IT was a mixture of pride and dread I felt last week, when eight-year-old Billy arrived home clutching a violin case.
He is the first in our family to bring home an instrument bigger or more impressive than a recorder, (and to be frank, I was glad when that phase passed).
There were also the odd few years when both Jed and Dougie ‘played’ the ocarina, thanks to a particularly musical primary school teacher. But she left, and the ocarinas and recorders are gathering dust in one of our many drawers-of-things-gathering-dust.
Jed, now 14, plays his much-loved bass guitar but can’t read music. He’s mostly self-taught but did have lessons once a week for half an hour at school, something no longer available to him. I don’t mind the bass. There’s no screechyness about it, but you do have to put up with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain (the Formula 1 theme) played on a repetitive loop.
And while Bloke and I have a varied collection of instruments, including two acoustic guitars, a mandolin, harmonica, three ukuleles, bongo drums, a Turkish Doumbek drum and an Irish bodhran, neither of us can actually play a note.
We didn’t have paid music lessons as children and our own offspring, until now, always seemed to throw themselves more enthusiastically at sport.
So when Billy started to come home from school talking about how he’d been playing the violin, I was surprised. Previously, violin and other ‘posh’ stringed instruments had only been offered as a paid-for-up-front series of extra-curricular lessons, which we hadn’t been a position to afford and the elder two hadn’t seemed terribly bothered about.
But Bill brought home a letter which, rather than offering paid-for-lessons, was offering the loan of a violin. It seems his teacher, who I assume is part of the excellent Northants Music and Performing Arts Service (NMPAS), is running a small class of enthusiastic amateurs within school.
And by gum, he’s enthusiastic. Once the violin arrived home last week, the practising began in earnest.
An added surprise has been the reaction of the family. Have you seen how beautiful a violin is? All shiny wood and that amazing, horsehair-strung bow? Well they can look all they like, but they are NOT allowed to touch.
The letter that I signed to say I’d make sure Billy took good care of his loaned violin stated that most ‘accidents’ that happen to instruments are the fault of a relative, rather than the actual borrower.
So Billy has been told he must keep it out of Bonnie’s reach, and the rest of the tribe are under strict orders not to “just have a quick go.” Even Bloke, who is itching to try, has been banned.
And the real shock is, it’s not unbearable to listen to. Honestly.
Admittedly, all he’s doing is drawing the bow up and down without putting his fingers on any notes, and plucking a few strings. Sounds fine. I was expecting so much worse.
Ah, I can hear you all laughing. It’s going to get worse, isn’t it?