Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Like many people, I’ve been a little fed up with being in lockdown. Lockdown 1 felt like we were all in it together, it was novel and we were finding fun and creative ways to make use of all this time we suddenly had. Oooh! Let’s do stuff on Zoom! What a novelty! What fun! But by Lockdown 3, we were all more than over it. It’s not so much that we want to do something, but that we can’t do it. So I decided Lockdown 3.0 was going to be the ‘F*ck it’ version. I’m lucky, I’ve been working all through so I’ve not had to resort to late nights, long lie ins and PJ days, but that not drinking in the week thing? Out the window. Eat only good food? I don’t think so. Show me the crisps and chocolate…

But for a while now I’ve been missing music in my life. Not the stuff you listen to – got loads of that and it’s on all the time. But the creating of music. I normally sing in a choir so at least once a week, get to go out and sing (but not well) my heart out. But Covid has put paid to that, and though we do meet religiously online, it really isn’t the same when we are all on mute and singing to ourselves. I learned to play piano when I was kid, but you know what it’s like. You get to 16 and know everything so give it up, not considering that 30 years later you’ll be chastising your younger self. For a short while, I also, somewhat unbelievably, played double bass. I even made it into the Derbyshire County Youth Orchestra! But I think that was more a result of so few kids actually playing the bass. Goodness, it was difficult. They’re so big and the strings were so hard to hold down when you’re only a 1m54cm 14 year old! And of course, it was the school’s instrument to so inevitably that also went by the wayside. So, for a while now, I’ve been thinking how good it would be to be able to play a musical instrument again.

Well, me and Mr R live in a two bedroomed flat, so have limited space. It’s on the first floor. We have neighbours above and below, and to one side on our lounge wall. Resurrecting the piano wasn’t going to be an option then. And I guess saxophone, clarinet and drums are also non-starters. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money but it had been my birthday in early February and my lovely family had given me some vouchers which were unspent.

Long and short – I bought a ukulele!

I’d read up a bit and discovered they’re a) relatively inexpensive; b) supposedly easy to pick up; c) small and not too noisy and d) lots of fun!

My uke is an Eastrock Concert Ukulele, and already I love it! I love it!

Obviously, at present, having ukulele lessons is a non-starter so I’m having to be a bit more creative.

I always need to understand the theory of what I’m doing so I armed myself with a copy of Ukulele for Dummies (easily useable in ebook format on my tablet), which I’ve found really useful to help teach me some of the basics. I also have some music theory and reading knowledge from my piano, bass and schooldays, but definitely need more practical help., Goodness me, there isn’t half a lot of free content on YouTube! Just search for ukulele, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Of course, a lot of the content is from the US, but I’ve settled on AndyGuitar – a bloke in Leeds, where I was at university many years ago, as he’s engaging and makes it easy to understand on his Free 10 Days Ukulele Starter Course. I’m steadily working my way through – not trying to do it in 10 days straight! That would be insane! I’m confident already with days 1-4 which means I now have a pretty good repertoire of 4 chord songs, and I’m currently working hard to practice adding two new chords with lesson 5. It’s great that he provides this course for free, but I will, of course, make sure I donate to his site. I feel pretty strongly about creatives getting properly rewarded for what they do, actually.

I met my goal of being able to play (very badly) Happy Birthday to my nephew on his 8th birthday recently, which is why I’d kept it quiet till now.

I’ve barely even put a toe in the water of the online ukulele community but it seems that everyone who loves playing the uke also loves to share it and they’re a jolly friendly bunch!

My strumming needs some work and I don’t always necessarily get all the notes cleanly first time, but boy, is playing the ukulele a lot of fun! Maybe you can teach that old dog some new tricks!



Me in Lockdown 3.0

I’ve been struggling a little bit over the last few weeks, if I’m honest. Like many people, lockdown is starting to get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t especially want to go to the pub and grab a quick bite, or pop to the cinema or meet loads of people for coffee, but it’s the fact that I can’t that’s really wearing me down. I like working from home, I really do, and I’ve been super productive, but sitting in the same space, day in, day out, for 11 months now is starting to get old. And I love spending time with my choir but at the end of an 8-9 hour stretch sitting at the table in the window, I can’t say that I really want to spend another hour of my evening sitting at that same location!

I’m struggling with my weight. Pre-Lockdown 1 I’d lost quite a lot and was doing very well. That lockdown didn’t serve me well. But when that came to an end I knuckled down and got back on track and made good progress. Until we were thrown into the strongest tier 3 when I wobbled. Then came Lockdown 2 and I lost it. Then Christmas, and the 567 day dark, cold January that followed and brought us Lockdown 3. At this point, I really do look like the groundhog. I’m trying to gain control of it again but it’s hard, it’s really hard.

I’m way more fortunate than the people I know who live alone – I can’t even imagine how it is for them, and to them, I’m really sorry for whinging, I must sound like a completely self-absorbed hypochondriac!

I know I shouldn’t complain so my husband encouraged me to write a list of the things I’m grateful for. I won’t copy them all here, but I recognise that I am so fortunate and am so much luckier than some. I have my husband who I love dearly, and truly can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have murdered anyone else I’d been locked down with by now. I have a lovely home where I’m warm and safe and have enough (too much!) to eat. My family and friends, as far as I’m aware, are healthy, safe and haven’t been too badly touched by Covid. And there’s a ton of other stuff I’m not going to bore you with, however, just looking at that list is a tonic in itself!

And this week I’m especially thankful for our NHS. I’ve been super critical of the government and its handling of Covid-19, but I have to say I’m really grateful that they have handed the vaccine roll out to the NHS, funded it properly and entrusted it with delivering a truly fabulous service. When the first vaccine was approved, it looked like I would get mine at approximately the end April. They’ve done such an amazing job that last Sunday I got my first vaccine and on 10 May I’ll be having the second dose.

Hooray for the NHS!

By this Friday, every member of my immediate family who is either over 50 or in one of the vulnerable priority groups will have received their first vaccine dose. How incredible is that?

So this week, this has given me hope. It feels like there will be an end to this. I have regained control of my eating, I have made a plan, I have taken up a new hobby (nope, not telling what yet, needs to stay secret till I’m ready to talk about it!), I can see a way forward.

They say that when something is difficult, try to remember it’s only temporary and that it will pass. I’d lost sight of that completely, but the gratitude list has brought me back to my senses. Maybe 2021 isn’t going to be a complete write off, after all…