It’s hard to focus when the smell of chicken and sausages grilling outdoors reminds you that you haven’t had lunch. We are playing two sets under a big yellow tent next to Kew Gardens Rail Station. It’s the second time I’m playing with the Hanwell Ukulele Group (HUG) at Kew Village Market. The famous Kew Gardens is nearby. I am wearing a blue Hawaiian dress over a white T-shirt, hiding behind a row of tall English guys.
Earlier, at 11:55 am in South Ealing, I am worried sick we will be late.
“We’re supposed to get there by noon to set up for the 12:30 pm gig! We have five minutes to make the 20-minute ride.” As I fiddle with my Citymapper app, a cyclist wearing a bright orange aloha shirt whizzes by. A soprano ukulele peeks from his cycle bag.
“Quick! Follow him! He must be playing at the gig!”
What are the odds of seeing a cyclist carry a ukulele? How many cyclists wear aloha shirts on a Sunday?
I give up trying to read my iPhone map and jump on my bicycle. Do I know him? His back profile doesn’t give a clue except he is tall and cycles fast.
When I finally catch up, I holler, “We’re following you to Kew Market!”
He slows down and turns his head. I recognise him instantly, even with his dark sunglasses. He knows the short cuts I took last October. I am relieved to follow him and give up on my iPhone navigator.
Over Kew Bridge, I see the River Thames split in two. I have forgotten how beautiful it is to cycle around London on a nice summer day. No mosquitoes. Perfect outdoor weather. It’s like this on Maui except the scenery and people are different.
As soon as we arrive at Kew, we dismount and lock our bikes to the painted railings on the pavement. The market is busy with crafts, fresh produce, cheese, sausages, and other home-made delicatessens. How I wish I had come earlier to peruse!
Some people have already started their ostentatious oscillations, the libations of alcoholic drink from the corner pub next to the train station. There is just enough time to run downstairs and change into my Hawaiian outfit. Ralph, the organiser, had suggested Hawaiian. Those that don’t have Hawaiian outfits wear the black HUG T-shirts and/or rainbow-coloured plastic leis around their necks or on their straw hats.
My eyes dash around for a music stand with the “Summer of HUG 2017” songbook on it. To share with Hong, the other Chinese lady in the group, I stand next to Niall, the percussionist, adjacent from Paul, the bass player. We are smack in the centre of the tent but not visible behind the first row of guys. I’ve often wondered whether we should have more women in the first row, for we are shorter, we wear make-up, and we are more colourful in our summer dresses.
In the second set, I take video of one of my favourite songs. It’s John Denver’s second greatest hit of all time and one which I parodied to “Leavin’ on a Jetstream” in Bussum, The Netherlands.