Wham Spam thank you Ma’am and Aloha from Hawaii………

I had wanted to go to Hawaii as much as the Pope loves to break communal bread.  I was infatuated with Hawaii long before I actually visited and this was due to watching those wonderful Elvis Presley movies, three of which were set and filmed in Hawaii.  ‘Blue Hawaii’, ‘Paradise Hawaiian Style’ and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’……..

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On a Saturday afternoon in the early 1970’s……….wait, what!  I know, hold on to your hats kids because that would make me how old!  I would venture to the Wintergarden Theatre in old my home town for the ‘Elvis Matinée’.   I loved the Wintergarden.  It was my escape from everything and those Saturday afternoons meant the absolute world to me.  An Elvis musical, a balcony seat, Jaffas and McMahons Sars were bliss to a young girl who lived in a south-east Queensland coal mining town.

Is it any wonder I was so mortified when the theatre was demolished in 1979 giving way to the construction of one of the most unattractive buildings ever conspired and lord, do not get me started on Cloudland!!   Isn’t it funny how you can fret with nostalgia for something lost so long ago……………

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‘The Wintergarden’ – Image courtesy of ‘The Fashion Archives’………

Anyway, back to wonderful Hawaii where there really is nothing more comforting than the smell of coconut oil, rum and frangipani leis.  Plus your drinks come with pretty paper parasols, cocktails are served in tiki heads and happy hour isn’t just limited to one hour.  Hawaii is also the perfect place to buy a ukulele and if that’s not enough, you are completely surrounded by ocean and the days are as sunny and bright and as warm as the locals.

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What I admire too is that Hawaiians have a deeply profound respect for their culture which dates back centuries and they have an unshakable connection to their land and to the ocean.  They are also full of that wonderful aloha spirit……

On Kuhoi Beach in Waikiki you will see an amazing 9 foot bronze sculpture honoring ‘Duke’.  Duke Kahanamoku is one of Hawaii’s greatest hero’s.  He was a true master of all water-sports including surfing, swimming and outrigger canoe paddling and he was a medal winning Olympian.  He is also known as the ‘father of modern surfing’ who spread the beautiful spirit and sport of surfing around the world.  Now that’s my kind of guy…….

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They also have a great saying in Hawaii which is, “Eddie would go” and for some, it is a heartfelt belief to live by.  What it simply means is ‘be brave, courageous and look out for others’ which I find to be a lovely sentiment of humanitarian beauty.  Eddie Aikau was a big surf rider and by big I mean the waves that exceeded 30 and 40 feet.  In an heroic yet tragic event, Eddie died whilst saving others and fittingly, there is an invitational big wave surf contest held each year in his honor called the ‘Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau’.  And this event will not be held without of minimum of 20 foot waves!  Yeah!!

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Hawaii is a colourful, vibrant and energetic place and fascinatingly (or perhaps not) this island nation loves its Spam!   So popular is Spam that I actually believe Hawaiians may consider it a food group and you will also find Spam on the menu at Burger King (Hungry Jacks to us Aussies).  The good people of this American state consume more Spam than any other state or country in the world with just over 7 million cans being opened per year.  Do also bear in mind there are only 1.4 million people living on the islands!   And if you have a hankering for Spam sushi or Spam musubi then Hawaii is the place to be.

The Aloha State is also the big kahuna when it comes to pineapple production!!

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Paradise can get very busy and at times very touristy and you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with holiday-makers and sight-seers but fear not.  There are many places to get away from it all and you will find these little quiet spots of tranquility.

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If you do want to get amongst it though and mix it with the locals and the tourists, then ‘Dukes’ could be the place for you.  I really like Dukes………a lot!  And you have to admire their motto which is ‘no shirt! no shoes! no problem!’ 🙂   From Dukes you can watch the ocean, see a sunset, admire the monolith that is Diamond Head and people watch.  You can chow down on some very good surf and turf, develop a taste for Kimo’s chocolate hula pie or just sip a very good Mai Tai from a tiki head and shimmy……..which I highly recommend you do.   They have live bands and a music collect from ABBA to the Velvet Underground so grab a seat at the bar and enjoy.  Dukes is located on Kalakaua Avenue Honolulu at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.

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During the 1970’s there were some great TV shows produced and one of those was Hawaii Five-0.   It first screened in 1968 and in the opening scenes, Detective Steve McGarrett played by Jack Lord, is on a balcony of a unit block and guess what.  That iconic unit block is still standing, is still in use to this day and here it is……..

Right about now you probably have that memorable theme tune running through your head………..oh and its a cracker so you are most welcome 🙂

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Hawaii is fun and its casual.  A sarong and thongs – ‘rubbah slippahs’ (rubber slippers) – are perfectly acceptable attire and the place just makes you smile.  There are many parts of the islands still unspoiled by tourism and high-rise development and these areas of wilderness and beauty are synonymous with Hawaii.   Towering and ruggedly handsome mountain cliff tops, those massive thunderhead cloud formations, the active volcanoes glowing with lava and acres of lush green sacred landscape that run right to the edge of that glorious Pacific blue.

**While in Hawaii we visited the historic ‘Pearl Harbour Memorial Sites’.   I will write of that trip separately as I believe these solemn and dignified memorials deserve the respect and honor of their own blog post.

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Hawaii will enchant you with the islanders love of the ukulele, Spam, ‘Duke’, shaved ice, pidgin, outrigger canoes and surfing.  This tropical paradise may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’d like to think perhaps most of us would rather be a good slug of rum in a Mai Tai than a cup of tea any day………..xx

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Part II – Pearl Harbour……..coming soon x

 

 

Ukulele Baby…….

It was a cold and grey Spring morning that broke with an awful lot of rain squalling about.  Perfect weather for ducks and for the potted herbs and plants I am growing on the balcony but not so much for skulking around in.  Now normally on a Saturday morning if the weather is like this, and unless I was going outrigging, I would have had little desire to get out of my warm bed but in another part of Newcastle, a lovely ray of sunshine was about to break and it was called the Newkulele Festival.

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This is a festival dedicated entirely to the ukulele.  How perfectly wonderful because apart from my passion for yodeling and velvet paintings from the early 1970’s, I also adore the ukulele.  I have owned a uke for many years.  Even before it was hip to do so.  When I first became acquainted with this dear little accoutrement I felt as though I had run a marathon, eaten an entire block of chocolate and simultaneously met the love of my life…….which it turned out I had!

I find the ukulele charming and it’s a lot of fun.  It is quite easy to learn to play as there are only four strings so once you master the basic chords along with a bit of basic strumming technique, you are pretty much on your way.   Thing is, it does require a little skill and a lot of practice to play the ukulele well.

I am not often one to acknowledge my abilities however I do recognise my once barely there playing skills have improved considerably over the years.  I haven’t had lessons but I do have a handbook and I also watch the occasional video on YouTube about playing.   I just prefer to noodle away on my own, often in the company of Zoe, or I’ll strum along to a tune or ten which crackle out from my old transistor radio set to the Golden Oldies station. I even wrote two songs on my ukulele.  Hey, I never said they were good.  The first one I wrote about 10 years ago was for Gus and the other was a little jazzy number about insomnia.  I should point out I cannot sing.  I have the most terrible voice and I am, for the absolute life of me, unable to hold a tune or sing in key.  Mere technicality though.

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This is how I think I look playing the ukulele…….

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This is probably how I really look……..

The Newkulele Festival ran work shops for beginners to advanced players, singing and harmony sessions, finger picking, ukulele arranging, swing hokum and ragtime lessons, rock and roll and simple chord progression.  You could even book in to make your own ukulele.  There were stalls and market stalls where you could try out and buy a new uke.  I mean really, why have one when you could have seven.

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There was a youth stage and a main marquee for day and night gigs which saw some of the best of local and international acts.  Ukulele teachers shared information, lessons and strumming secrets and then there was my favorite.  The open mic.

No doubt this was the best part of the festival for me.  A ‘first timers session’ where everyone, no matter who they were or what their level of skill got up and performed.  Egos, worries and hipster attitudes were all left at the door and everyone in the bistro bar at the Newie Jockey club just rooted for each performer.  Don’t you love the power of positive and encouraging attitudes.  Stray cats, alley cats, hep cats, stolen kisses, rainbows, original songs and covers, a little base a little blues and little rock and roll, love and riptides were all strummed plus there was even a moment of yodeling.  Oh happy days!

You know, sometimes I can feel a little like a five-legged pony in a field of thoroughbreds and I would dearly love to have had the confidence to get up and play.  I don’t nor have I ever performed with other ukulele players, for others or in front of others with the exception of my cats so therein lies a slight problem.  Who knows though, perhaps one day I will.  After all, stranger things have been known to happen.

Ukulele players are a bit of a quirky lot too and never in one place will you see so much floral or colourful print outside of Hawaii or such happy, soul beautiful and carefree people.   You always see a happy face on a uke player.  My thought would be that this is because there is a high string at the top and the bottom  of your ukulele so whether you strum up or down you will always end on high (and happy note).  The ukulele is also a very agreeable travelling companion so here is a great tip – never leave home without your ukulele!   I left mine in Australia when I went to live in America and deeply regretted that decision.  It was however, one very happy moment of unpacking it two years later though.

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The ukulele originated in Hawaii and luckily I not only discovered outrigging while there last year, but I also found myself smack bang in ukulele heaven. Quite simply there is nothing more comforting than the smell of coconut oil, rum cocktails served in tiki heads and being surrounded by ukuleles. And if you want to buy a ukulele then this probably the place to be. Every shop in Hawaii sells them but if you want a better quality one and not just a toy souvenir, then don’t buy from the larger souvenir shops such as Hilo Hattie, ABC or Whalers General.

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I found a beautiful little ukulele while in Hawaii.  Vintage and perfectly pre-loved. I picked it up.  I put it down. I strummed it and I plucked its faultless strings. It had a lovely sound and it sat perfectly in my hands and against my body. I worried about the wood ……just a little.  I worried about not buying it….an awful lot. I wanted it more than anything but I let it go and I have been kicking myself ever since. Perhaps, it really is just all about holding on and letting go…….. or heading back to Hawaii to buy it.

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This is a 1928 pineapple ukulele.  Do I want one.  Yes!  Do I need one.  Oh absolutely!!

Sadly, we are going to have to wait another two years for the festival to come back around to Newcastle.  In the meantime though, it will give you a chance to discover the ukulele if you haven’t already done so and it will also give me the opportunity to perfect the riff from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

There really is just something quite lovely about this little flea that brings joy and happiness and sometimes, you can’t ask for more than that.  So here’s hoping your week is full of good music, kindness and anything else that makes you feel pretty  wonderful ……..xx

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