The Virtual Ukelele Band

Trying to keep our spirits up during these difficult times is so important and the social isolation is going to be hard, especially for those who live alone. Even when you live with your family, being with them and only them 24/7 could be a little claustrophobic.

I’ve just found out about video conferencing with Zoom. Several choirs are using this programme to interact online – you can enjoy the uplifting activity of singing and have social contact even when you are self-isolating or in quarantine from Coronavirus.. I’m planning on joining in with one of these choirs on Friday night, but then I thought we could try something with my ukulele group.

Some of us tried it tonight. It was great fun, though not perfect. When we all played together it was a bit of a cacophony! The volume on my laptop was a long way from being in the room with the others (might be worth trying headphones) and there was a slight time delay. It worked a lot better when one person led and everyone else muted themselves. That way we were each singing along to that one lead player. Tomorrow we are going to try taking turns leading songs.

There is also a 40 minute limit on meetings of more than 3 people, unless you subscribe to the premium version of Zoom.

In between tunes we unmuted and had a good catch up. Various husbands, children and dogs joined us at some points too which was nice. One of our members got a FaceTime call from her son in London in the middle of it all so she pointed her phone at the laptop camera and we all said hello.

It was so lovely to spend some time online with my friends this way. It really cheered me up. We might even use it for our book club or have a virtual coffee morning.

Have you come up with any creative ways of dealing with social isolation?

A New Beginning

It’s been a strange sort of weekend. We were supposed to be going to a ball on Saturday, but Storm Dennis knocked that on the head. The event was to have been held in a marquee and the weather forecast was dreadful. It was simply not safe to proceed. The ball will now go ahead (fingers crossed) two weeks later the originally planned so I have two more weeks to agonise about what to wear.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Not going to the ball, like some sort of reverse Cinderella, meant that we’d be able to go to a leaving party for dear friends who are moving to Australia. This was arranged quite recently and we had our tickets for the other do, but all’s well that ends well.

Our friends, H and D, are moving to Australia this week, to join their two daughters. It’s a huge step. They have sold their home and got rid of all their possessions, staying in temporary accommodation for the last couple of weeks while they close down all their affairs here and say their goodbyes.

I’ve known them since I first moved to Northumberland 17 years ago – they moved here from Tyneside 22 years ago. We were all involved in the local drama group and have remained firm friends ever since. H and I used to have regular Friday evenings together over a bottle of wine, sometimes with our daughters around (mine is the same age as H and D’s younger daughter).

H is very creative and I’ve mentioned on the blog before that she writes, with one book , Secrets and Guardians, already published online and two more in production. I’ve worked closely with her on these on the editing and publishing process. With more work to do on these we”ll still be in regular contact.

The party was lovely and rather emotional, hosted by lovely mutual friends. Everyone brought food so we had a massive feast. There were lots of photographs taken and hugs given.

As most of the Ukeladies (as we call our ukulele group) are also long-standing friends of H and D too we decided to do a short cabaret at the party and picked a small selection of appropriate songs with a leaving/Australian theme. We only decided the set on Thursday night and had little time to practice but we did it.

After our little recital (with much raucous singing) H and D made a lovely speech about how they have loved living in the village, having such good friends and making such great memories, then the party continued into the night.

I’ll miss them very much – D is one of the kindest, funniest men I know and H is one of my dearest friends – I shall miss her vivid imagination, wisdom, and the laughs and hugs we’ve shared. I’m getting quite tearful writing this!

But to be positive! They may be far away, but I will see them again later this year. Their younger daughter gets married in October and my daughter and I are planning to go to the wedding, and take some time afterwards to have a holiday to visit other parts of Australia. It’s quite an adventure to look forward to.

Meanwhile, good luck H and D! We wish you every success and happiness in your new life in Australia.

Getting The Party Started….With a Little Bit of Christmas Crafting

The Ukeladies

I’ve had a couple of days off from blogging, because of all those getting-ready-for- Christmas jobs that were mounting up…. and the party season of course!

Our friends, K and A organised a Christmas party at the village club on Friday night. Everyone brought something for a shared buffet and the ukulele group I’m part of (The Ukeladies) played a few Christmas songs to get everyone in a festive mood. Our founder was ill and couldn’t make it but the rest of us were in good form and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We only played five short songs so nobody really had a chance to get bored!

One of the reasons Christmas prep takes me so long is that I keep getting distracted by crafting opportunities. Take gift wrapping for example. I do actually enjoy doing this and could have had it all done and under the tree days ago, but oh no….. had to fiddle about with some handmade gift labels didn’t I?

I was rather pleased with them though. Here’s how I did it.

A while ago I picked some alder twigs, with tiny cones on and lightly sprayed them white to give a frosted effect.

I also used the following, all of which I had already

  • craft wire
  • red beads (I had quite a mixture from old necklaces etc,)
  • narrow ribbon
  • tiny jingle bells
  • fresh foliage (I used some Leylandii sprigs)
  • plain brown luggage labels
  • hot glue gun

I began by cutting a 7inch length of wire and threading on three beads, moving them to the centre and twisting the wire.

I then added a bell on to the wire an arranged a small twig of alder cones and a sprig of foliage, twisting one of the wire ends round the stems to secure.

Then I cut a length of ribbon about 8 inches long and adding a small dot of hot glue to the centre to secure it to the wire-wrapped spray, tied it round in a bow. I added a tiny blob of the hot glue to secure the bow.

I threaded the remaining wire tail through the hole in a label and twisted it back on itself to the underside of the spray, making sure that the end was tucked underneath and not sticking out. Applying hot glue to the back of the spray, I then held it in position on the label for a few seconds until the glue had hardened and the spray was securely in place. Then it was just a case of adding a message to the label.

I’m pleased with the results. I’d been reading loads about how bad for the environment a lot of gift wrap is, not just the plastic foil type. Many papers have a plastic coating or glitter (which is usually plastic fragments). I found some printed brown paper wrapping in Flying Tiger that appears to have the right credentials and looks great with these labels. I have now wrapped all the presents, so that’s another job ticked off the list!

Have you been creative with your gift wrapping this year?

Silly Games and Festive Tunes

My ukulele

I’ve been playing my ukulele rather than knitting for the last few days. The group I belong to had a couple of performances this weekend so I thought I’d better do some practice.

The first one was last night at the Book Club Christmas Party. We had a bit of an informal recital (most of the ukulele group are in the book club). We have a great (and tried and tested) format for the party which we’ve been doing since we started, some years ago. It’s a good alternative to going out somewhere for an over-priced turkey dinner, and let’s face it, if you have a lot of Christmas parties to go to you can get a bit sick of eating the same thing. We have a really lovely Indian restaurant nearby. so we order a banquet selection to take away and go to the house of one of the club members to eat it. She always has beautiful festive decorations and serves mulled wine and mince pies. We always pay for her meal to thank her for being such a wonderful hostess. It works really well (especially thanks to our lovely hostess). We always have an activity too. In the past there have been murder mystery games (which involved a lot of dressing as the characters.

We had two activities this year. We’d all supplied baby photos and had to guess who they all were. The other game is a bit more complicated. Everyone had to buy the most ugly, tasteless, horrible thing they could find, value under £5, from a charity shop, then gift wrap it and bring it to the party. These were all placed in the middle of the table and we each threw a dice in turn. Anyone throwing a six opens one of the gifts. As the dice continues to be thrown in turn, anyone throwing another six after they already opened a gift must swap with another person’s gift. This continues until all the presents are opened. We then had two more quick fire rounds of the dice, where those throwing odd numbers had to swap. We then vote for the worst gift and a small prize is awarded to the winner. It’s hilarious!

Gig number two this afternoon was entertaining residents at a local care home. It was a great success and they were a very appreciative audience, enthusiastically clapping and singing along. Such a nice thing to be able to do.

Do you go to any unusual Christmas parties? Do tell us about them.