Why ukuleles are exactly like Kettle Chips . . .
ONE of the things I find most intriguing about ukuleles is how much they're like those delicious handmade crisps made in kettles that you get nowadays. Not to look at, obviously. No crisp could be that big and curvy and gorgeous. Could it? Hmm, an interesting thought but probably not a healthy one.
Anyhow, I digress. What I meant to say is that the particular thing that makes crisps and ukes so similar is that it's impossible to stop at just the one.
The minute Mrs Cullimore opens a bag of those tasty potato treats, no matter how many times I protest that I don't want one ("No, honestly, I don't. Really, I don't even want a single one. Take them away, please.") we both know it's only a matter of moments before I give in to temptation and have a closer look at what's on offer.
Then, sure as night follows teatime, I grab the pack and dive straight into calories.
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The second that first piece of fried temptation hits my tastebuds, I'm lost. Crunch follows nibble and you can bet your bottom pfennig that face-stuffing isn't far behind. My wife assures me that it's not a pleasant sight and I'm inclined to believe her. Even Mabel the dog turns away, as if embarrassed.
It's pretty much the same thing with my collection of ukes. The only real difference is that with ukes, it's my wife who keeps on telling me I don't want one. Or rather, not another one. ("No, honestly, you don't. Really, I don't want another of those things in the house. Someone take them away, please.") But it's no use.
I just can't stop myself. For a start, there are so many different sizes and shapes to choose from.
It's just so tempting to get at least one of each, if not two or three. And then there's the various types.
You get ukes made from wood, from biscuit tins and even put together from old cigar boxes. What is a hopelessly obsessed uke-a-phile like me to do? Obviously, I'm going to try and get at least one of everything, so that my collection is pleasing.
All of which is a feeble attempt to explain how I ended up in Easton recently, chatting to a pleasant young chap called Tom. He's one half of the company Drummond & Hammett, makers of things fine, wooden and Bristolian. A friend had pointed me in the direction of their website and I'd been forced, purely in the interests of research you understand, to go and take a look at their operation in person.
Truth be told, the main thing that sent me scurrying over there was the picture on their website of their Blackjack guitar. Very nice.
It was about the same time that I held one of these Blackjacks for the first time that I discovered a brand new category of musical instrument. Locally made and gorgeous. Sigh. How did it take me so long to notice this gap in my collection?
You see, all the ukuleles I possess, and indeed most of the ukes in this country, are made far out there in the east, usually in Vietnam or China.
But Tom and his fellow woodworker Pat make them right here on our doorstep.
To be pedantic, the things they construct aren't actually ukes, they're cigar box guitars. For those of you who don't know what that means; a brief history lesson. Many years ago, poor people in America would take old cigar boxes, shove a broom handle through the middle of them and then attach some strings. This gave them a rudimentary sort of guitar which was perfect for swampy, gutsy music of the sort delivered these days by an excellent bloke called Seasick Steve.
But as Tom cheerfully pointed out to me, to turn this thing into a ukulele all I had to do was to change one string. So one thing led to another, the string was changed and within a couple of minutes I was the proud owner of a beautiful Bristolian beast. I've shown it to a couple of musical mates and they've all decided, pretty quickly, that they also need to get their hands on one of these things.
So there you have it, another big tick in the 'local produce' box.
I've had local cheese, local beer, local brandy and now, thanks to Drummond & Hammett, I've got an awesome local uke on the wall.
You know what would be just perfect about now? Something snackish, made nearby, maybe a bit crispy. Hmm, talking of which. Is one local uke enough?
Note to self: Must have a sniff around to see if anyone else is making lovely musical instruments hereabouts. A pretty little tenor ukulele would be just the thing to complete my collection. Just don't tell the wife.