Busking On The Underground

Drinking a complimentary coffee in Le Code Bar prior to my departure for England I watched a ceremony on T.V. commemorating French soldiers killed in Afghanistan.  David told me another had joined them.  Why, oh, why do we not learn from history?  How many more young military men and women (not to mention countless forgotten civilians) must be killed across the globe over issues that, in a short space of time, will be unresolved and unremembered except by those who have lost loved ones?

Leaving behind the first cloudless day in Sigoules, by means of Sandrine’s taxi to Bergerac; Flybe’s plane to Southampton; I don’t know who’s train to Waterloo; London Underground’s tube to Morden; and my feet to Links Avenue, I returned to a muggy Morden at least as warm as my French village.

Feeling rather travel-drowsy on crossing Waterloo Underground station I was revived by the sound of a very good guitarist playing at the bottom of the escalator.  As long as I can remember there have been buskers operating in the London Underground system.  For many years they were seen on their way by London Transport Police.  Now, however, they can be allocated officially sponsored pitches.  I don’t know how they qualify but it seems to me they have brightened up what can sometimes be a pretty drab experience and possibly improved security.  I have heard pop and folk singers with voices; classical violinists, male and female; flautists; plenty of other guitarists; and a trumpeter, to name a few.  Mind you, I have also heard singers without voices and fairly poor instrumentalists using electronic backing for their efforts.  But they are now part of the system and in my view can only enhance it.  Many of them, in mid melody are able to thank people for donations.  Late one night at Leicester Square there was a deafening noise from an electronic system supporting some kind of rock group.  This was not pleasant and I was pleased to get in the tube and away from it.  They were also partially blocking a passage between two platforms, and certainly not on an officially recognised pitch.  It was all rather aggressive and alarming.  Maybe they were moved on.

Another unpleasant alternative is men (usually men) moving from carriage to carriage, having a few strums on the strings, passing round the hat, and moving on at the next stop.

The passages in the Underground, especially late at night or when there is no-one else about can be quite eerie places.  It just may be that the presence of a busker could deter anyone from alarming behaviour and provide the lonely traveller with a sense that someone friendly is present or available.  I well remember the very long tunnel at Finsbury Park which 20 years or so ago I used to frequent.  This was quite scary, whatever the time, if no-one else was about, or even if they were.  I don’t know how many official pitches there are, and suspect they are only at the most lucrative central London stations, but I wonder if there is a way of increasing them to everyone’s benefit?  Probably not.

This evening Jackie and I ate at the Watch Me Sri Lankan restaurant described on 25th. May.  It was good to have a curry again.  You can’t generally get a decent curry in France, although I have found one in Bergerac.  As has been seen in the last few posts, there are compensations.

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