When the house is finally still at night-time, I surreptitiously boot up the computer and, after checking over both shoulders, click into online forums to communicate with like-minded enthusiasts. I visit specialist shops in the worst parts of town where the attendant nods discreetly as I slip into a familiar back room which holds the more unusual publications.
Yes, I can admit it now – I play the ukulele.
My quaint enthusiasm to what you might think of as a mere toy more than a musical instrument, a comical four-stringed ‘miniature guitar’ drives men like me to huddle together in cyber communities, exchanging the chords for the latest Vampire Weekend single or showing off a blue-grass strumming technique.
It’s a lonely life.
As Billy Connolly once said of the banjo, you never overhear a lusty-eyed woman in a bar lean into a friend and whisper: “See that guy with the banjo? He’s coming home with me tonight.” Rarely too, when someone asks, “Wow, whose car is that!?” is the answer: “Oh the Bugatti? That’s the banjo player’s.”
It’s not a dissimilar tale for the uke.
“Gwat has dish to glooo wick sporth!? I hear you splutter impatiently, dear reader, as bits of milky cornflakes speckle the breakfast bar. Well, like a rare wild truffle or senior All-Ireland medals in the county of Mayo, us ukuleleists are thin on the ground. Therefore, I’m compelled to, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, jam online – using the free video-call software, Skype – with a greying middle-aged man who lives in a charming wood cabin on the Pacific coast of Oregon.
I thought of my pal (who’ll remain nameless because (a) I don’t know if his wife knows he plays ukulele with a red-raw Irish fella on the internet while she’s out at work and (b) If he Googles himself he’ll get an awful shock to be in the Examiner) earlier this week when Irish rugby’s two maestros Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll – presumably Paulie has forgiven his skipper for tripping him with his head in Twickenham – both tweeted about a special treat they enjoyed in camp.
Legendary balladeer Christy Moore offered the squad a private performance in their Dublin hotel on Monday night. Drico even revealed that he was allowed ‘to murder’ City of Chicago. There’s better men crashed on the rocks of that tricky second verse, BOD. Anyway the reason I bring it up is because the only Irish artist my friend in Portland ever name-checked during our scratchy video calls was Christy. A man who, he appreciated, has built a career on great tunes, an unapologetic political awareness and sweat – plenty of sweat.
You get the feeling actually, given his earthy and creative credentials that Christy would ordinarily, like a lot of us, have a lot of sympathy for the body-swerving, coke-smudged face of Welsh rugby. But probably not tomorrow.
Michael Moynihan of this parish conducted a great interview with Jamie Heaslip last week that was more Smash Hits than Sports Illustrated with the back row revealing a grá for the likes of Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine and my main dude Dizzee Rascal. All right up my street I must say.
But what Heaslip did not mention is that he ‘put his hand up’ and ‘backed himself’ as the oval ball fraternity insist they do and asked the bould Christy to give us a few bars of Dizzee’s modern classic ‘Bonkers’ after he finished up the Lakes Of Ponchartrain.
We can now reveal here that rather than singing that or indeed Dizzee’s breakthrough track ‘Dance Wiv Me’, Christy penned a special song for the rugby lads. Below it is reproduced, in part. (Heart stopping guitar intro that goes on a bit as he, introduces the song with a story about a wild horse on the Curragh, the 1993 Rose of Tralee and David Campese)
“Oh, Jedward are on the Sky box pulling out the stops,
Joe Duffy’s on a mission, closing down the head shops
there’s a fella from Offaly in charge in Washington,
but Deccie can’t decide between O’Gara and Sexton”
“Now, the Celtic Tiger’s been and gone, it must have been a dream,
Bertie’s on a book tour, he was last seen down in Sneem,
Joxer packed the van for Jo’Burg, he fancied a safari
But Henry stuck the hand out in Paris, and called him a taxi
Yeooow! [Tommy Bowe can’t help but grab the mic]
Singing, oooh Lansdowne Rd, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne Rd
Oooh Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne Rd
Don’t forget your shovel if you want to build the Aviva,
Croker’s closed again, so you better get your 10-year corporate ticket, I’m tellin’ ya
Oooh Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne Rd... ”
It probably needs a bit more uke, Christy. But it’s as good as Ireland’s Call already.
* Contact firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @adrianrussell.