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Busking in the post-covid19 world

You may have noticed I haven’t posted for a while. Well, having finished furlough, gone back to work for a few weeks before end of summer term, then having a summer off from my normal job (not by choice – there’s no spare work, and the company hasn’t needed to cover absent drivers on holiday), I have been back out quite a few times the last few weeks getting a small amount by busking. Yes, it’s not a significant income stream, and it’s worse at the moment, but it helps to be able to cover some grocery shopping having done a few hours in town.

So how have things changed? Well, it takes longer to do some things. Public toilets often have queues (but at least several that were pay-on-entrance before are currently free). You have to be a bit more aware of leaving plenty of space. But, considering I generally previously went to pedestrianised places anyway, that doesn’t usually make much difference, except where a local shop or bank queue takes up some of the pavement. Takings are down, but, not as much down as the footfall, I think (people are putting larger coins in when they do give tips, I reckon). More people are being forced by queuing systems and outside tables to be in earshot of me for a bit longer – this seems to get me more money, including from bank staff monitoring the queues! Some people have specifically said they are glad to see me out. I’ve spread my wings a bit more, busking in Bakewell, Newark, Derby and Nottingham, as well as the previous Sheffield, Chesterfield and Mansfield. Bakewell, though small, has proved lucrative for me, though I doubt it will be worthwhile in Winter, as a lot of it is tourist footfall.

So, which instruments do I typically take? Most of you will know I have half-a-dozen. All except one come with me at some time or other, but I can usually only take 2, or three at a push, since the most economical and practical way to do things (except for my hometown) is to drive to the outskirts of a town or city, park up somewhere quiet and out of the way (and free) and walk (or take a bus in the case of the cities) to the busking point. (The one I don’t take is a small cigar-box kit one I was given that isn’t brilliant.) So, my ordinary white soprano uke or red flying-v soprano uke are often with me. Sometimes, I take my soprano banjolele. Often, my concert uke will be there for fingerpicked melody (though my tenor uke or banjolele are good alternatives for that).

What about cash? Well, since I am a bus-driver, I have always been aware of the slight potential of contamination of money. So I have always tried to remember to wash my hands after handling money and before food. I don’t handle it unnecessarily, and counting is something you can do when you get home. But I have been investigating the possible ways of accepting cashless tips for a while, including having an ability to do so via a web address for nearly a year now that has garnered nothing, but it appears that most people still want to tip cash at the moment around here. Many of the schemes have significant costs, so I won’t be going that way soon.

As in all times when you go out of the house nowadays, it can prove useful to ensure that you have a mask in your pocket, if only for when using toilets. (Don’t get me started on the idiocy of people using disposable masks here, though.)

I won’t be busking as much for a while now, though – school bus is back tomorrow.


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