of people passing through . That’s where I set up and began to busk . I counted at least twenty people who stopped to put coins in my guitar case . They were all working class people . What a surprise it was when a well dressed lady stopped to talk to me . She worked on the local radio and asked if I would be interested in talking to her listeners about busking . I told her I would love to so I followed her to the radio station and we pre-recorded an interview for the breakfast program the next day . For ten minutes I shared some of my experiences as a busker . The people and places .I had been and seen . Children were a great asset , if one child donated a coin another child would see and ask the parent , “Can I have a coin for the busker” the there were the people with a heart who always donated something and you knew to look at them they never had much .People who ignored the busker were the well to do and busy people wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life . People who were abusive were few but usually they were young ones ibn small groups out looking for cheap kicks . At times they would pass by and throw something at you or call you names . The busker had to be aware of the desperate who would grab the money you had earned and run off with it into the crowd . During the interview I shared about the different places I had been busking and the journey I had began in the UK . I often wondered what people would think about that kind of thing . Travelling around the world with a guitar and a dream then I was reminded by a littler inner voice , it didn’t really matter what anybody thought of what I was doing . It was my dream and if they didn’t appreciate that it would not change anything . I believed in what I was doing and that was all that mattered to me .
The following day I listened to the interview on the radio and hoped that it might inspire someone else out there to have a go at busking on the street . After the program was over I took my guitar into own and set up in a spot near the shopping centre . As I stood there strumming my guitar I watched a young girl rushing past screaming. Her voice shattered the presence of where I was busking . Then six other girls followed her , accompanied by a dozen young lads who had a lot of drink on them. They all wore leather gear and even though they seemed to be together they were far from being friendly with one another. They gathered around me like sharks before the feeding frenzy . I continued to play my guitar and sang louder that before . After a few moments one of them said,
"Yeah , he’s ok "She said .
"Could you play us something punk or a pig rock song ?"
"Yeah." I said and started to play something called The Fairytale Of New York and the whole pack of them stood back and stared into space . One of them came over and looked right into my face . I could smell the cocktail in his breath . A few more moments passed by . One of the girls started to cry and another in the group tried to comfort her with a hug . I kept a tight grip of my guitar . Some the lads had flashed a knife in front of me as I stood there. There was some tension in the air but I kept playing and singing.
Two of them approached me and looked menacingly in my direction. They slowly made their way around my back . I could feel their eyes on me like poisonous arrows . I let go of my guitar and turned to face them and the danger poised. The closer they came the more I could see the glazed curtain of delirium that covered their eyes. Eyeballs , red with fury looked back at me. Suddenly another group walking through approached . They had orange spiked hair-do’s and a few dogs on choke chains .
“Give us a song ." One of them said . I took out my guitar and played a blues rock song called Blue Suede Shoes and they all loved it ..
“We have respect around here “ They said and all of them walked away .
I took a break after that and bought a coffee . I found a place to sit down on a bench seat until my composure returned . Afterwards I went another spot and continued to busk away. During the time I was playing I saw two lads with spray paint cans start tagging and defacing posters on a wall. Their work was colourful and creative. Graffiti is an art form screaming out for attention .There is a message there and between the lines it says , " Life doesn't love me anymore." I was reminded by the words of a song called The Sound Of Silence that spoke of the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls . People in past times either feared or respected prophets . The same can be said for writers and poets . they are loved or hated , feared or encouraged . Life is just like that. I saw that similar kind of thing for the busker . I played for a while and started to think about leaving East Anglia for another place .
My plan was to get to Edinburg for Hogmanay . I heard about the street party there and buskers were always welcome . The timing was perfect so I bought a train ticket to Edinburgh . There were two changes to make on the way to Edinburgh but I was looking forward to the train trip to Scotland which took over seven hours .
On my last few days in Norwich I did some sight seeing . I loved the old cobblestones streets and the charm of the buildings . The Cathedral and Museum’s were sitting there like windows to the past or waiting rooms to the future but screamed out aloud at the present with sorrow at the rush of time passing by and the ignorance of people who hadn’t got the time to spend an hour or two inside and appreciate what was there .
I sat on the railway station with my guitar and a ticket for my destination . A few moments passed and then the screeching of steel wheels on a track pierced the morning silence a train rolled in to stop . An eerie fog clung to the night as dawn knocked on the door of another day . I got on the train and took a seat by the window and was deep in thought about the lovely places I had seen in Norwich . As I sat there looking out of the misty coated window my mind stepped into the twilight zone as if transported back to a place when dragons lived in harmony with the world before Knights in armour arrived . The sound of the station masters whistle brought me back to reality .
That’s right you’re on a train to Edinburgh , so I sat back as the train pulled out of Norwich .
As the miles went past I watched the dark cape of night being uncovered by the light of the dawn and the beauty of the English countryside come into view .
End Of Chapter 2
Link to chapter 3