musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

You and I… — November 22, 2019

You and I…

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My love affair with Queen began with a love affair. To be precise my first love affair.

That sounds a whole lot more romantic than it was. I met the boy in question at his friend’s 16th birthday party because the friend was quite the geek and had no girls to ask and my friend was his sister.

I had my second kiss on the sofa in that friend’s lounge. I was 14. (My first kiss was at the school disco the previous summer whilst having my first slow dance to Hello by Lionel Richie. That boy dumped me after one day. I was quite the geek too and his street cred couldn’t take it. I tried to think it was his loss but it wasn’t until October that I got back in the game. Or maybe the game passed me by for all those months. Clever, geeky girl in sensible shoes and glasses- not really that attractive to your average 14 year old boy)…

After some time fraught with tortured teenage angst and misunderstandings that boy and I became an item.

We spent 2 and a bit years together. There was a lot of walking, making fires, meeting him from his Saturday job at Waitrose, watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, jealousy, long land line phone calls in hushed voices in the hallway, RPG, art, flat caps, crunchy sandwiches, the Sunday Mail, woods, snogging in the lighting gallery, that sofa, jumping in canals, …well actually that only happened once and it was him. Not me. Nutter.

He had a record player and precisely 3 albums. We would stack all three up and listen to them in turn before turning them all over to their other sides.

One was The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. One was Innocent Man by Billy Joel and one was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I was smitten from day one.

I was brought up in a house where the LP collection mostly consisted of classical recordings, a few Beatles albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and steam engine noises. Yes I kid you not entire long playing records of steam trains.

Queen, then, was something else.

During our dating period Highlander was released and we had a whole new album of Queen songs from the soundtrack. The Live Magic tour happened. We didn’t go. My mum thought I was too young at 16 for Wembly. That’s a decision I regret to this day. Queen never toured again.

My next boyfriend (he was also at that party and a friend of that geeky brother of my friend) was also a Queen fan. During our time together at Uni between us we completed our entire Queen LP collection. We catalogued the songs according to which member of the band had written them. I still have that list. And half those LPs. We tried to decide who of the 4 was our favourite composer . An almost impossible task.

We mourned Freddie’s passing. We went to the tribute concert. All three of us.

We discussed the merits of different album styles. Was Hot Space really such a mistake. Could you beat the old stuff?

Because although my first experience of Queen was that Greatest Hits album, with all the classics oft belted out by drunken revellers at work’s Christmas parties or bellowed at football matches, it was the lesser known stuff that appealed to me more.

Recently during my endless taxi-ing I have been revisiting my Queen catalogue, now all on Spotify, and rediscovering some of my favourite tracks.

And at the moment that favourite is You and I.

Everyone should listen to You and I. To be honest everyone should listen to the whole of Day at the Races but I hold back from recommending that as the 5 minute long odyssey of White Man puts some people off.

You and I is accessible. But quintessentially Queen. It opens with the piano. I have a soft spot for Freddie’s piano. Maybe because I am a pianist. Maybe because he plays an actual piano not a keyboard. And he does it so well.

Next the drums crash in. I love Roger’s drums. Genius.

There is an excellent bass line for John. I am also a bass player and love a good bass line. Although before you think I can’t really have been all that geeky I played double bass. In orchestras. I tried to pretend I could play electric bass. I really couldn’t. The frets are confusing. And it’s sideways. I did once jam with boyfriend number 3 whose older brother was excessively cool but I was awful. Boyfriend number 3 once saw Queen live. He’d gone to see Status Quo at a gig and Queen were also there. Imagine going to see Quo and getting Queen. By accident. I never really forgave him for that.

Anyway there’s also a good guitar riff for Brian. There are wonderful sung harmonies. It switches between speakers (listen on headphones for the proper effect). There is a false ending. Cymbals in the bridge tap tapping away. All good Queen stuff.

But the star of the show is Freddie’s voice. It often is. I adore it.

And I love the sentiment. No more questions. Let’s enjoy tonight.

I am still friends with that boy who introduced me to Queen 35 years ago. (And with the other two). Some people think that’s wierd. It isn’t. No one needs to be jealous. The romantic part was over literally a life time ago. It was in another life. And yes we meet infrequently and don’t pick up the phone enough. But we are friends.

And that love of Queen he started. That’s still there.

Teo Torriatte my friends.

Being Brave…revisited… — June 8, 2017

Being Brave…revisited…

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Some of you may remember my previous entry Being Brave…

I was brave in a particular way that I hoped might be a small inspiration to my kids.

Well today it paid off.

I have introduced you to my daughter before. In case you are new, or inattentive, here is a bit about Youngest.

Ever since she sailed into the world Youngest has been a determined and hard working individual. At age 18 months she was insisting on dressing herself and doing up her shoes. This was a shock after two boys who would probably still let me lace their shoes for them now, in some sort of slightly weird servant fashion, given half the chance.

Youngest is perhaps the least academic of all my children. School work has never come as easily for her as for Middlest and I have had less time to spend with her than I did with Eldest. But what she lacks in natural ability she more than makes up for in effort. She is the hardest working of all my children. And that is saying something as Eldest has an amazing work ethic.

Since she was three years old she has been athletic. Taking to every sport put in front of her with aplomb. I remember her coming home from her first taste of football at preschool literally bouncing off the walls. She did it in a pinafore and wellies but already the love for the sport was there. She had done well. Even for a three year old. In wellies. So yes she has bucket loads of natural ability.

But this is not to belittle the effort she also makes in all her sports. I often worry that teachers or coaches will believe she just relies on her natural skill when nothing could be further from the truth. If she is not at training for one sport or another (in the football season twice a week plus matches and then once a week after school for whatever other sport is being played in that term) she is in the garden or up the local field practicing.

If the weather is bad she boots her baby ball around on the landing, driving me mad with the bell inside….

Nearly every Saturday she either plays for school or her football team. In fact in the hockey season there were at least two occasions when she played a league football match in the morning and a school hockey fixture in the afternoon.

In the off season she runs park runs. She managed to compete ten 5k runs last summer and earn her ’10’ T shirt. During the end of this season she has turned out to some Junior Park runs on Sundays as she had no other sport on that day so thought she may as well. She actually hates running but knows that in order to get a flying start for footie and hockey in September she needs to keep her fitness up and so off she goes.

She recently ran ten miles in under an hour and a half whilst crossing off bridges in the sponsored Cub Scout bridge walk. The determination to do that would elude most adults.

In short although my daughter clearly has natural talent in sport she also works her socks off improving her skills and stamina. She is determined. Immensely so. She wants to play football for a living, if such a thing becomes possible for women, and understands that to achieve that she has to work and work.  And she also knows her chances are slim but that doesn’t stop her determination to give it all she has.

To balance all this sport I was keen she do something else too and so along with her brothers she has learnt the piano since Year Two. I play and have since that age and still enjoy  murdering the odd bit of Chopin and it comes in handy at Christmas. I was adamant she carry on even as her sport commitments ramped up.  In fact she recently had to turn down attending swim squad training to keep learning, I couldn’t fit her lesson in on any other day.

She doesn’t have anywhere near the natural talent in it that she does in sport. And so again she works very, very hard at it practising every morning before school and as a result she is making steady progress.

Today was the school music prizes. She entered herself with one of her grade two pieces. She has practised and practised.

She finds playing in public immensely scary. I empathise. It is very hard to control one’s nerves enough to be able to physically play. Her legs turn to mush and her arms shake.

She has often had to be brave in sport. She regularly comes up against opponents much bigger then her, often male. She runs up for her Year so tomorrow she will be attending an athletics meet, running a distance she has never run before, on an athletics track, again a first, and she will be one of only two Year 5s going from her school. But although she will be nervous her natural skill and competitive streak will kick in and help her.

She can’t rely on this in music. This morning she was almost actually sick with nerves and ended up sobbing that she was going to pull out.

We had the bravery chat. That cliche of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. That even if the worst happened and she ‘went wrong’ she could still feel proud of herself for trying. That you have to be in it to win it. I told her everyone would be feeling nervous. I reminded her of me singing that solo and how proud she was of me. And how sickeningly nervous I had been. She decided to go ahead.

And then quite unexpectedly she went and won.

Bravery quite literally paid off. But even if she hadn’t won the prize she still would have won in my eyes. All those competitors today are winners as far as I am concerned. Doing such a brave thing at age 9, or indeed any age, is something to be very proud of.

Well done all.

Inspiration — March 6, 2016

Inspiration

Yesterday I received sad news. The night before that choir that I mentioned in Sing It Loud lost one of its oldest members.

The lovely thing about this choir, other than allowing me to sing, is that the participants are drawn from all walks of life. We are a non auditioned Community Choir and as long as you hit the top of the waiting list you are welcome. Whether you read music or not. Even you haven’t sung for years or never at all. It matters not. Our amazing choir mistress will still whip you into shape. So that our choir turns out good and entertaining performances which our swelling audiences are testament to.

I am not sure whether Glenys was our oldest member. But she was certainly a contender and an inspiration. She sat in front of me in the sopranos or ‘tops’ as we are more generally referred to! ‘Hands up tops’ is still a line shouted from the conductor’s dias which gets us all a titter…. There are others…the tenor ladies, hands down bottoms …  She joined in fulsomely in our hip rotating, arm waving warm ups.

She turned up almost every Monday night and was in nearly all our performances. Eschewing that chair that was always placed for her use. Despite, I believe, being in her nineties.

After the last concert at Christmas she came up to me, put her hand on my arm and told me what a lovely family I had. They had sat on the front row, my harshest critics. Even they enjoyed our fairly light hearted Christmas tunes.

It is lovely to spend time with such people. People at different points in their lives. Who provide a fresh perspective. Where else would I rub shoulders (during some warm ups quite literally) with friends nearly twice my age.

And it gives everyone hope. Hope that they too will enjoy such pleasures as singing well into old age.

This evening we took part in a Music Festival competing against other such choirs. We decided to dedicate our performance to that special lady. We came a commendable second. But in my mind we were winners. I am sure Glenys would have agreed.

I didn’t know her well. But well enough to know she was an amazing individual.

As the line of one of our songs went this evening…’Goodnight my angel, it’s time to close your eyes’..

Rest in peace.

Sing It Loud — February 7, 2016

Sing It Loud

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So here is a thing you may not know about me. I love to sing.

When I was small I sang in a church choir. That is my and my bro up there…he may never forgive me. It was a fairly serious affair involving cassocks and surplices and practices and two services on Sunday and often a wedding on Saturday. And rather thrillingly it also involved small brown envelopes containing hard cash. It was my first ‘job’ although it didn’t really feel like hard work. There was extra money for weddings.

I took exams and gained medals and rose to the heady rank of Head Girl Chorister before my family upped sticks and moved 200 miles south when I was 11. I never took it up again in the new place. Not really sure why.

Still some of my best memories of that period of my childhood come from singing in that choir. In fact the best of those was singing at sung evensong in candle light on a winter’s evening. I still have a fondness for hymns and especially psalms. It is part of the reason I go to church. To sing.

From then on in I didn’t do that much singing as instrument playing took over. Specifically double bass and for one school production percussion. Because my piano playing wasn’t up to scratch. That gig went to Rupert Wilson, he of the cello playing fame….we once did a turn in the school concert…him playing a beautiful rendition of The Swan from Carnival of the Animals and me following up with the double bass solo….The Elephant…well I guess I chose to play the bass….anyway I digress. In the event playing percussion turned out to be a blast especially banging on timpani. I often wonder why Rupert and I didn’t hook up forming, as we did, the bass string section of the school orchestra mostly single (double) handedly. But we didn’t. I like to think he still plays. His cello is probably gathering as much dust as my double bass.

Although now I think about singing at school I do remember that I was part of a quartet of street sellers in a production of Oliver in my fifth year. I can still sing the whole of my part. I was a milk maid. My boyfriend of the time was quite taken with my long dress and metal pail.

For a long time thereafter through university and work my singing was confined to the shower and round the piano at Christmas. I got a bit rusty to be honest.

Then Eldest came along.  There were many long February evenings when I was pacing up and down with a grizzly baby waiting for my husband to arrive home when I cranked up the stereo and sang along to my favourites. Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Crystal Gayle, Ella Fitzgerald. I like to listen to all sorts of music. But this is the stuff I like to ‘Karaoke’ to…even if only in the privacy of my lounge.

The others came along. I sang a lot of nursery rhymes. Wind the Bobbin Up? Anyone? We went to a mums and toddlers singing group which was fun. Eventually I progressed to Cub Scout campfire singalongs. But this was the extent of my limited singing opportunities. Life with small kids. Doesn’t leave much time for a social life.

Then about five years ago a flyer came home in the school bags advertising a community choir being held in another local school. I organised husband to get home in time and with a lot of trepidation set out to join. I expected a hall full of people. There were seven of them. Including the choirmaster. That brought its own issues. No where to hide.

But it was fun. We did public performances. I still go to that choir today. When I can get away on a Monday night. The choir now numbers around a 100 people. But it is still immense fun. We sing all sorts sometimes in Zulu, Spanish and most recently Maori. We do show tunes and folk tunes and a smattering of religious stuff. Rutter- my favourite. Some Mondays I almost don’t make it because the effort of getting out in time whilst juggling the kids’ stuff and often a late husband is nearly enough to tip me over the edge. But without fail I am always glad I made the effort. It cheers my soul.

All my children sing. Eldest and Youngest are in the school choirs. Eldest particularly loves it. Middlest has a great voice but is taking a sabbatical. We all sing once a month in our church all age choir with other families.

We have just returned from a practice with the church choir master ahead of Sunday’s family service.  ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ this time. The ages ranged from 5 to cough cough. We numbered 10 in total. It is a bit daunting for us to stand up in front of the congregation and do our turn. But we all still turn up.

Because there is really nothing like the buzz of singing in a group.

So now I have more outlets for my singing. But even so I can still often be found belting out a Carpenters track into my hairbrush whilst stirring spag bol. Because that is fun too.

 

 

Music… — December 10, 2015

Music…

Recently I made a discovery.

I am becoming increasingly tired of Steve Wright in the afternoon. His radio show does not appear to have evolved much. I used to listen to him on Radio One as a teenager and the format on Radio Two isn’t much altered. Only he is now over 50. And I am over 40. And it no longer works. To my mind.

In desperation I searched in the glove box of my car. I was in that hour and a half of school pick ups and needed music.

Under the CDs of party songs for kids, nursery rhyme compilations and audio books (Dahl and Walliams mainly) I found a dusty CD. It was called Music of the Millennium. I sincerely hoped it meant the last Millennium…

I didn’t remember purchasing it. I didn’t recall putting it in the glove compartment. So I stuck it on ‘shuffle’ and gave it a go. Anything was better than more ‘factoids’.

And I am glad I did. In the manner of all good mix tapes it took a  meandering stroll through my musical history. As the first instantly recognisable strains of my favourite band of all time came over the speakers I knew I was in for a sing along nostalgia fest.  Bohemian Rhapsody. So many memories of drunken renditions. In mate’s lounges tanked up on McEwans Export, at work’s Christmas parties, at Karaoke and other places too numerous to mention. Not my favourite Queen track (which would be too hard to pick- it depends on my mood although Seaside Rendevous always makes me smile and These Are the Days of our Lives always makes me cry…). But certainly the most iconic.

Next up another favourite. One of my ‘go to’ artists. Probably because my dad liked him and had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on double LP. In that time when LPs were works of art. Again not the track from Elton I would have picked (which would probably have been Roy Rogers- the most melancholy song in the known universe) – Candle in the Wind- ruined for me forever by its overly sentimental remaking on the death of Princess Diana. But still in its original form a classic.

Into the Eighties next. Every Breath You Take…A love song to end all love songs. Perfectly capturing the intensity and overwhelming’ness’ of my first love affairs. The claustrophobia of early teenage romances. The jealousies. The uncertainties. The insecurities.

In a weird ‘shuffle’ moment we went winging back to the 70s and my childhood. Stayin’ Alive. The furore of Grease and Saturday Night Fever when I was around eight. If you hadn’t seen Grease at the cinema 13 or 14 times you weren’t up to much in my school playground. To be honest most of it went over my head. I didn’t see Saturday Night Fever until a few years later. I didn’t really enjoy it. Except for the music. Perfect disco tracks. Still floor fillers today.

Next on, two tracks for which I often risked battery wear down using the rewind button on my Walkman. That personal cassette player was my most prized possession. I never went anywhere without it. I spent a great deal of my 4th, 5th and 6th form years walking. Between my house and boy friend’s. To school. To clubs. I was always listening. To something. Risking being run over.

Purple Rain and In the Air Tonight. Both favourites. For me accurately capturing the raw emotion I was feeling after the break up of my parents’ marriage.

Prince  (or whatever he is now known as) has always been a secret favourite. Purple Rain – messy, shouty, complete with guitar feedback- I love it. And actually this probably is my Prince song of choice.

I can clearly remember the first time I heard the Phil Collin’s track. Sitting in my ex boyfriend’s lounge one Christmas. He must have been given the album as a gift. It sounded as desolate as I was feeling. Those incredible drums startling me half way through.

The only thing missing from this compilation to totally capture that time in my life is Bruce Springsteen- specifically I’m on Fire- ‘It’s like some one took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul’- it seems almost sacrilege to me that Bruce does not even appear on the list…

And others followed as I drove and then sat in my car…Bon Jovi, university head banging, Blondie, watching Top of the Pops with my brother, U2, sixth form, George Michael, all grown up from his Wham days making beautiful music… and on.

Just as I was about to leave the car to trudge up the hill to collect the off spring a final track started up. Wuthering Heights. Ah my, now that was an anthem of some of my friends and me. Mostly sung by and in a lake. Weird. Odd. Like us. I didn’t really want to get out of the car. I played it later to the kids. They agreed. Weird.

The compilation also contains tracks that are not really up my alley. A lot of 60s. A lot of 90s. I suppose they had to. It being songs from the last Millennium. And so like all compilations there are bits I love and bits I find a bit meh and bits that get me reaching for the Skip button. Now such a thing exists. I could have done with that on my Walkman when playing Now That Is What I Call Music 4.

But in a kind of unique moment in time, just on that random Tuesday afternoon, in the banality of the hours between 3 and 4.30pm, my car CD player’s shuffle function decided to take me on a walk down memory lane.

Perfect…

Pushy Parent? — October 27, 2015

Pushy Parent?

For the last three days Eldest has been on a County Chamber Music course. Playing his cello.

When the invitation to sign up came out he met all the criteria and so I asked him if he was interested and surprisingly he said he was. I might have mentioned his old cello teacher would be there. And he might have been slightly distracted by Minecraft but he agreed readily.

Of course on the morning of the first day he was less keen. He didn’t want to go. He was nervous of meeting new people and of not being a good enough player. I assumed that he would be with others roughly his age playing music roughly of the right standard.

Well he got through that first day and had texted me during it with reassuring little messages. He was exhausted, as expected after concentrating for five hours, but went to bed happy enough.

The next morning however he was weeping into his Weetabix refusing to go back. He felt that he wasn’t good enough, that he would let his other quartet members down, that he had no one to talk to. Suffice to say that a combination of the lack of the promised teacher, three girls in his group much older than him, and apparently much better players than him, and not being able to find the toilets had put him off.

And then I had that dilemma all parents face. How much to push.

It doesn’t matter in what field or at what level, at some point every parent has to decide whether to push or not. It can be anything, anywhere. A party for five year olds when they just want to cling to your leg. The decision to send them on a Cub camp or not. The first residential school trip. Your toddler screaming on the side of a swimming pool refusing to jump in for the teacher. When they are stuck up a large tree you have no hope of climbing and the only way forwards is for them to come down by themselves. How to leave your sobbing four year old on the first day of school.

All of these, and a myriad others particular to each child, involve this knife edge decision.

In this case the instinctive part of me wanted to just ring up the course co-ordinator and say he wasn’t coming back. And tear a strip off him for the lack of introductions, support and basic venue familiarisation undertaken for my 11 year old.

But then the rational part of me remembered that my son is highly strung, a perfectionist, liable to remember only the negative. And a brilliant cellist for his age. Who played a solo in front of 250 people at the end of year school shin dig without much fuss.

I realised that if he quit those three violinists would be left in the lurch.

I knew from experience that although the performance aspect would be scary it would also be exhilarating.

And so I rang the co-ordinatior, bit my tongue and merely explained the facts. He spoke to Eldest and reassured him and he agreed to go back.  I made a separate deal. That if he could ring me at lunch and tell me hand on heart that he had hated the whole morning I would fetch him back, no questions asked.

Of course that didn’t happen. His old teacher materialised. The girls found out he was only in Year 7 and took him under their wing. He rang me at lunch to ask if he could order pizza and stay between the end of the dress rehearsal and the actual concert so he could spend more time with them.

We are leaving soon to watch him.  He will probably go wrong. And be a bag of nerves. That is fine. But he will also get a massive high from the experience.

He will feel braver and more self confident as a result of pushing through the fear. Let’s face it life is full of things we do not want to face.

And I was right to push.

But it is a balancing act.

Too much pushing will see him resent me for making him do things that made him miserable.

Too little and he will miss out on experiences that could really enrich his life.

It’s a toughie.

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