I’ve often thought it would be good to give busking a try. I enjoy street entertainment – as long as it’s good, of course – and I do reckon that though I’m not really that good, I good probably hold a tune enough to give people some enjoyment. And who knows, it might even earn a few pennies…

Yesterday, I put that theory to the test. Though none of it was planned…

In my home town at the moment there are a number of pianos dotted about the centre. They are available for anyone to play on at any time, and if people like you so much that they’ll put money in, well, you get to keep it.

I just happened to be passing through town yesterday afternoon. It was late, the shops were closing, but people were still drifting past. And one of the pianos was empty. I couldn’t resist.

Now, playing the piano is not one of my musical fortes. I am better on the guitar. I would probably even say my voice is better than my piano playing abilities. But it didn’t stop me. In fact, I felt I had nothing to lose. I love playing the piano, and the chance to play on a real one, even an upright, was worth it in of itself to make any kind of embarrassment from making mistakes worth it.

I just looked at the keys. I didn’t look up. That would put me off. So I tinkled and whipped out one of my favourites: a piano rendition of the Sigur Ros song Hoppipolla. To me, it sounds great, but stunted by my lack of abilities. If only I could do a bit more with my hands. More harmonies and trills on the right hand. More flowing movement, instead of the left hand being stuck, glued, to the bass notes.

But I always forget that to an outsider, a non-piano player, it sounds good all the same.

My busking earnings were a mere £4 for 15 minutes work. People came over, stopped and watched. I couldn’t look at them. I sometimes glanced up to check, but I had to look at the keys. It stopped me from being put off, and thus kept mistakes and public performance stress to a minimum. I still made mistakes, of course, but I laughed them off. This was amateur busking, but considering I haven’t played a real piano for a good couple of years, it wasn’t bad!

Most of all, I enjoyed it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If I go to town today, and the piano is free, I will have a go.

In my rather tedious life, with dull social engagement, it might just provide me with an outlet! Reckon I could do a better job with a guitar too…

Some Nice Thoughts

As England appears to be having something of a mad moment right now, with riots in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other hell-holes (including my home city…) – it’s nice that today I had a really good experience. With foreigners.

I have always been a proud Europhile. I love the EU. I love the idea of us all pulling together in the same direction. Sadly, it hardly ever works like that, but the concept is good. The idea that thanks to the EU I could work anywhere in the 27 member bloc is extremely liberating. Or, should I be a rich and powerful businessman, that I could build and sell my products anywhere in that group is extremely good.

Brits tend to forget that the reason why we can just stroll around Europe without question, holidaying where we like without having to bother with visas or other such bureaucracy is thanks entirely to a thriving EU.

It works the other way too. People from all over the EU come to the UK. Many of them visit as tourists. Others come here to work.

Today it was an encounter with a Portuguese couple that struck me as impressive. They’re very nice people. Not much older than me. They moved here, to the same town I’m in, five years ago when they were keen to get out of their country. Keen to find work and start a new life.

England provided that opportunity. They both arrived independently of one another, found each other here in the UK, now are married and are settled here. They work hard. They pay taxes. They take part in society. They take part in our culture. We get a lot in return from that – and on top we get the benefit of mixing a little different perspective, a little bit of an alternative culture, into our society. It is all the better for that.

As I talked to them I really enjoyed hearing their story. They had taken advantage of the opportunity available to them. They are here doing manual and somewhat menial jobs that us lazy English will not do. But they get rewarded well for it, and have built themselves a nice life. They seemed happy and keen to stay as long as they could. They imagined one day they might return to Portugal, but even so they weren’t sure it would be worth staying for.

I’m biased, to a certain extent. After all, they paid my bill. But through a long and tedious process, they gave me a very generous tip, because they totally appreciated how honest I’d been with them. Not that I’m never anything other than honest, you understand, but most people aren’t clever or grateful enough to realise just how honest I am. If I had been dishonest, I would have charged them £200. But I’m not – and I never could be – and charged them £40.

I’d go so far as to say that out of the hundreds of customers I’ve served, the number who have understood and valued my honesty (because us IT techs have a bad reputation) must be countable on one hand. People who know I’m being honest look after me properly and will always tip. Others look surprised, in a bad way, when I tell them the bill is £20 after I’ve worked my arse off giving them professional fixes and advice for an hour. I always know when I’m being ushered out the door as the clock approaches 60 minutes…

It was nice to feel appreciated and valued for a change.

And all it took was for two Portugeuse people to migrate to England to do so.