Monday, 3 January 2011

02/01/2011 Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll Number 10.

As usual, the sky brightened at ten minutes to four and did wonderful things over toward Beachy Head. I got to Warrior Square in good time and spent a few minutes looking out over the low tide, starlings over the pier, the sandy beach with the dog walkers and fishermen catching lugworm, goat ledge, the gulls and turnstones.
I wasn't sure if anyone would turn up, or what I would do if they did. Eleven of us did the stroll and I wasn't quite sure what to do. All of my confidence after last week disappeared and I really didn't know what I was doing. I hadn't prepared, and I need to. I should have a plan for each contingency; it's not really my personal journey if I invite others along: that gives me an obligation.
At each stroll we have to negotiate, unsure of what is expected of each other. But we create something different every time we do it.
Except we sing the same songs! This week we sang Iko Iko, What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor, Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside and YMCA. Everyone joined in and, despite the lack of Kazoos (must always bring some in future), we had a nice time. I wish I'd introduced myself to everyone: I assumed everybody knew each other, which turned out not to be the case.
There's a few good lessons to learn for me about how to conduct the next 42 strolls.
As a footnote; after the stroll I spoke with an accordionist friend who lives above bottle alley. He told me that people have been asking about the strange 'musical noises' emanating from the alley on Sunday afternoons; are they the ghosts of old mariners or vaudevillians?
No, it's just the Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Boxing Day: the 9th Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll

Bring down your new Christmas musical instruments, hats, jumpers, roller skates, and any leftover Christmas day nosh and grog for a traditional boxing day promenade along Bottle Alley. Expect a medley of summer songs from a tired and emotional Santa!

Late again. Brought flasks of tea and coffee, thinking that there's enough drinking at this time of year without me adding to the pressure.
People were already there. New faces, and new ukuleles, a few Christmas presents. People played in the late afternoon sunlight, and, in a modest way, there was a carnival atmosphere.
There were a lot of people I didn't know at all, as well as old friends who haven't done the stroll before. After an inspection of the new ukes and the usual extended tune up, we led off with a rousing version of House of The Rising Sun. We then promenaded along to Drunken Sailor, as there were so many new ukuleleists. There was some great kazoo playing and singing and we stopped for drinks at the first bay.

Fortunately enough people had had the good sense to bring hip flasks and alcopops along to supplement my teetotalism. There was a nice buzz as people chatted and drank for 10/15 minutes until 3 of us had a little go at YMCA. So often a small group will start a song privately, reminding each other of the chords and then spreads very quickly through the group until everybody is joining in. It's a nice feeling, and a good sound. We started it again and set off along the Alley to it. People joined in with the actions and kazoo'd along the wall.

 It didn't take us all the way to the end so we finished off the last few yards with Iko Iko. A bracing rendition of 500 Miles in the dimly lit final bay brought Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll Number 9 to an end.
The remarkable thing about this stroll was that not only did I not know a lot of people; I didn't know how they knew about it. And it didn't matter. It felt natural. Everybody behaved as though the Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll on a dark December night was a perfectly lovely thing to do, nobody asked what it was all about. Or even mentioned it as a thing that needed to have come from an idea, so in a literal sense, it didn't feel contrived. I didn't have to worry about what to do. Even I didn't question what it was all about. It's taken on a life of it's own.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Bottle Alley Stroll 19/12/10

The weather always favours our strolls. After a week of bitter cold winds blowing sleet into the Pier Shop the sky cleared this afternoon and the clouds put on a display, parting to let the setting sun shoot the sort of columns of red light that I remember from my illustrated bible. The only thing missing was some gothic lettering telling us to go to Ninevah!
And for once I was prepared, I had closed the shop at two so I'd had time to fill two big flasks with hot mulled wine.

And it was a great family event, Lizz and Alex and Catherine helped with the tea trolleys and mince pies, Elaine and Neil, down from Whitley Bay brought ukulele and mince pies. The Ukulele Strollers came illuminated and everyone brought some form of festive cheer.

The Bottle Alley Elves had dressed the middle bay with tea lights, a wonderful surprise. We sang Oh I do Like To Be Beside The Seaside, What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor, Merry Christmas Everyone (the Shaking Stevens hit) and the Mexican Carol: Feliz Navidad. We even bumped into friends who were heading back from work and who joined in the stroll. A great Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Stroll #7 12/12/10

I must be getting used to this now. The tide is high and the sea is very calm. I shut up shop with minutes to spare and head down with my ukuleles.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

6 Essential Bottle Alley Links

Strolls 4, 5 and 6: A Sentimental Journey from St Leonards to Hastings

I should have started blogging from the outset. The need to record this has become more apparent as events hav unfolded. With repetition comes a certain disorientation of memory, the strolls run into one another, like childhood holidays, or dreams. This one should ring me up to date.

The 4th celebration Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll. Come along, bring a ukulele or anything you can hit, blow and strum. It may just be me and you and a half mile of concrete, glass and seaside. Or it could be a festival of seaside fun. It is guaranteed to disappoint and excite in equal measure.

I'm keen to lower expectations now. I fear the look of Why Have I Left My Cosy Home On Sunday Afternoon For This. If you come along, you only have yourself to blame. As I rush down Bottle Alley I keep thinking that this may be the first one I do alone. I suppose I'm almost looking forward to having put that behind me. Then it does become a personal oddy-sea and no-one will feel that they have to attend.

I should mention the light and the waves and the tide and the birds on the beach. As I rush down Bottle Alley I take great pleasure in the sight and sound of the sea. On the Stroll back I'm hardly aware of the sea, or of anything outside of the alley, but hurrying west the alley seems to look out more.

I'd adapted, in the usual sentimental doggeral, The Tide Is High to be about Hastings Pier. The tide is very low actually, but no matter. We sing it and the other Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll Anthems. Perhaps I should put them into a little Bottle Alley Song Book.

I decide after this not to put each Sunday as an event to invite people to.

28th November: It was a cold brisk Bottle Alley Stroll Number 5: The One Where I Forgot To Bring My Ukulele. Thanks Bev.

Can you believe that I would leave my Ukulele at home? It had been a frenetic weekend. I got to the car and realised I'd left the Ukulele at home. I borrowed Bev's and as there were only two ukuleleists there Andy and I did a little two man show. That was different.

5th December: Bottle Alley Ukulele Stroll Number 6.

Two of us parade through the concrete tunnel. Penny has a new ukulele so we have a strolling ukulele lesson in 3 chords. First section C. Second, F, Third G. No Songs. People creep in and out through the stairs to the alley and there's so much water on the floor that we have to keep single file for stretches. It's a fine cold evening on the beach the tide is low the air is crisp but that doesn't infiltrate bottle alley. the alley is much darker than outside and feels dark, sinister and dirty. We joke and we're grateful for each other's company but I'm glad when the stroll's over and we can get out of Bottle Alley.

We're up to date now.