Vincent is a very patient creature. I named her after Edna St Vincent Millay, who wrote many beautiful and classically-styled poems, but whose favourite works are her short verses on hedonism, hopeless dreaming and romantic inconstancy. The name also conjures up Mr Van Gogh, and the hospital where Dylan Thomas died (which also, circularly, was the source of Edna’s name – her uncle’s life was saved at St Vincent’s Hospital, New York, after he’d been trapped between two hay-bales in the hold of a ship for a fortnight).
Vincent is my second ukulele – I named my first, brave, scrappy and fast-to-detune ukulele “Delilah”, after the woman who brought down the world’s strongest man (whose weird honey-seeking habits rivalled those of Winnie-the-Pooh), and after the Dresden Dolls song of the same name. But, true to her namesakes, she’s not the most consistent or stable of beasts, our Delilah – and so there was Vincent. (Gawd, isn’t it awful to have another child because the first one wasn’t up to much? Thus the only cross I worship is the IUD.)
But yes, patient old Vincent! Truth be told, I’m not much of a musician (woah – you couldn’t have guessed from the noises I make…) – I’ve learned a few chords, and don’t deviate from them often. I lack that ease and flow that ‘good’, ‘natural’ or ‘actually learned and try hard’ musicians often have, hearing a sound in their mind and seeking it on the instrument. I’m a bit more like a person learning a second language, who can memorise a set phrase and parrot it, but will struggle to construct a sentence she hasn’t heard before. And poor Vincent very infrequently gets a taste of the good life – when I hand her to a curious guitarist who’s never held a uke before, but instantly seeks out power chords, plucked melodies, chords I’ve never found or forgotten soon after learning – and I do wonder if she sulks about it.
I’m never going to be the Rimsky-Korsakov of ukulele – I want to write silly songs and play them quickly. But I’ll keep trying. Some day I might actually play an entire song in tune. Maybe. In the meantime, I’ll keep pretending that being small, odd and a bit wonky is actually the height of charm, and see if anyone’ll fall for it.