Saturday, 4 December 2010

musical turns

My last post was about my father and it may be hugely significant that this one will be too. My dad and I have always had a difficult, combustible relationship and since I left home it has never been easy. Last night I took myself off to bed early to read my book and to catch up on sleep after a relentless week of work. As I was falling asleep I heard the children below me playing their guitars, singing and listening to youtube and for some reason, images of my father popped into my head.

Dad loves music and always had the radio on in the car. It was the light programme The Forces Sunday lunchtime programme being a favourite, later radio 2 or he would play records at home on the gramophone later upgraded to the stereogram. He listened to jazz, to Harry Secombe, Bing Crosby, Glen Miller and others, strange to me. He even bought a copy of the Pearl Fishers for one of the arias. He was totally untrained but sang and more often whistled his way through the day to Bing or Harry as easily as to Mario Lanza. I remember him attempting to teach me to whistle one Sunday morning while mum was making the roast. I stood straight backed next to the door jamb and pursed my lips watching him with fierce concentration. I wanted the sound to come from my lips - to be like my dad, to be able to join in with him when he whistled in the car with his right elbow sticking out of the wound down window, cigarette in hand. My mum sizzling and hissing, scraping the bottom of the roast tin, the radio on and dad staring at me, down at my level, saying' come on, you can do it, try' and me hissing and lisping in response. I can't whistle yet but when I try I see my dad's face willing me to do it.

Another memory is of winning the Odeon Saturday cinema club raffle. Oh heady days, mouth full of everlasting strip, looking at my ticket stub and realising I'd won! I had to go up onto the stage and got my prize from the manager - the new Beatles single 'I wanna hold your hand'. I was beside myself with excitement, a single, the Beatles, that I don't think I saw a second of the films, turning the record over and over in my hands, slipping it out and into its sleeve. My first record. I got home and told my mum, again making dinner, this time the Saturday steak and kidney pie, who looked up and was dismissive. She didn't like the Beatles. But dad picked me up threw me in the air and was so excited, joining with and increasing my elation at the prize. We didn't have a record player at the time and even though he promised to borrow one he never did and so the record languished on the dresser later being thrown out without me ever listening to it. When I hear it now I am back in the kitchen with my dad in the air, bursting with happiness.

My daughter sings. She even went through a phase when very young of operatically singing her way through her life. She would sing on the stairs announcing her arrival (I am coming down the stairs, I am dressed, the dog is there), sing her breakfast request (scrambled egg, Please!'), sing on the walk to play group (we have to stop to cross the road, here is Fay, hold our hands) and so on through the day. Since her discovery of mamma mia, she has taken singing very seriously, perhaps fuelled by the belief that there is indeed a Greek island where all the inhabitants always sing and never talk to each other like other mortals, and she now has singing lessons. We have singstar on the playstation and have a brilliant giggly time belting out old songs and competing with each other as to who can hit the highest note (her, of course). She also has guitar lessons (and did have piano too, but after a couple of years informed me that she knew how to play now and didn't need lessons any more) and is often in school plays and musicals, singing her way through life once more. I delight in this. I love to hear her, to have our house filled with song and sometimes, when allowed, I sing along too thinking of my dad, whistling and singing along to the radio.