Well, on the weekend when I’d normally be at the Much Wenlock Poetry Festival, I’m going to the Lincoln Ukulele Festival instead, for a day of general jollity and thrashing at my Cordoba 15SM. For any other ukers out there, I can recommend the Cordobas as reliable; not only a sweet balanced tone but extremely durable, which is necessary when you’re carting it around and it’s likely to end up beneath a suitcase in the boot. Alas, I’m no musician – I can do the chords and make a noise, but I don’t think I’ll be taking a solo slot any time soon….
I’ve always been intrigued by instruments, yet I’m no good at playing them unless they’re the ones everyone else can do, like the recorder or the kazoo. Back at Middle School I was surrounded by friends who could play all sorts, including one who dragged a fullsized acoustic guitar around which was taller than herself when it was stood up on end. I only had a very shrill Schott recorder made from Bakelite, which wasn’t about to set the orchestral world ablaze. And I believe that a fundamental inability to do ‘proper music’ is the reason why I diverted into poetry so early on – it’s the same wish to unite sound and rhythmic ideas along with sense.
Off to Lincoln then, for singarounds and a lot of cake at the interval. Meanwhile I’ve recently acquired a new jangly little companion, a Portuguese cavaquinho. I can recommend these too, for anyone out there who likes a change from the uke – they’re not loud, but full of character, and ideal for players with small hands. It’s taken me all day to get the strings right (a common problem) but now I’ve cracked it, I can’t put the thing down.
The Much Wenlock Poetry Fest will be back next year I hope; it’s on the poetry calendar now, and run by an expert group of people who’ve gone from 0 to 60 in just a few years. One of these, the founder Anna Dreda, also runs a terrific independent bookshop on the main street, a sort of dream-bookshop with crooked stairways and wooden floors, surprising corners and a warm atmosphere. If you’re over there in Shropshire, call in and buy something, even if it’s just a card or a local map. Without the indie bookshops, without the enthusiasts giving their time, there’s no ‘scene’ for us to feel a part of when we dare to call ourselves poets.