on 5 May 2012
Really enjoyed this book which I read in the kindle format..it was a tale of Ukulele's ,travel and the trappings associated with live performance.
The appeal of the book for me was the fact that I myself play the ukulele and alike the author have recently stumbled on the glory of playing at 'open mic's..it was interesting therefore to read another take on this experience delivered with wit and enthusiasm.
Mark Wallington covers the breadth of the UK playing various 'open mic's up and down the country to create a national tour of sorts and the book is about this but ultimately about the experience and the people and places along route..the ukulele is focal in many respects but I'm certain a non-uke player would enjoy this book just as much as really the uke is just really the driving force for the trip rather than the ultimate focus.
It's also worth putting in the key words Mark Wallington,Ukulele into youtube to see one of the performances within the book at the SOAP 'open mic' as although the author downplays his abilities I think it is fair to say at that point in the journey he appears to have polished his craft and is as good a performer as many I have seen at local 'open mic' nights here.
From unorthodox Kazoo holders through to difficult toilet cisterns this is a great little book and I'm hoping Mark follows up with a similar one as there's still a great many 'open mic's.....or maybe even a world tour beckons!!
The Uke of Wallington is a very enjoyable piece of light reading. He has an easy going, engaging style which is more likely to have you smiling warmly than laughing out loud, but that isn't a criticism. This is a gentle book of the kind which feels like it should be read curled up in front of the fire with smug of cocoa or glass of malt whisky.
This is a much older Mark Wallington than in the earlier Pennine Walkies, 500 Mile Walkies or Boogie up the River. (and if you haven't read those, I thoroughly recommend them). There he was single, accompanied by Boogie the dog, here he is a married man whose kids have left for university.
After realising that the group do dad-rockers with whom he has been playing church fetes are basically no good, he sets out on a ukelele tour of open mic evenings, starting in Brighton and ending in Cape Wrath. On the way he meanders up the country, visiting the Cotswolds, Wales, Merseyside, Sheffield, Tyneside, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, amongst others. As he travels, he wryly observes the state of Britain in the summer of 2011, the summer of the retail riots.
He meets a range of fellow performers, from the hopeful but untalented to the surprisingly good, along with a diverse cast of characters including have bus pass will travel pensioners, charmingly psychotic bus drivers, hermit like instrument repairers and desperate fringe performers. The highlight of the book comes when the Uke of Wallington enters a contest to be crowned Uke of Edinburgh during the festival.
Overall, thoroughly recommended for a piece of non too challenging reading.
As a budding ukulele player I was attracted to this book by the subject matter, not having read anything by the author before. When I read the back cover in a shop I thought it was going to be a book about a man with no musical ability, teaching himself the ukulele by travelling around and playing in different places, but it is revealed early on in the tale that Wallington previously played the guitar in a band and so he wasn't a complete newcomer after all, which I did find a little disappointing, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment.
The book is essentially a road trip where Wallington aims to travel the length of the country, playing the ukulele - and the kazoo - at open mic nights in pubs, honing his craft until he finally plays a solo show in a remote pub at Cape Wrath, a booking he makes at the start of the story. In each chapter he does the normal "travel book" thing of describing his location, the people he meets, places he visits and so on, and these sections are often hilarious, particularly his numerous encounters with pensioners, especially when he finds himself on a bus with a driver who is something of a boy racer. The open mic performances themselves are described a little briefly, but then again what more could one say than what was performed and did it go well or poorly, so he focuses more on the other acts and the audiences themselves.
As the book nears its conclusion I did wonder how he was going to end it, such as if there would be some big moment of clarity, or a discovery of some kind, an insight into human nature kind of thing, but it seems that the author doesn't know himself, so as a result he plays a show, enjoys himself, and the book ends with a somewhat bizarre "Thank you". It did feel a little abrupt as an ending, but the journey there is enjoyable as it is.
It's a short, fun read, and not just for fans of the ukulele. Very enjoyable, despite the mild sense of "is that it?" at the end.
on 24 June 2012
Like Mr. Wallington, I am a middle aged man who deeply shares his longing to be any kind of musical performer of any credible standard possible.I also share his obvious love for the ukulele which I have been playing for a few years.If the world took up strumming the uke it would be a considerably nicer place-I think this book, in its own way, tries to reflect this concept.I can confirm that having Open Miked (miced?)myself ; it is true that people don't seem to be able to resist smiling when they hear the simple tones of the four string wonder, no matter how badly it is played.
This book is a slice of social commentary on modern Britain as much a guide to the ups and downs of Open Miking across the country.What I loved about it was the honest reporting of simple and random conversations with with so many friendly strangers who are either naively wallowing in their own ignorance or innate stupidity whilst providing words of 'worldly' advice to the traveller.A man and his friend who debate his decision on liking music in its entirety, the landlady who provides lessons in toilet flushing are priceless examples of such gems as Mr.Wallington tastes British 'normality' on the road. It is also nice that Britain has provided a unique window into the story via the online video on Youtube of Mr.Wallington's performance.One thing I must point out is that on the video he has committed uke sacrilege by using a pick on the uke which is a hotly debated issue in the world of ukers generally frowned upon.
I read this book in a morning and enjoyed the simplicity of its delivery immensely.Recommended, now someone pass me that bl**dy uke;I've got an open mike gig next week!
A ukulele is a strange instrument. For all intents and purposes a ukulele looks like a guitar that has been made for a very tiny man and, having only four strings, you can't get much of a tune out of one. If you were perform a Family Fortunes type survey probably 95% of the population would most associate it with old time comedian George Formby, but they would be wrong to do so because Formby actually played a banjolele, which is a different instrument altogether. I personally remember the ukulele best from the classic Laurel & Hardy film "Sons of the Desert" where the boys sang Honolulu Baby like only they could do. So when Mark Wallington's children finally leave home and he realises that he now has the opportunity to fulfil a long held ambition of doing a UK music tour, what does he chose as his instrument of choice? A ukulele, with a plastic kazoo attached to it by a bent metal coat hanger.
Anybody familiar with Mark Wallington's previous works will know that he is writer that you can rely upon to produce a humorous and very entertaining book and he certainly doesn't let anyone down with this one. In the Uke of Wallington he writes about his 42 night road trip which took him from Brighton to Cape Wrath performing at open mic nights in pubs and clubs along the way. Early on in his journey he is told that you can't hear a ukulele without smiling and his experiences leads him to believe that there may be more than just a grain of truth in that. It is not giving too much away by saying that his "tour" on the whole goes down quite well, even winning a competition and gaining a title at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival.
Whilst I wouldn't say that the sound of a ukulele makes me smile, this book certainly did.
on 31 December 2013
I have read other Mark Wallington travel books and this one is in the same vein. It's great fun. In the course of his travels in this one, he visited several towns that I know and I laughed at his observations of them. If you like light-hearted British travel books, or are interested in Open Mic nights in pubs, then this is a book for you.
In a sort of belated mid-life crisis, the author sets out on a tour of open-microphone events across Great Britain, from the south coast to the northernmost. His weapon of choice is the humble ukulele, with the even humbler kazoo in reserve for the instrumental breaks. On foot, bus and train he makes his way from town to town, playing R&B covers in pubs, staying in B&Bs, and gathering snippets of conversation with the Great British Public:
'Bognor Regis is the best place to live in the world.'
'Where else have you lived?'
Although there is understated celebration of the universality of music-making, this is rather more travelogue than it is 'rock journalism': light fare, but none the worse for that. The unruly variety of venues and audiences makes for plenty of colour and there is many a chuckle. If you've just finished Proust and are about to start on Tolstoy, this is just the thing to clear your palate!
I have read all of Mark Wallington's books since discovering "The Missing Postman" and this is up there with the best of them - I just wish there were more of them! As with his other travel books this is an easy to read light hearted account of one of his journeys, this time making his way from the South Coast to the north of Scotland, on public transport and on foot, playing his ukulele at various "open mic" venues along the way with debatable talent and mixed audience appreciation. But don't be put off if you are not musically inclined, you soon find yourself getting hooked. And whether or not you are familiar with some of the places he passes through, he makes every one interesting and different, and he manages to bring them, and the people he meets, to life in his own unique style. If you have never read any Mark Wallington books before, don't leave it any longer, give this one a go.
on 24 June 2012
I discovered The Uke of Wallington while on vacation. We were on the ferry going from Rosslare, Ireland to Pembroke, Wales and I just wandered into the onboard shop while stretching my legs, having no intention of making a purchase. But the title and the premise, which reminded me of something Bill Bryson might do, was irresistible. I was not disappointed. At age 58 Mr. Wallington resolves to travel the length and breadth of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) finding open mike sessions at which he can play his ukulele and wire coat hanger suspended harmonica. With a repertoire heavy on Chuck Berry and a stage presence that he tries unsuccessfully to improve with costume or choreography, each stop presents its own delights or trials and the journeying itself between the villages, towns and big cities presents him with some wonderfully memorable characters and situations. A fun read.
on 18 August 2013
This is a funny book, well written and makes the reader feel like the author would be a decent bloke to meet in a pub if you were a stranger in town.
Written in a chatty style, it takes you through Britain via some of the less well known tourist hotspots, as well as those visited by thousands every day.
I found the book when searching for books to teach me ukulele, and I'm so glad I did.
I love the travel writing of Bill Bryson, Stuart Maconie et al, and this is up there with the best of them.
If you play, or like me are learning,the ukulele then this gives an added dimension, but if you don't, this is still an immensely enjoyable book. The fact t hat when the author mentions someone telling shim they have recorded his spot for you tune, you can find that spot with very little effort, adds another dimension.
Just read it,it'll make you feel good.