Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive 12 - 26th June - All We Need is Love and Understanding

All We Need is Love and Understanding

This hostess is not happy! I am feeling decidedly sorry for myself. Snapping at the family (nothing new there maybe) and effing and jeffing a little bit more than usual. A proverbial bear with a sore head. I've been told that if you talk about things though - get them off your chest - then that's half the battle so here goes:

Last week I chipped a tooth when eating a mouthful of watercress - I kid you not! Great - I HATE going to the dentist. I got an 'emergency' appointment for Friday thinking that it'll just be an easy filling job. 

"Ooh yes you've really cracked the tooth there ... the position it's in is going to make it quite difficult to fill but we can give it a go" said the dentist. I should have just nodded in agreement BUT imagine the horror upon hearing the following words spill out of my mouth: 

"I can see this just becoming an ongoing problem - just take it out if you want'!!! 

"WTF?!?!" said my inner voice. "Did you really just say what I think you just said?". Well yes it seems that I did because before I knew it the needle had gone in and I heard those fateful words "just go and sit in the waiting room whilst your mouth goes numb". Never mind my mouth I think my brain had gone numb. So surprised was I that I started shaking, felt dizzy and rushed to the loo to burst into tears. "That's quite normal", said the receptionist as she ordered me a glucose drink and a glass of cold water; "It's the adrenalin". "Don't worry" said the elderly lady sat next to me. "I had one out last month - it was over before I knew it". 

Well it wasn't over before I knew it - it took a good 20 minutes of knocking, wiggling, cracking, pulling, pushing, jaw-breaking trauma. That tooth was not happy about coming out and hung on for dear life. I felt like I had just been beaten up - and still do two days later. The pain is constant, despite taking the most pain killers I have ever taken in my life, and I am truly pissed off. PLUS I had to pay for the privilege! 

The thing about relating pain to others is that you just can't can you? They can never know how much it really hurts because they can't feel it. There's an angry looking hole in my mouth but nothing on the outside shouts "PAIN" - no bruising, no swelling, no blood - just a face like a smacked arse. I personally just wanted to curl up in bed for a couple of days, get asked if I was OK, if I needed some ice cream or soup perhaps, or a hot water bottle or a cuddle - these kind of things are what help a soul recuperate. But because I look okay it was business as usual but with a really bad temper - even worse than normal! 

So it got me thinking about invisible diseases and mental health and how hard it is to convey to people how you feel inside when for all intents and purposes you look fine on the surface. My pain will get better - it bloody better had -  but there are many many people out there who are suffering inside from debilitating illnesses and mental health issues who, because they look fine on the outside are assumed to be fine on the inside. These are illnesses that rule people's lives - their work and social lives suffer and they find themselves all too often stigmatised because of them - labelled hypochondriac, lazy, miserable, unsociable ...  And these folk don't necessarily want to draw attention to their illness but at the same time they need empathy to help them deal with it. All too often humans find themselves running out of empathy when it is really one of the easiest things to give - you don't have to do anything - just understand that's all. It's not a finite resource that can only be sparingly given for a day or two. It's something that should just spill out of our hearts unquestioningly and for as long as it is needed. 

It can be as simple as this - swapping these attitudes:

With these:

Pat and I have a lot of time for mental health, in particular, which is why we choose to support MIND as one of our charities for the Summer Strum. - 'For a Better Mental Health'.

Mental health care has come a long way with the development of psychiatry and psychology giving medical folk more understanding of how our minds work. Organisations like MIND work to increase public awareness and understanding about mental health issues, aiming to ensure that nobody has to face mental health problems alone or live with the stigma that is all too often associated with them. They offer information and support through groups and helplines and campaign tirelessly to highlight issues such as workplace stress, debt and depression and victimisation as a result of mental illness.

It's not that long ago that women, in particular, were being thrown into mental asylums for all manner of reasons that are now understood and attributed to such wonderful conditions as post-natal depression, PMT, menopause and my two favourites "fecking sick of doing EVERYTHING around here" and "I've had a tough week, pass me the gin" - ah the joys of womanhood ... 

I am sure most of you will have seen the list compiled from the admissions books of a Kentucky asylum in the 1800's but I'll post it here anyway. There's a few I could put a tick next to! Happy reading. And next time someone looks a bit glum just put an arm around them and ask them if they are okay and whatever comes out just offer them your ear and your compassion and understanding. 

I'm going to knock myself out with some extra strong painkillers and try to just 'bloody cheer up' tomorrow! Mouth pain and work - a heady combination :-) Steer clear! 

SUPPORT MIND and Wirral Hospice St Johns at this year's Summer Strum Ukulele Festival - all profits and all raffle proceeds are split between the two charities.

Em and Pat xxxx

Monday, 12 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #11 - 12th June 2017 - Welcome to the Family!

A New Family Member?

Why is it that one is never enough? Take red wine for instance - you buy a bottle telling yourself that you'll only have one glass with your tea, despite the voice in your head mocking you - "yeah, right, how many times have I heard that!". Then you finish that glass and it is just not enough. You have one more and then before you know it the bottle has been polished off between the two of you, leaving you relaxed on the sofa heedless of the muzzy head coming your way in the morning. If you had another bottle you would probably open it - let's be honest! Thank god we hardly ever do!

Yeah, you guessed it - it has been an alcohol fuelled weekend ending with the age old question "why?!" and the 'promise to self' of "never again!" :-/ We went to stay at the in-laws which always means a guaranteed babysitting opportunity and it was never the intention to have just the one - we planned on getting a little tipsy. It was a great night - playing pool, feeding coins into the jukebox and discussing politics surprisingly very little! Until, that is, the point where you make that decision (the other side of the double-edged sword) to have just one more - 'one for the road' ... that last drink that just tips you over the edge of 'just enough', ensuring you an appointment with the big white telephone (not me! I just slipped into a coma and woke up 6 hours later with a shovel planted firmly through my skull!). 

"Goddamn it - it's always that last beer!" No S**t! 

Not sooo bad if you could lie in bed for hours the next day; but not so good when you have a dinner date with the whole family to celebrate your mother in law's birthday :-) A heady mix of pain, nausea, loud children, polite conversation, big plates of food ... a proper family affair where you need to be awake, alert and able to make stimulating conversation! Well I managed the first one - just! 

Will we ever learn? It's doubtful! 

During my hungover state I made a decision - that I must get myself a new electro acoustic ukulele - a soprano. Inner dialogue as follows: "Why? You already have a concert one" - "I know but when they put the screw in, so that I could attach a strap, they did something to the connection". "Well why don't you get that fixed instead?" - "Yeah I know but I'm not sure where to go and there might not be anything they can do and I need one for the Summer Strum which is only in four weeks and besides I like my soprano acoustic so I think I want a soprano EA". "Well why don't you just borrow Tom's like you always do?" - "Well it's just that I am not used to playing Tom's in between gigs and I would like to have one of my own that I am used to playing". "Why don't you just stick one of those external pickups on the acoustic one?" - "well, people say its not as good and that plugging straight in makes a better sound". "Well - it sounds like you have made up your mind and I won't be able to change it. It's not like you have enough ukuleles hey*?" *sarcastic tone

Yes - like most ukulele players I have a little library of ukuleles (one in every size!) secreted around the house! You never know when the urge will come over you! Sometimes I forget I even have them so when I come across one it's a lovely surprise! Got to have these pleasures in life haven't you? One is definitely never enough when it comes to ukuleles!

It's not that I am even very good at playing the ukulele (I'm a blower by trade) so to have so many is often a struggle of conscience! But they are so pretty and it's not like I ever spend a vast amount on any of them and I usually function on a one in-one out basis. My first one was a purple Mahalo I got for Xmas; then I bought myself a slightly nicer sounding wooden Mahalo for £40 odd. These have since both gone to another home with the hope of encouraging a friends' kids to take up the uke. I also bought a BUG uke which, despite its cuteness, I didn't like playing so I donated it to a charity raffle for Cystic Fibrosis (*virtuous*). 

So my current collection consists of:

A Laka soprano - the one I play the most. I bought it as a xmas present for my father-in-law with a view to encourage him to learn to play. But it sounded soooo lovely I couldn't part with it! Listen - he got tickets to the golf Open instead which wasn't a bad alternative and, to be honest, probably more appreciated. Imagine - that little Laka would be sitting neglected in a cupboard now if I hadn't rescued it! A caged uke cannot sing!

A Lani Concert Electro-Acoustic - a Xmas present from hub and VERY pretty! But like I said - it was damaged the moment that screw for the strap went in. Sounds lovely unplugged though. Any recommendations for ukulele fixers please send my way and I promise I will sort it! 

A Clearwater plastic Concert - played it twice. Anyone want it? One in - one out! 

A Makala Tenor (donated by my Uncle Bob - yes, Bob is my Uncle!).

Makala Baritone - I bought a cheap one to see if I liked the size and sound. As it happens I do! If it was electric I would definitely play it more! Santa - get looking! 

And my newest baby - an Ozark Banjo Uke. I bloody LOVE it! If I could get away with it it would replace my Laka as most played on stage! It just looks so rock n roll man! I don't care what it sounds like!

Here is a family portrait. Ahhhh: 

All that's missing I guess is a sopranino but I will draw the line there. If I was Andy Eastwood or Joe Brown then yes, maybe, but I'm not and will never be!! That's my Gretsch Parlour Guitar in the background by the way :-) Now that is a thing of beauty!

Anyway I have a £100 budget (that's not too over the top is it?) for a new EA ukulele and am willing to go slightly over. So it's a toss up between one of these two: 

To the left - a Laka VUS50EA - as I say, my acoustic soprano is a Laka and it has a beautiful tone :-) But does this necessarily mean that an electro version will have the same properties?

Or a much prettier Kala KA-SEME to the right? I have never played one before but I do like the way it looks :-) 

So if anybody could offer some learned advice this week I would be very grateful. 

Yes - a new soprano EA to complete the family! And then "no more" I promise. When I had my second child I said THAT IS IT! I said it exactly like that - in great big shouty capitals! NO MORE! I still only have two children so that proves I can say "No More" and mean it!! Just not when it comes to alcohol clearly!

I hope I get to introduce you to my latest family member at the Strum. In the meantime please post your family photos on the Strum Facebook page. Ooh - and btw we are thinking of setting up a trading post at the festival - literally a post on which you can stick/pin/staple ukuleles/instruments (well pictures of them - don't nail a ukulele to the post!) you want to sell/swap/give away to better homes. Bring your adverts (no bigger than A6) with a photo and contact name/number and see if you can strike a deal. 

See you next week

Em & Pat xx

Monday, 5 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #10 - 5th June 2017 - a big ball of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

The Secret of Time Warping is Teamwork

Aagghhhh! There are just not enough hours in the day. I have what I have wished for for so long - a three day weekend and whilst the Strum organisation is in full swing it has been a true godsend. For now Monday has become my full-on Summer Strum day, or as I now call it my "sit on my arse in front of a computer screen or three (if the ipad is out as well!) day. Last Monday I sat on my arse for literally 7.5 hours. I then got up and spent 15,000 steps walking the long way round to a friend's house to collect the boys! I nearly killed myself it was so hot! Today I have sat on my arse for a little less (5 hours but counting - actually I am standing up at the kitchen counter right now). I will try to write a moderately entertaining missive between now and cooking tea, have a bath and then go to uke practice. Sorry kids - you'll have to entertain yourselves ... at least there are no after school clubs to go to on a Monday - phew - every cloud!

What have I done in those 5 hours and counting? I was going to time how long I took just sitting around waiting for websites to load, for computers to switch on, for documents to save, for photographs to upload but I figured that would be a bit sad! It was a lot of time btw! Well - today I are be mostly (sic *Fast Show*) sorting out the Festival Programme: writing copy, finding photos, chasing folk for bios, chasing other folk for advertising - if you know any local businesses that you think could benefit from an advert please feel free to push them in our direction**! It is all coming together nicely and is a job well done so far :-) I just wish there were more hours to get it well and truly ticked off the list.

Can you believe where the time goes? It's June already and the 5th of June at that! Five days have elapsed since the month changed from May to June! I know that's how it happens but why does it have to happen so quickly? That means one month and 2 days until we blast into action and pull off another fabulous festival! My planner says ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE and that's just what we will be doing between now and then.

I am just so glad that Pat and I don't have to do all this alone! Because, you know what? We couldn't ... there are just not enough minutes in the day! So a hugemungus (made up word) thank you to you folk who have helped out with all this -  designing, tweeting, facebobbing, emailing, bike deliveries - you are all truly wonderful human beans (and shouldn't truly be spelt with an 'e'? Truely - it looks so much better!). We cannot express how much we appreciate you.

If I could have a super power it would be a mash up (cos I like a mash up, me) between altering time and SuperSpeed(TM). Between the two I could get all the mundane jobs out the way quickly, then expand time so that everything that needs to be done for the strum gets done in a timely and meticulously-organised fashion (instead of repeatedly saying stuff like "oh bugger we didn't get those flyers printed again". I would create bigger pockets of time to practice the ukulele (!!), exercise (would I though?), plan lovely things to do with the kids, see more of my family - all the stuff that takes back seat to the mundane. Of course I would get to pick people to enjoy this time warping with me because where's the joy of doing everything by yourself? I like my own company I really do but there's a beauty in teamwork - triangulating problems and ideas, brainstorming over a drink or two (that, of course, is not how the Summer Strum is organised! No sir!). Together, with the right team, is the only way to get stuff done well and we are super lucky to have a damn fine team of folk working behind the Summer Strum scenes :-)

So there is one last bit of teamwork we want to ask of you ALL this month - pretty please. Can you shout about the Summer Strum wherever you can - if you need flyers to hand out or posters to put up please holler and we'll get some to you. The more people that know, the more people will come to listen to you play, will come and buy things from the hard-working craftspeople selling their wares, will attend the workshops (more on these soon); will buy raffle tickets and pop their spare change in the charity buckets. By working together as a great big team let's make this Summer Strum the busiest yet where we make everyone feel welcome and part of something bigger :-)

That's all I have time for folks! My tardis awaits - see you next week xx

Em and Pat xx

**We are now offering a quarter page for eating establishments that wish to offer a voucher for all you hungry Summer Strummers.