All Around my Hat

Martin Carthy

The house is now ringing with the sound of Jolly Wassailing and unseasonal cheer.
The Kaiser Chiefs have been ousted and Busted is busted.

As always, it’s my fault.

Last night I went out, with my son, just the two of us, for his first ever gig.

“How old were you when you first went to a gig Mummy?” he asks, expecting to beat me by a few years.

“Oh, about eighteen,” I reply.

“And I’m only eight.”
He is triumphant, and manages to keep his excitement mostly contained, except for the occasional eruption of squeals and leaps around the room.

His sister has a ten minute crying fit after tea because she’s not coming.
“I explained Hannah, you’re too young to cope with such a late night. When you’re eight you can come out for a special evening with Mummy.”

“Waaaaahhhh!” says she.

And the gig? Not what you might expect, and certainly not one of his favourite bands, but a folk legend who happens to be related to us and is performing in town, with his family.

Waterson Carthy didn’t have a good day of travelling. After all, it was the Friday before a bank holiday weekend which is also the start of half term, and they were heading south-west.

They were arriving from all over, as they play with other musicians as well as en famille.

Eliza was stuck on a train while the air conditioning was fixed just outside Bristol, Norma encountered three car crashes and a burning coach on her way down the motorways from Yorkshire, delaying her for so long that she arrived half way through the concert, and Martin was forced to stop for coffee on the A303.

The show was a sell-out, packed with many bearded gentlemen clutching pints of beer, a few kids a bit older than Ben, and a surprising number of young people.
But then Eliza commands a cool crossover audience as well as the diehard folk fans of her parents’ generation.

Ben was fascinated with Martin’s guitar playing, if a little disappointed at his technique,
“He has to look at the strings Mummy, that’s not very good.”

I did point out that he wasn’t strumming, but plucking complicated tunes which involve using his left hand as much as his right; but looking at your instrument is apparently the sign of an amateur in Ben’s World of Guitar Proficiency.

His night out has enthused him though, and all morning he’s been practising the two tunes and five chords that form the sum of his guitar expertise.

He was very taken with Eliza’s voice, and enjoyed counting how many violin bows she got through in the course of an evening.
He has a piece of advice for her on violin technique too,

“She shouldn’t press so hard, should she? Then her bows would last longer.”

I can see a career in music criticism beckoning – although they’re going to have to start their concerts a little earlier if they want to keep his attention to the end.

By 10pm he was flagging, and today he’s been lying in bed in between bouts of guitar practising, complaining that he’s tired. He’s even said I may have to video Dr Who tonight so he can go to bed at 7.30pm and watch it in the morning.

I’m not convinced this “holier than thou” approach will last the day.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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8 Responses to All Around my Hat

  1. Omega Mummy says:

    What a lovely thing to do with him. It sounds like a really wonderful evening. Five chords sounds pretty good for age 8, but then, the guitar has always been a closed book to me.

  2. duwlichmum says:

    Yes he sounds like a complete star. My darling boy has just decided to stop his cricket lessons on Saturday mornings, after 3 lessons and an entire term paid for. He has done this with rugby and swimming and martial arts too – each time after we have paid and bought the outfit. I long for him to apply himself like your darling boy, although my Max is just five years old. I am hoping he will be inspired by something.

  3. brom says:

    My oldest keeps pestering me to take them to a gig. It’s finding the right one I guess to start the ball rolling. Eliza is a new name to me, and her, or someone similar looks like a good starting point. However, this may not go down too well as the current preferred list which starts with The Chilli Peppers and Aerosmith.

  4. Now you’ve started something you’ll have to keep it up …

  5. Beta Mum says:

    OM – he is still keen on guitar, which is the main thing.
    DM – When he was 5 he was expert at stopping stuff, but if I’d pre-paid I always insisted he continue until we got to the end of the pre-paid period.
    I’m a skinflint like that.
    Brom – lovely to meet you and to hear your music. I will introduce Ben to it. He prefers loud, fast stuff to folk – but having seen them live he now shows a touching family loyalty to Waterson Carthy.
    M&M – It’s an odd thing, but I’m quite looking forward to taking him to more concerts/gigs now. He seems old enough to cope with one night of sleep deprivation without bringing the house to a complete halt. Although he did refuse to eat everything except bread and ketchup for supper tonight, which I reckon is tiredness talking. that and cussedness.

  6. brom says:

    Cheers BM, thanks for popping in. I don’t mind the 70′s comment however put, It’s what I do and will always do. I enjoy it and that’s the main thing!

    Tell Ben just to keep practising. Anything.

  7. brom says:

    Thanks for your other comment on my music. I have replied with some suggestions. Cheers!

  8. spymum says:

    Bless him, he must be knackered, poor pet! What a sweet heart – he practices! Mine never do with out the impetus of bellowing and foot stamping! (Mine, that is!)

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