Tag Archives: the Beatles

“You’ll Thank Me For It One Day!”

2 Jan

Whatever year you happened to be born into – whether you are a child of the 1940’s or a kid spawned of the 90’s, you’ll no doubt be able to remember some of the more ingrained parental scripts. Some of them stark. Some of them scary. Some of them bloody hilarious.  And didn’t we all say to ourselves “I’ll never end up saying that to my own kids”?

Classics from my family include; “Because I said so,” “surely you know better than that!” “if the wind changes your face will stay like that,” “I won’t tell you again,” (said several times), “I’ll give you something to cry about,” “wait till your father gets home,”nobody likes a smartarse,” and the immortal “don’t come running to me when you’ve broken your leg!”

Don't come crying to me when you've broken your leg!  (Dovestones, Peak District 1981)

“Don’t come crying to me when you’ve broken your leg!” (Dovestones, Peak District 1981)

Now, I hate to admit this but I think that I’ve used all of these lines on my kids. And one of them – “you’ll thank me for it one day” was frequently employed by own folks in relation to marshalling me to various music lessons, orchestras, exams.  Yup – I was pretty good at playing the flute. A music teacher of mine even told my parents that I might be offered a place at the famous Chethams School of Music in Manchester. Sounded like great news for the adults. But the trouble was … that I couldn’t be arsed. Being forced to play a musical instrument far too often? Having to wear a stupid blazer and get the bus into Manchester? Being required to hang out with a load of kids who would be well-posh and who would have ponies or do ballet or learn Latin or whatever?

Thanks, but no thanks, folks.

This was also my attitude to the fact that my parents – who had very little ‘extra’ money to play with at all – sent me for expensive music lessons every week. They drove me to and from orchestra as well. They both cajoled, nagged, shouted at me to practice. Tears and tantrums were often the result (and that was just my dad).  But my parents had never had the chance to study music themselves, to discover which instruments they might excel at. Understandably, they wanted better for me. And whilst I sympathised greatly with this, in truth I just wanted to be left alone in my bedroom so I could cut up my Smash Hits magazines and make interesting little collages out of the varying photos of Dave Gahan’s bum.

“You’ll thank us for it one day,” they’d continue to remind me.

“Ha. In your dreams!” I’d reply in my head  (expressed verbally sometimes when my gob happened to run away with me. This tended to be when my dad was not about.)

Not that I’m stubborn like, but all throughout my twenties and thirties I held to this sentiment. Harking back to the music lessons – the plinking about on the piano, the tooting of the fluting and the mucky rhymes that I created in order to differentiate my Allegretto from my Adagietto – provided me with nothing other than memories of pain, doom, boredom and gloom.

They're all glaring at me and thinking about how POSH I am! Arghh! This dratted flute!

They’re all glaring at me and thinking about how POSH I am! Arghh! This dratted flute! (Junior School 1981)

No whiff of nostalgia. No memories of delight of the times when Nan and Grandad were thrilled with me playing Christmas carols for them. Nothing more than a heavy feeling of hours wasted and an insecurity complex developed (’cause the kids at my junior school always called me ‘posh’ for being able to play a musical instrument – when all’s I wanted to do was to have the same kind of talents as them – to be able to walk on my hands or to fart in time to ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson.)

I was – for some 30 years – a pathetically, ridiculously and utterly ungrateful little sod.  I never could see how or why all of the agony involved in making me practice had helped me in later life, in my career. Were the tenants that I evicted from houses in Oldham treated to a rendition of ‘Bright Eyes?’ Did the civil servants that I used to advise on government policy in London ever summon me to tickle the old ivories with a chorus of ‘Fur Elise?’ Was there any call in the African bush for a rehearsal of the entire score of ‘West Side Story’?

No. It was all a dreadful waste of my time and of my parent’s hard earned cash.

And then something happened. History began to repeat itself. My ten year old daughter began to learn the flute. My motives for forcing the music upon her are less noble than my parent’s own reasons however; 1) I still have my own flute from the 80’s…hence a cheaper approach to music-learning and 2) My daughter struggles with numeracy – and I realised that music can help those with a dash of dyscalculia. Might stop her from moaning about maths.

I’ve blogged about the homework battles before. But I kind of hoped that my girl would show more mettle than me. That she would seize the day with her flute practice and enjoy being able to play an instrument that she clearly has a knack for. But no. Cue paddies and meltdowns. And hollow laughter no doubt emanating from my parent’s household… Ye Shall Reap What Ye Sow. And you guessed it…the very same words actually left my own lips “You know – you’ll thank me for this one day!”

History repeating itself? Is she looking sufficiently thankful in 2014?

History repeating itself? Is she looking sufficiently thankful in 2014?

But I don’t give up easily. Rather than feeling miserable about the fact that my girl has clearly inherited my less-pliable than most streak, I tried to think of something that might make her practice with a little less stroppiness. I realised that she was bored with her practice pieces. So I grabbed the flute and had a go at showing her some of the tunes that I had learned many moons ago. All from memory. Beatles and Birdie Song and the like. “Oooh – show me how to do that one!” she said. So I scribbled the letters of the notes down for her. And then it was “Can you put it into proper musical score?” with my response being; “Blimey. Not sure if I can remember how to…”

And I could. It all came flooding back. The sight-reading. How to write the notes, guess the rhythm. Hell – even how to transpose the key into one more easier for a beginner. It was a little rusty at first but it all soon began to flow.

The result was:

a) One happy little bunny who is now learning lots of new tunes, who practices for a lot longer and who sees it as a bit more of a challenge (as well as a chance to boss me about.) And;

b) One smug big swine. Because although I cannot remember whether I remembered to put my bra on this morning, I can recall how to read, write, compose music from some 30 years ago – and most importantly – how to calm my kid down and get her to enjoy her music practice a bit more.

So, as much as it pains me to admit it, yes. My parents were right. On most things in life – as well as on this one aspect that I could have sworn that I was proving them wrong on.  It might have taken me a few decades to realise it – but I concede that I am truly, totally and – delightfully – grateful and I DO thank them for it. From the bottom of my heart.

(Although I’ve yet to truly feel gratitude for ALL of those trips down the slate mines in Wales. But I’ll get there one of these days. When kid number two develops an unhealthy interest in geology and big holes in the ground or something…)

Faking pleasure at heading off down a slate mine...

Faking pleasure at heading off down a slate mine…

Another slate mine in the early 80's. The day when I will be grateful for this could be... 2015!

Another slate mine in the early 80’s. The day when I will be grateful for this could be… 2015!


Don’t Be A Bird Brain

16 Oct

Followers will know that I like to blog about all kinds of stuff, but that I can become the gobbiest when it comes to the issue of ‘outsiders’. Yes, I get all crabby about those who are on the fringes of society (because of lack of income or birth right or connections) but I also get my knickers in a twist in relation to the way that people who are deemed to be a bit ‘different’, ‘quirky,’ ‘eccentric’ or who seem to be singing from a completely different song-sheet from the rest of us ‘normals,’ are treated.

Elvis falls into one of these categories.  Not only is his name un-cool (because most families don’t listen to Elvis obsessively as we do) but he also happens to be a budgie. And after Father Christmas delivered him to us last year I have lost count of the number of times people have exclaimed “Ha-ha! You have a budgie! Aren’t they a little old ladies’ pet? How bizarre!”

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

He was a loving little companion. Until he shat on my copy holder.

So even though our Elvis is one un-cool dude – he has clearly has a feathery little soul of his own. So he gets treated like royalty (better than royalty actually, if Prince Harry trucked up to our house – I certainly wouldn’t be cleaning his turds up with a wadge of Kleenex). During the daytime if the house is empty, Radio 4 is switched on so that he doesn’t get too lonely (he is a huge fan of Women’s Hour and has a bit of a thing for Jenni Murray). And if I’m working from home he accompanies me to the office (he’s sitting on the printer right now chirruping away – and yeah, it’s yours truly who has to leave the room if the phone rings. Not all professional callers are as understanding of a budgie’s need to squawk along to The Archers as you’d hope that they might be.)

Yesterday, I was in the middle of reading an excellent guide  for employers on how to create an autie-friendly workplace when my daughter (who was trying – and failing –  to train Elvis to sing a Beatles song) interrupted me with “Hey Mum, why do we use ‘Bird Brain’ as an insult? ‘Cause Elvis – and all birds – are way cleverer than my brother…” and this reminded me of a fantastic book that I recently read.

‘King Crow’ by Michael Stewart had me all fired up. Indeed, chuffed to bits. Because the action takes place in a very foreign, an oh-so exotic and distant place. Far-flung shores which are all too often overlooked by the UK south-eastern dominated publishers. Yeah folks, this venture into alien territory involves all of us suspending those LondonCentric belief systems and assimilating a superb tale that centres on a general geographical area known as ‘the North of England.’  And then focuses further on an even smaller microscopic part of the landscape which happens to possess a very un-Kensington and Chelsea place name. That of ‘Salford.’ Or pronounced ‘Sol-fud.’ (In case you somehow thought that it should be uttered as ‘SORL-FORRD’)

So yeah, thank God for people like Michael Stewart who are proud of their roots and who enjoy writing for the literati – as well as for plebs like me n’ mine. Folk who get all giddy because we used to wander through those exact same tower blocks which he touches upon.  People who know precisely what the terraced houses he mentions still look like (or indeed,  taste like … I used to have a thing for licking red brick work when I was a nipper. But let’s not go there.)

And my interest in reading this book was piqued further when I realised that the story is told through the eyes of a school boy who is autistic. Although the ‘A’ word is never used. It doesn’t need to be. Michael S  simply shows that his protagonist Paul Cooper, operates on a different plane to most others. And that Paul’s obsessive traits are focussed on birds (and unlike most teenage boys, this kid’s fixation is with on the ornithological – the feathery, rather than the female form.)

Who's The Daddy?

Who’s The Daddy?

Now, you might already be familiar with the ‘Rainman’/ Dustin Hoffman version of what being autistic might entail – but ‘King Crow’ is a beautiful reminder of how autism can take both stark and subtle shapes within a personality. And it also nudges the reader into realising that obsessions – which might at first hold no interest for the reader whatsoever, when so cleverly woven into a story with such a fascinating character – can leave your fingers itching to find out more via Google. Or cause you to fall into petulant arguments with your six year old as to whether “it IS a sodding Crow in the back garden. Or a raven.  Or…let’s get the damned field book out, eh our kid?”

I don’t normally blether on about books that you MUST read – but if you tend to care about the sort of things that I get all het-up about, then this is a book for you. And I won’t say anymore about it for fear of spoiling the storyline…

And for those of you who have already read this book and who have enjoyed other stuff delivered by Mr Stewart. you will be pleased to hear that his next book will be launced in the new year. (Although sadly, the guy cannot guarantee any budgie cameos.)

But hey.  Back to the report that I mentioned earlier*. And an excellent quote from it. Courtesy of a fella named Stephen Shore. Who offers some very sage advice.  Which I reckon, should be applied not only to autism but to many other hidden impairments. And to the overall issue of ‘intelligence’ itself.

“If you’ve met one person with autism. You have met one person with autism.” (Stephen Shore.)


Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Sherlock's latest cerebral rival...

Never mind your bloody bird-brain! Going pipe to claw.  Sherlock’s latest cerebral rival… (and never mind my northern bias – check out Museum of London’s ace new exhib on our Sherlock and his incredible legacy)


* ‘Making Employment a Positive Experience for People in Calderdale’ By Matthew Lowe – for Calderdale Council and National Autistic Society