It takes all sorts to make a world.
If you want to get a good cross-section of them I suggest taking up busking as a career.
I’ve learnt from my time as a street artist how wonderful people can be and how often they can take you by surprise.
Here is a random selection of some of my favourite people I’ve met while busking.
The Fruit Basket
“I’m getting on a plane and can’t take all this fruit with me. Would you like it?”
She was already placing the fruit in my guitar case before I could respond. But the answer was a resounding YES from me.
This was not just an apple or an orange or two. This was a fruit basket like no other. Pineapples, blueberries, bananas. The lot. I hit the fruit jackpot.
3 cherries for me. Ding ding ding!
One cold day in winter a man with a frown sat down to listen, and he came back the next day too, and the day after that. After a few visits he came up to say hello.
“My wife is in hospital,” he said, gesturing towards St. Thomas’, which is a hospital just along the river.
“It’s been a nice break to come here and listen every day. Thank you.” I thanked him in return for stopping by and wished his wife the best.
He smiled, “I can’t wait to bring her by when she’s better, I’ve told her all about my walk down the river to hear you sing.”
A few weeks later, he did.
A New Best Friend
Leather jacket and a nose piercing, this guy’s pretty cool, I thought.
He was standing by a tree listening with a big smile and warm eyes. When I’d finished playing he introduced himself and confirmed his cool status by being American and a lone traveller.
We said we should definitely meet up if I was ever in LA, I was sceptical we’d ever meet again.
Then, late last year I made a trip to visit family on the West Coast and got in touch, we had a blast hanging out in California and he has since become one of my favourite people on the planet.
Sometimes your best friends come into your life when you least expect it.
Last year James McAvoy was in a play in Trafalgar Square. I was performing as part of a promo event for it and James himself was there. We had a polite conversation about music and then I was on my way.
Over a year later I was busking on my usual spot by the river and who else should walk past but James McAvoy, waving at me like an old friend?! I waved back, wondering if he knew someone behind me, perhaps sailing along the Thames…
Later that day I was grabbing a coffee on the Southbank and I spotted his smiley face again, making a beeline for me and extending a friendly hand.
“Hiya, don’t know if you remember me,” he said, “James?”
I shook his hand, so starstruck I could barely speak. I nodded to signify I did indeed remember.
We had a lovely chat, I don’t think I even bothered to ask how his massive acting career was going, which was very rude of me. But I thanked him for coming to say hi and let him and his son go on with their day; just rocking along being the nicest famous person on this whole earth.
My First Houseshow
I offered to play in people’s homes as part of a crowdfunding campaign.
To quote Amanda Palmer: “Is this what crazy people do? Is this how crazy people die?”
(Quite possibly, but I’ve been very lucky!)
All of my houseshow supporters have now become regular contacts and friends who I am so glad to have met, but my first visit to a home will always stick in my mind. I performed for 5 people; sitting in a circle, drinking wine, spilling tea and eating biscuits.
Whenever I see this particular group I laugh myself sick every time and smile for a week afterwards.
I am particularly fond of the main organiser of the houseshow, Sonja. She once rocked up on the Southbank on her roller skates, which is really the best way I can paint a picture of how cool she is.
That first houseshow taught me that wonderful things can come from trusting people and Sonja and her friends are my favourite reminder of how kind people can be.