Hello. I've done something stupid. I decided to pick up the guitar for the first time in about three years. And now my wrists hurt. So this will be a short post. Basically I loved it and couldn't stop and now my RSI has flared up. When will I learn that I can't compute AND play.
I made a video with the idea of showing progression, but not sure I'll be playing again for a while. Still, some muscle memory is there from learning this song about 15 years ago. Also, birds (what are birds?)!
Enjoy my pain, Schadenfreudsters.
There's a blackbird hanging around the garden at the moment btw – it's got a really lovely tune. Not like those great tits!
Today I am thankful for TREES! We took a trip to the next park over from yesterday's Manor Farm Park to Ley Hill to see the Giant Redwoods (!) and take a stroll around Merritt's Hill. The trees there were something else.
Also got home in time for a Zoom gender reveal on my next great niece or nephew, who is due in October. They fired a cannon with pink or blue smoke. It was quite exciting. And they are going to have… whatever gender pink is! I probably should have checked. 😉
I've been on the allotment for four hours today digging and planting chitted seed potatoes. And now I've drunk wine, only 250ml, but I can tell you, I am now floating in the sky with diamonds. Pete says I have the look of someone who has been drained by a succubus.
It feels good, though. I've done a thorough job of obliterating all thoughts about The Situation.
There shall be spuds
I nearly gave up the allotment this year. It's only an 8x15m half plot but without John, my former allotment partner who left me for another plot, it has become an eruption of grasses, plantains and weeds. Now I'm counting my blessings that I kept it on. It's like a porthole to a dimension of 'the before'.
And in 12 weeks or so, there shall be spuds.
But it's not really about the produce; it's about an activity that is simultaneously physical, spiritual and mental. The only thing that could have made it better under today's blue skies and warm southerly winds was a soundtrack.
Soundtracking the allotment
So, during the breaks, I sat on the fading foldout chair, once vivid turquoise now almost grey, poured some tea from the flask and stuck in the headphones to play a few tunes. Think:
Into The Mystic – Van Morrison
Chelsea Morning – Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms) – The Detroit Emeralds (you'll recognise the sample even if you don't know the original)
Praise You – Fatboy Slim
Five O'Clock World – The Vogues
We Can Work It Out – Stevie Wonder
Garden – C Duncan (thank you Bev for this song)
I Believe in Miracles – Mark Capanni (chill version of The Jackson Sisters)
Into The Mystic was the song that best hit the spot, with its feeling of floating in a summer reverie.
Hark, now hear the sailors cry Smell the sea and feel the sky Let your soul and spirit fly Into the mystic
I thought: how amazing would it be to write the perfect lyric to the perfect music for a perfect moment If I could do that then I would die happy.
A different time when the world ended
Which reminds me of how I came to the conclusion that music was part of the meaning of (my) life back in 2002.
It was a different era of metamorphosis and radical change, also driven by sickness and death. In the early 2000s, after Mum died and I lost my partner, I spent a year in semi-isolation because I couldn't go back to 'the before' of my life. It just felt wrong to pick up where I had left off like nothing had happened. (Will that happen after Covid-19?)
And so in 2002 I spent a year in grief-stricken limbo when I moved back to Birmingham and left my job, home and all my friends in London. After a year of thinking about what was important and fundamental to me, I came up with the following answer: music! Apart from the fundamentals of life, music was the only thing that really mattered to me and had the power to lift me out of my grief-stricken, loss-driven funk.
From that realisation I started looking for an adult education or access course and that soon escalated into doing a BA in popular music. Flashback!
20 years on … maybe this time is another precious chance to reflect on what is important in life. Because life is fragile and rarely more so than now.
I wonder if the meaning of (my) life will change again. I have a feeling that the answer will be less about me and more about us.
Today I am mostly thankful for the privilege of having some sod to dig.
I'm just in the door from clapping the NHS and other key workers for the second time. I'm sitting here waiting for Moselele's 10th birthday to start – via Zoom's online video conferencing software. (Zoom – one of the few business winners of the coronavirus pandemic.)
Who'd have thought this would be how we'd celebrate it? It'll be interesting to see how many ukenauts join in (update: 45 at one point – see screenshots below!) and how this will actually work since we are all muted but will presumably be playing along to someone. (Past recordings on SoundCloud – it worked really well.)
I went to the very first Moselele in 2010 and have had many fun times ever since, including a drunken singalong at our wedding. There's an interview on the Moselele blog from three years ago. And a big nine-year roundup on my own blog last year. I haven't attended much recently but looking forward to tonight's virtual'pub' session. Although I am running out of booze thanks to the lockdown. Gotta eek out this tiny French shitbeer.
I pity the neighbours. Maybe I'll lip sync – they'll never know.
Ukulele groups – they ain't pretty but they are pretty entertaining.
Nine years ago this week I went to the very first Moselele, set up by Daz Wright "for people who live in or can be bothered to travel to Moseley in Birmingham". Since there, there have been (*does vague maths*) 200-plus pub sessions for the players and a ton of public performances at festivals, charity events, summer singalongs, Halloween nights, Christmas light switch-ons, the golden Jubilee, Acorns Children's Hospice and several weddings, including my own (featured pic).
I don't remember much about that inaugural session apart from it was held in an officey co-working space, there were less than 10 people there, singing was hesitant and Eight Days A Week by The Beatles was the crowning glory of the night. When I say crowning glory, here's an actual recording of that first early success posted by fellow ukenaut Ian (or click image below to go to link).
We got *slightly* better when we moved to the pub…
Things were still pretty rudimentary but it was a whole lot of laughs getting it wrong and Paul's Living on a Prayer kazoo solo (in medley video) is positively audacious.
By 2013, we'd moved to our main home at the Prince. Singers with big diaphragms had arrived and made all the difference to how exactly we murdered famous songs of yore. This was amplified by the fact that those who were uncertain of tone were now free to unleash their inner rock stars, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't be ridiculed (much).
Big songs with a 'five-uke' difficulty were attempted and mastered. Instruments were swapped mid-song. Plectrums were hidden in instruments or dropped into full pints. Drunken ideas were brought to fruition – and never spoken of again. Christmas was becoming a thing to look forward to again.
T-shirts were made with slogans like 'Ukes, Beers & Counting' and 'Starts at 8 and goes up to 11' and many more. A Moselele uke – the Bambookelele – was launched.
Things escalated even further when hundreds of people started joining in at the twice-yearly singalongs.
And winter (with Snowselele now signalling the official start of Christmas)…
Sometimes you couldn't hear us playing for the crowds (thankfully, we now have Stephen on bass and James on drums to hold it all together for everyone).
And so the years went by. Friends were made and are still being made. We often celebrate each other's life events – big birthdays, weddings, shed destructions and removals. It's been quite the journey, and not just musically as you can hear, er, here.
On Thursday I attended its 9th birthday party along with 30-40 others in the usual back room of the Prince of Wales in Moseley. We played the best of each of the 10 songbooks, three songs each – essentially Moselele's greatest hits. (Daz has built up quite the song collection on the Moselele website.) Big thanks to Daz and all who work on the new songbook each year for keeping things fresh.
I recorded one of the songs – Fleetwood Mac's The Chain – to mark the event but it could have been any of the set. This clip shows off the iconic bass riff from Stephen and drums to lift it from James. It's pretty great how far we have come. As I was leaving I >think< I heard someone drunkenly suggesting a mass outing or holiday for our 10th birthday. I'm up for it… who's in?
Next big event – look out for the 2019 Summer Singalong at the Prince of Wales, usually held in July. You can also 'meet' Moselele on the blog – here's my Q&A – there are others. More Moselele mentions from me are tagged here.
I've been meaning to do the annual Harkive project and this year I'll finally got around to it, albeit a couple of days late. Here is it:
I work from home. I generally wait for a bit of editing work to come in that I can do 'with my eyes shut', which allows me to have my ears open. Around 10.30am a piece on Brexit (the 50th this week) comes in and, to take the pain away, I flip on the mini amplifier that sits amid a bookshelf of comics in the home office. I like its little neon-blue glow – and its ironic surreptitiousness, given the racket it can make.
Next step I alt-click on my laptop's sound icon. This brings up a drop-down menu of where I want the music to play. Thanks to the husband (family tech support) we can play music via wifi in most rooms of the house. I click on 'Office' and then open Spotify.