les rues de France 2012 pt 1

Here begins a report of my current trip, testing the buskability of the places I go to. My first stop was in Lille, a beautiful old city near the Belgian border. I arrived there in the afternoon, and went and found my booked Formula 1 hotel. After a refreshing nap(!) I went into town and wandered about seeing where I might play the following morning, and rewarded myself with a nourishing beverage on a cafe terrace.

In the interests of economy, I then went to a supermarket and got a few ingredients with which to make a salad. I am travelling with the fixings for my world famous kayajingo salad dressing….and thence back to the hotel for supper and bed.

The next morning I went back into town and after a bit more wandering and a coffee, I set up in a seemingly choice spot and began singing. Instantly a small crowd gathered and coins began falling into my case. However, before the end of the 2nd song, there were a pair of scowling policemen gesturing for me to approach them. They explained in particularly humourless fashion that busking was only permitted unamplified; that I was not allowed to sell CDs; and that I had to move every 15 minutes! Also that they were empowered to confiscate my amplifier, and I could be fined €100.   All attempts by me to elicit a relaxing smile proved fruitless. Although I displayed not the slightest inkling to question or argue with them, they maintained their scowling and unfriendly demeanour. So….

I packed up, and as I was doing so, resolved to cross the border into Belgium for the afternoon and see if I’d have any more luck there. I had made myself sandwiches which I duly ate while driving to Tournai, about 40 minutes away…..a lovely town but with very few people out and about. Back in the car I got, and down the road to Gent I went. I parked up, walked around, found a likely spot, went and got my gear and set up. It wasnt very busy but the vibe was friendly and I played for some 30 minutes before the Gent constabulary showed up! Well at least they were friendly. The amplifier was again an issue, but also I had no permit. They were nice young guys apologising for having to do their duty. But I had to stop!

So Day1…travelling around and performing on the street regularly as I do, means you are going to have days like this. Not an auspicious start, but no damage done. I know now not to bother trying in Lille. I still have my instruments and my love of singing, and my car still works! Time to go eat and sleep and wake to busk another day….

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