Storm Doris

Dear Diary,

I managed to avoid the worst of storm Doris by taking a little trip away last week. So luckily I wasn’t blown into the river along with my guitar and microphone stand!

The wind had already started to pick up a few days before so I found myself facing a few “Marilyn” moments while busking on Monday, not to mention getting my hair into an absolute state.

Despite it being a particularly windy day, (if you’re interested in the weather specifics, the wind was up to 20mph with gusts of up to 30. My usual cut off point is 15mph because that’s when I start to lose flyers to the breeze and the noise of the rustling trees picks up on my mic and I barely can hear myself so 20mph is too…oh…you’re not interested? Fair enough.) there were lots of people about. I think half term was staggered across the country this year so a few schools were still off and the atmosphere was perfectly busy without feeling hectic.

I was happily playing to nobody at all, with a few appreciative passers by, when one of my favourite things happened. A little girl sat down cross-legged on the floor. Not a rare occurrence but one that always fills me with joy when it does happen. It’s such a decisive gesture. I take it as the most precious token of appreciation to be given the attention of a child.

The next thing that happened is rare but magical. Her mother; a young, pretty, well-dressed and well-to-do woman looked down at her daughter with an expression I couldn’t quite read. I prepared myself to watch her scold her little girl, “don’t sit down there, it’s filthy”, “no darling, we aren’t stopping here for long, up you get”, “what on earth are you sitting on the ground for?”

But I read this woman and the situation all wrong. This beautifully dressed mother in her white trousers sat down cross-legged next to her daughter, pulled her up onto her lap, squeezed her tight and beamed over at me, nodding her head to the music.

Many other families followed suit and soon I had a cluster of parents and children sitting down on the ground to listen. It was such a thrilling sight and I loved this lady for being so far from who I had guessed she might be.

I spend every day watching people, and they still manage to surprise me.

Love,
Charlotte

P.s. Thanks Geoff Martin for the featured photo! And for braving the wind in order to take it!

weather

The Psychology of Tipping

Dear Diary,

This week I posted a funny (in my opinion…) tweet about a comment I overheard.

tweet

I felt like the irony was self explanatory but to many it wasn’t; lots of lovely tweeters jumped to my aid with their sympathies. I very much appreciate the sentiment of those telling me not to take it to heart, but felt like many had missed the point of what I was saying. It got me thinking about how tipping is perceived by onlookers in comparison to how it actually works, through the eyes of the performer.

The girl was right, I did have lots of coins in my case already. I’d had a stroke of luck when the next busker didn’t show up to play after me, so I played their slot too. I played for 4 hours, non-stop! I didn’t clear out my case in between because the crowds were coming thick and fast and I didn’t want to waste time that I could be singing. Besides, it shouldn’t matter how much I’ve already got, if you liked what you heard and want to donate then you should, shouldn’t you?

I don’t expect my Starbucks for free just because Starbucks already has lots of money.

I had a few comments from supportive tweeters that, perhaps, I would make more money if I cleared my case out, to create the illusion that I had less. There’s a similar theory I’ve heard in the past about how I ought to dress; that my aesthetic is stopping people donating. If I looked a bit more “scruffy” people would feel sorry for me and I’d make more money.

Both those points, while well intentioned, slightly miss the point of what I’m doing. I’m not trying to make money, the money is a necessity for sustaining what I do and an extra blessing on top of sharing my music and my name with a new audience. If pity is the main emotion I incite when I’m out busking then I’m not doing my job properly.

This also brings to surface a really interesting psychological phenomenon I’ve witnessed after many years of doing this full time. People are sheep and copycats and everso predictable. While the girl in the aforementioned tweet is an exception to the rule, I have found that the more money I have, the more money I continue to make.

Firstly, people love to have their opinion shared by others, and seeing someone tipping a busker confirms their suspicions; this musician is good. It legitimises the practice and other’s are likely to follow suit. Secondly, even without seeing the money dropped, a healthy guitar case of coins assures them that they are behaving correctly. They are giving this musician a thumbs up, just as so many others have done already.

I have found the same with social media interactions. While the first 100 or 1,000 “likes” are hard to come by, once you’ve been validated by a few people, others are quicker to support what you’re doing and your fanbase is easier to grow. I don’t mind it and I don’t think people are fickle for being this way, it’s just human nature; we are pack animals and we want to be part of something bigger. It’s kind of adorable.

I always start my set with 6 pound coins in my case. A gentle hint at the sort of donation I’m aiming for. Some people say you should always hide your £5/10/20 notes away, so people don’t think you’re earning too much. I disagree, but I usually hide them away anyway, before the wind takes them and deposits them in the river for me.

Love,
Charlotte

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Dear Diary

It is so cold in London right now. It even snowed this weekend!

As I walked to the bus stop I had to watch my step for icy patches, I wore thick boots so I didn’t feel the cold in my toes and I could see my breath on the air in front of me.

But once I got to the Southbank, set my case down on the floor and pulled on my fingerless gloves I didn’t feel cold. Maybe it was the adrenaline of performing, the warmth of the passers by, the coffee from my favourite cafe or my thick souled Dr. Martens (not a sponsor, I just love their shoes!) Somehow I am warm when I stand by the river and sing.

Don’t get me wrong. At the end of every song I clenched my fists and uttered obscenities under my breath, before beginning another melody. But somewhere in the middle of each note I was so completely lost and caught up in the moment that the cold was totally eclipsed. I must have those same lost-in-the-moment escapes on hot summer days, but they don’t seem quite so utopian as when I come back to my mind and notice that my toes are completely numb.

Back in December I was invited to sing at a little girl’s birthday party and I was delighted to discover that she also likes to sing (and knows my song “Streets of London” off by heart!) Six year old Hope popped by this weekend and was brave enough to step up to the mic with me and sing out her loudest “Ba ba ba ba”! I’ve got some competition, it seems!

Love,
Charlotte

Green Hat, Yellow Coat

Dear Diary,

Last week a little boy in a green hat and a yellow coat plonked himself down in front of me while I was busking. His dad and a crowd of people watched on in surprised amusement as he sat cross-legged, looking up at me.

After a short while, his dad decided it was time to make a move. When the boy would turn around with his big, beaming smile his dad would gesture; “come on, time to go now”. He wasn’t having much luck.

I struggled to sing through my laughter every time the cheeky child turned back to face me, in defiance. Members of the crowd were beginning to chuckle too.

Completely oblivious and happily enthralled, the little boy sat quietly and listened to me sing, briefly distracted by a helicopter overhead.

In his own sweet time, he got up and trotted back to his dad, protesting a little as he was picked up and carried away. “You can leave him here,” I joked, “I’ll keep him!”

A crowd had gathered to watch this quaint encounter, but that day I felt like I only had one audience member; the little green-hatted, yellow-coated cherub in the front row.

Lots of love,
Charlotte x