I’m not usually one to have to hunt for words, but oof – where do I begin on this one? The fact this has taken me days to do should give you an idea of the trouble here (pity me). I’ve just had the most brilliant, hilarious time with a bunch of brilliant, hilarious people. Sadly most of the jokes will not translate to the written word, or to people who weren’t there so this account might be light on the belly laughs. This is not my fault, you should have been there.
Basically, the thing that happened was the uke group I’m part of zoomed up to the Central Coast for the Central Coast Ukulele Festival. That’s the short version, the long version includes the phrase “Please stop making me laugh, my stomach hurts”. This is in brief to omit the whole “I can’t go, I’ll go, nope I can’t go, yes I’ll go, NOPE” cycle inside my head. Thankfully Sue (aka Miss Wattle, who has managed to teach me some ukulele – well done her) knows how to poke a person in the spine on these things, so I went.
Did you know there’s a 4 in the morning these days? It was news to me too. Other than that piece of interesting information, the flight up was a flight. Sue, Suzie, Craig and I got on a plane, the plane went somewhere else and we got off again. The coffee was poor. Once we were off the plane, we met up with H and Gillian and grabbed a train to Tuggerah which is a huge amount of fun to say. Go on, give it a burl. Tuggerah.
As always, click photos to embiggen and click off the picture to.. well, unembiggen I suppose.
H, Gillian and Sue playing something I don’t know yet.
Sydney trains have quiet carriages. We weren’t in one, although the announcement says you can’t use your phone or chat. It says nothing about playing the ukulele. We could have got them on a loophole there, had we been in a quiet carriage.
Suzie and Craig playing something else I don’t know.
It’s a gorgeous trip from Central to Tuggerah, with the Hawkesbury River all over the place. I have no photographs of that which is unlike me. Instead of photos, just imagine me waving my hands around looking blissed out and muttering “gorgeous, gorgeous”. It’s just as good.
I’m trying to make this not incredibly long winded and wordy, but it’s tricky because so much fun stuff happened I want to shove it in your face and be all “Look, look at this fun thing that happened!”. At which point you’d say “Yeah that sounds okay” and I’d roll my eyes and say “You had to be there”.
Once we’d arrived at the accommodation and walked around a little bit shell shocked (Pro tip: If you’re staying at El Lago in the Entrance, don’t pack a blacklight. It just doesn’t bear thinking about), we polished up and headed to the dinner and show. There wasn’t room at the PHUC table for everyone, so Craig got to be picked on the whole night by me on the next table. I bet this was a genuine thrill. I didn’t take as many photos as I should have, and those I did take didn’t really come out so great, but here’s one for your eyeballs.
The Nukes just prior to making me fall over laughing.
Of course The Nukes were brilliant, and Rose Turtle Ertler was captivating. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember the names of the other performers as I’d been awake for 9 years at this point. I’ll take notes next time. The smokers balcony was a good networking place, where Suzie and I met Anne from the Central Coast Ukulele Club. Anne was beyond lovely, even offering her hotel room shower to us once we mentioned our villas didn’t come with hot water (long story). We didn’t take her up on this, but it was a sweet offer.
I don’t mean to brag, but my mattress was pretty comfortable. So was Sue’s. We clearly got the VIP room. Everyone else was sleeping on springs, rocks and “hard people”. With a spare bed in our room, I handed Suzie a spare blanket. She came back 30 seconds later and knocked plaintively on the door for another one. You can’t say no to Suzie, she does excellent sad puppy eyes.
After a fucking massive breakfast of pancakes and a coffee slightly smaller than my head, we wandered off to Norah Head to rehearse for our set on Sunday (wait for the dramatic twist there). Chris had been away from the group for a few months and I generally have no idea what I’m doing, so rehearsing was a most excellent idea. We found a wonderful park overlooking the water on a beautiful not-too-hot day. Not too shabby, as a rehearsal space.
Left to right in the above photo: Frances, Sue, Kate, H, Gillian, Marjan, Suzie with her back to you (rude), Helen, Chris and David. On a personal note, this was really fun as my anxiety had been left on a bus somewhere and I was feeling pretty good about the whole playing in public thing. After a lunch stop, we headed for the festival.
Sadly, due to a recent cyclone, the venue for the festival wasn’t the waterside parks. The whole thing was shifted to the local RSL, which must have been bitterly disappointing for the organisers. It’s an okay venue for an RSL, but a bit hot and closed in for me. As you’re fully aware by now, all Ukulele Festivals should be designed for my comfort and no one elses. I’m actually, now I think about it, unsure about the order of events for Saturday as I’d been up early and therefore my brain was a bit spongy. I’m sure someone will correct me though.
Aaaaanyway, we passed a fun afternoon at the Diggers and I passed out a pile of felt moustaches I’d made for the World Record Attempt. People seemed to enjoy those which is good as I’d had fun making them. Remember the dramatic twist from before? Yeah here it comes – Sue had snagged us a slot for the Saturday night. “Oh yay!” I said, as all the feeling ran out of my legs, my anxiety got off a bus and jumped on my face and I wondered if it was too late to grab the train back to the airport. It was, so I hardened the fuck up and prepared. That is a complete lie, I was a jelly for hours.
David, Me, H, Craig, Marjan, Helen, Chris, Sue, Frances and Kate.
One of the moustaches ended up on David from the Nukes. You can touch my hand if you like. You might also want to touch Craig’s hand as he shook hands with the one and only (thank god) Lucky Starr, who was a better MC than my pet leech would have been, but not by much. After 4 rounds of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, the record was recorded and we could scuttle back to the villas to shine up.
My absent legs were not helped by the fact we were playing a song called Cape Reinga Way in front of the people who originally wrote and recorded it. That, as a newbie uke person, still makes me say “Wait, what?”. Mind you, so many things make me say that. The only other bit I fully remember properly is Sue saying “You’re not a virgin anymore!” as we departed the stage. The rest of it is a bit of a blur, but I am 90% sure I was playing the same songs as everyone else at the same time. There’s video to come, so we’ll find out later. Okay, 85% sure then.
Sunday morning dawned rainy, but the day fined up later. You care. Since we’d done our setlist the night before, there was a new one for Sunday. We ran through these on one of the smoker’s balcony because our time was shifted around a lot and friends of some of the group had arrived to watch. Being a newbie, I didn’t know most of the songs (and, in fact, still don’t). Although I’d air-uked on a couple the night before, I think there’s only so much fudging you can get away with. I planned to not go on at all, but Sue said I could slip off stage after the one I knew if I liked so I did that instead. I’m actually really glad I did because I haven’t had a chance to watch the PHUCers since the Melbourne Ukulele Festival and they’re awesome. Can you believe I’m allowed to hang out with these guys? I can’t! I’m a lucky lady (but not a lucky starr…). The last song was “Stay a Little Longer” which was so good I teared up.
I heart these PHUCers.
Then it was pretty much done. David had to shoot off, as did Frances. The rest of us ended up at the pub for dinner with Liz from Central Coast Ukulele Club, her husband, the Nukes and Rose. I had planned to just nip to the cafe thing near the villas but I’m glad I went to the pub. Which is probably not a statement I’ll ever make again, but there you go.
After the meal, we wandered back to the villas where I slipped out for a smoke and then found my keycard wasn’t working. Sue had gone to bed and so I couldn’t get in to the villa. This lead to a whole chain of events which isn’t even clear to me now, and was no clearer when Suzie was explaining it to random old women on the bus the next day. Suffice to say, I couldn’t have grabbed a spare bed in Craig’s room as Suzie was in there which she wasn’t but she should have been because H had stolen her pillows by then anyway, but it’s lucky H was up to call reception for me because otherwise I’d have grabbed Suzie’s bed, on the basis she was in Craig’s room, which she wasn’t, but that would have got crowded. Then again, I’m quite pillowy and it would have made up for the whole H being a pillow thief thing.
We trundled back to Melbourne on the Monday, a bit worn out and scuffed at the edges but I think we all had fun. I know I did.
Things I learned travelling with PHUC:
It’s a fine line between a giggle and a guffaw.
If you walk your dog past a group of dog owners who are missing their dogs, you will be swamped by said dog owners.
It takes a lot of surgeries to look like Justin Bieber.
Baristas will decline marriage proposals, no matter how fervent.
There are few things funnier than an elegant lady with grey hair saying “PHUC” loudly on a crowded bus.
It’s easier to live a rock and roll lifestyle if your hotel rooms come pre-trashed.
Worms in the ground make a shuffling sound.
If you end up laughing till you can’t breathe, expect no mercy. This is especially true if two people are keeping score as to how often they make you laugh.
There’s always grant money available.
Even a picnic table that’s hard on the arse can be a good time.
Thanks for letting me come and play, PHUCers!