Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Daughter's tin whistle is playing on my nerves

Tin Whistle, Sally Gap, Wicklow, IrelandImage by IvanWalsh.com via Flickr
A DAD'S LIFE: THE FEADÓG bloody stáin . Is it even an instrument? Or is the tin whistle a jigging, reeling, anti-Sasanach weapon of parental torture?

I’m disgusted at myself. I wanted to be that encouraging parent, the one who has the kids trying everything and not caring whether or not they succeeded just as long as they gave it a rattle. Music, sports, drama, performance art, whatever, just get out there and express yourself kids. You know, that type of insufferable parent.

Of course, this requires a complete personality overhaul. For a start, I do care if they succeed or not. I’ll be the one tripping the other kid as she rounds the final corner of a 400m final just ahead of mine. It’s a fight out there, we all need a little help.

The other thing is music. I can play Wild Thin g badly on the guitar, and the opening to Desire . That’s where it ends. In school, I was a bass in the choir mainly because I harassed the teacher into letting me stay. Not for a love of Pie Jesu , for the love of the events the choir got to attend and the class and study it missed. Girls liked choir, I liked girls. Simple.

In college, I bobbed the head along when someone pulled out a guitar at the end of a party, eyeballing them enviously as they plucked their way through a medley of tunes designed specifically to woo philosophy undergrads. The type of crap we wouldn’t touch in daylight but was pick-up gold late on a Saturday night.

But once college was out of the way, I realised just how much that guitar-playing guy wound me up. If it’s late and the party’s rocking and we’re chatting and having fun and you start with the James Taylor, I will make you wear that instrument. As for the bongos, seriously, stern words will be had.

That’s where I’m coming from with the music, a position of resistance, resentment and retribution. It’s why I don’t go to gigs, the stuff sounds so much better on my iPod or in the car, without other people clapping and whooping and getting all misty-eyed

at the talent. I like to be able to turn it up and down, skip through and rewind. The tunes have to suit the mood.

I’m a musical misery. When someone starts to play or sing in front of me, I cringe. It could be John Lennon back from the dead, whispering to me a personal version of Imagine , and I’d be like, ‘Ah here John, stop will ye, you’re embarrassing me.’

Typically, I married into the von Trapp family. When I met them first, they used to clear away the dinner dishes while harmonising through Walking in the Air from The Snowman . I didn’t know what to do with myself, standing there, plate in hand, waiting for the kitchen floor to swallow me and praying that they would stop and ease my pain.

The missus will break into song if you belch and the tone reminds her of a tune, and now her daughter has followed suit. She’s a strummer, she’ll be the cool girl at those college parties who can unearth a guitar from somewhere and intimidate every boy in the room.

I stick on a CD on the way to school and by the time she’s got to the chorus for a second time of something she’s never heard before, she’s singing along. She’s belting it out and she’s getting it right.

This is not from my genes, this is alien. While I don’t understand it, I am self-aware enough to realise she is blessed not to have my musical embarrassment syndrome and so encourage her to the hilt.

She may or may not be the next Kim Deal – it’s a bit of a long shot – but she can have a go if she fancies it. That’s my job isn’t it, to encourage her, let her know everything’s possible, try it all, be supportive and make encouraging noises?

Then she comes home with a feadóg bloody stáin . She sits and twiddles this thing, stands and twiddles, walks around the house blowing and sucking, making an approximation of the brainwaves of a beef cow as the abattoir doors loom. It’s torture. I hate it. She knows I hate it. She plays it louder.

She plays it when she’s supposed to be brushing her teeth, doing her homework, emptying the dishwasher. She plays it all the time. She plays it in my face. She tin whistle taunts me. I am not the encouraging dad, I am the killer of hopes and dreams. I will be the killer of something. Might have to get her bongos for Christmas.

Daughter's tin whistle is playing on my nerves - The Irish Times - Tue, Dec 06, 2011


Anonymous said...

lol. At least know that you are not alone. Back when I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a flute performance major in college. For most of my high school career, my parents were forced to endure my long tone exercises (me holding out notes in registers that a dog could have trouble hearing, several times), often during the wee morning hours and naps. My mother tells me I made her eyes twitch. Then I too discovered the whistle, and did a brief stint with the fiddle. They've been put through a lot, but now that I am a little older, I really do appreciate it.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I hear you brother! I can strum about four chords on the guitar. "That's nice", someone will say "play something else", and I say, no, that's it. That's all I can do. I'm a bit better on the piano, but I hardly ever play these days. And earlier this year I bought a tin whistle because I like the sound and portability of it. But I can't stand the sound of myself practising! I can play one tune well, but when I try learn a new one my poor playing is like cats fighting in my head. But at 42, I don't have to encourage myself. And I have no problem telling myself to shut up!


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