Have you ever played ukulele before?
I sat down on the high wooden stool; in my hands I held a ukulele. Not a fancy one costing you £100.00 to purchase - nor a "funky" one painted an appealing shade of blue or red. Just a standard, plain, wooden ukulele.
I made myself as comfortable as I could on what could only be described as the most uncomfortable of furniture, and then, using my worn fingernail, placing my finger on the first string; third fret, I strummed an appealing 'C Major', the first chord I had ever learnt. The baby step of a ukulele. I followed on with a series of different chords; when I played 'A minor', suddenly the mood of the harmless tune changed and I felt a pang of sadness. A single tear cascaded down my cheek.
A report card I held in my small, shaking, pale hands; I was beside myself with fear. It wasn't my fault, he was so laid-back and all he wanted was to get his month's pay and then he'd be off with not a concern about us, the ones he left behind. An agonising pain came from my behind, six-of-the-best all because I got a question wrong? It's not discipline - it's torture.
My hand shook as I knocked on the huge door standing high in front of me. From inside I heard footsteps and the creaking of loose floorboards - then the brass door-knob slowly turned clockwise and the door swung open on its hinges. In the doorway was a giant man with bulking muscles and a cigar lightly crushed between his yellowed, iron teeth. My father. He immediately peered down at me with his eagle eyes and saw my report card, slightly crumpled and ripped. He glared at my face; pale with fear, tears welling up in my bright blue eyes; my hands and knees quivering. I had a reason to be shaking like a leaf; I had a fear. Not for the implausible. A fear of my dad.
His face reddened as he held out my report card between his huge hands. In one tug, he tore the card in two, shreds of paper slowly sinking to the floor. He grabbed me by the ear and pulled me, the creaks had become deafening thuds as he stormed into the living room. He then bent me over, clenching a wooden cane in his iron fist and gave me twenty solid smacks on my behind. I struggled to cry. Only a single tear cascaded down my cheek.
I changed the tune and blinked a few times to remove the tears that were forming in my eyes. I played a jolly tune this time, as I reached 'D Major', it felt like my soul had been lifted.
I climbed the rungs of the wooden ladder and hoisted myself up and into the attic; I never realised how many boxes could be stored in such a tiny place. I searched around and I finally found the box full of Christmas decorations. I smiled as I remembered last year, the kids loved putting the baubles and tinsel on the tree. We all loved it.
I was about to descend from the attic when in the corner of my eye, I spotted something poking out of one of the cardboard boxes. A stock head and fretboard! I rushed over to the box and slowly opened the flap, there, in amongst a pile of random junk was my ukulele. It was like I had discovered treasure! I used to play ukulele so much when I was in my teenage years; I could remember being quite good at it too! I tried playing the four chords, I could still remember it all perfectly after so many years. "TWANG!" Cripes, I guess it does need tuning again...
But you know what they say? Practice makes perfect, that old cliché. Nevertheless, it was true; five months later and I was really improving. But of course, I wasn't perfect.
I smiled as I began to sing my favourite song,
"You've got a friend in me..."
The chords went like clockwork; C, G+, C, C7, F, F#°, C, C7... I felt at peace, like the world was at my fingertips. The occasional twang made the tune feel familiar. I felt like I was Randy Newman and it felt great.
I ended on C, the entire time thinking about how my life had improved - my kids were growing up, my beautiful wife and my dear ukulele. Life was good. I stood up from the stool, a pain in my backside, but minor in contrast to the whacks I received as a child. I held my ukulele firmly in my right hand and raised my arms as a huge applause came from in front of me. Thank god I went to find those decorations all those years back.
A single tear cascaded down my cheek - only this times, one of happiness.
The chords all tell a little part of my life - all bringing back memories; some fond, some which I'd rather forget forever.
But the good memories outweigh the bad ones and I've learnt that you will always remember the good times as long as you play the right chords.