The Ukulele — a short story

The Sunday Times (Perth) on 22 May 1932 offered the following piece to the public


A well-known writer of Perth was trying to finish an article he had commenced earlier In the day. He had the main part thought out, the motif embodied, and the local color pigmented. After waiting for an hour or so, he was smitten by a suitable inspiration, and worked back on to it for all he was worth. Rapidly he wrote, eagerly he penned the pregnant sentences that were to gild and glorify the pages of a well known publication.

From a back room came a weird, melancholy succession of noises. He listened. A newly-arrived lodger was strumming on the ukulele. The writer paused. The ukulele didn’t. Twang-twang-twang; tum-tum tum…

The man who had promised to turn in the article before 6 o’clock that evening threw down his pen, took out a pipe, and proceeded to pass five minutes away in worship at the shrine of Nicotine. The ukulele kept at it.

The scribe looked at the clock, saw he would have to do something drastic; either the ukulele would cease or he would have to do so himself. And he had such a fine subject for his breadwinner! He put his head down again, but the idiotic twanging continued. Tinkle-tum, tinkle-tum; twing twang-twong; click-clack-clook! His nerves were on edge, his temper aflame, and his hand fit for homicide.

The torture continued. Ting-tang-tinkle-tankle; pling-plang plong!

The man who should have been putting on paper imperishable thoughts and lofty ideals rose angrily from his chair.

Then he calmed himself and strode steadily to where the suburban Orpheus was twanging the catgut of his unlovely lyre. The writer himself was diplomatic, as he himself was a bit behindhand with his board, and the new arrival was fairly financial.

“Is it possible, to hire one of those instruments?” he asked agreeably.

The plucker of inharmonious string thought it was, in fact, he was sure.

“How much an hour would anyone charge me for one of those instruments?” asked the wielder of the grey goose-quill.

“If you could guarantee to return it in good order,” answered the maker of unmusical noises, “I should say about ninepence an hour.”

“Good, said the relieved writer, producing half-a-crown, “could you loan me yours for two hours for this?” and he held out the half-caser.

The other could. And did.

The overjoyed writer took the ukulele, carried it to his own room, and locked it away securely in a strong cabin trunk.

Then he finished his article and got numerous half-crowns for it.

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My guess: this really happened, but not exactly as reported.

    1: It it did not happen to another ‘well-known writer of Perth’ but to the writer of this story.
    2: The article was not already thought out, but was inspired by the event.
    3: The ukulele playing did not prevent the writer from getting on with it, rather the opposite.
    4: The dialogue and transaction took place in the writer’s imagination.


    • Don’t tell me that you think the author was an ‘unlovely lyre’?

      • All writers are liars!

  2. Having penned many an essay to similar sounds, I can sympathize. Having said that, I am supposed to be writing an essay now and my thoughts turn to the ukulele – hence the visit to your blog. Maybe, after all, it was actually inspiring me?*

    *I say this from a safe distance.

    • That is probably why you did so well on those essays! Concentration. Have you seen my post about the school that tested its female students’ ability to do maths while others played ukuleles, loudly?

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