The other week I went to my younger son’s school concert. I love the school concert because everyone takes part, even the cool boys. At my younger son’s school you can do anything you want to and nobody judges you. Whereas at a lot of secondaries a boy taking part in a school concert would instantly be dismissed as a geek or nerd. My son isn’t musical, but he’s happy to join the boys’ choir once a year along with all of us his friends.
The choirs sing pop songs. I love pop songs, therefore I love to hear kids singing them. I don’t care if it sounds a bit bad, in fact I quite like it if it does. I just love their enthusiasm. The mix of boys’ voices – deep 6th formers, squeaky year 7s and in-between year 9s just makes me smile. Laugh even. But with them, not at them.
Being a billy no-mates aka having a husband who doesn’t like school concerts, I was at the concert on my own as usual. Unusually, I had found a spare seat next to a friend and her husband. The husband spent much of the concert with his head in his heads. He couldn’t bear the sound of the boys’ choirs. It was too flat apparently. I didn’t understand. Couldn’t he see the joy? Couldn’t he see how much fun they were having? Wasn’t their enthusiasm infectious?
When the orchestras came on, I got a bit bored. It was OK if they were playing pop songs or TV theme tunes, but not if they were playing actual orchestral music. And I realised something.
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand.
Generally, grammar school kids don’t come out of nowhere. They come from families who embrace music and sport as well as academia.
But we’re not a musical family. I don’t understand music. I like listening to the radio. In fact, I LOVE listening to the radio. That doesn’t make me a typical grammar school parent. I don’t hear what my friend’s husband heard, because I don’t understand music at some deeper level. I understand two things about music – I like it or I don’t.
I also don’t understand rugby, another essential of the grammar school family. I love watching my son play, but my understanding is pretty much limited to the ball must never be passed forward.
My husband and I are bright enough. My son isn’t a freak of nature, but our family isn’t quite that perfectly wholesome middle class family a lot of the kids come from, with a piano in the front room and a dad who grew up playing rugby and now coaches the kids’ team.
But suddenly I understood my friend’s husband’s pain. He couldn’t bear the sound of the boys singing flat in the same way that I can’t bear to see a misplaced apostrophe or incorrectly used capital letter. I couldn’t understand his pain because I didn’t feel it, but I could understand him feeling pain about something others don’t understand.
Because I feel every apostrophe in the wrong place as a physical pain, but can I explain that to others? They just don’t get it. They feel their pain from boys singing flat or maybe the offside rule applied incorrectly or kids missing the beat in a dance.
Does anyone else feel pain from odd things? Or am I just weird along with my friend’s husband?