I’ve had quite a busy weekend really. On Friday I did a spot of DJing at my radio station’s roadshow and then I spent much of Saturday with the boys in the band recording our new CD. It should be out before Christmas.
Showing off, moi? Well, not exactly. You see, life shouldn’t just be work, work work and kids kids kids. As my two have got just a little bit older, I have found time for a couple of leisurely pursuits, both of which I adore.
The first is volunteering for my local hospital radio station. I joined up at the beginning of last year, quickly learnt the ropes and straight away had my own show. We really hit our stride with a three week community radio slot last summer where we able to broadcast beyond the hospital to the surrounding area. Most nights I presented The Big Kids Hour, playing chart music, recording stories and interviews and getting people in to interview live on air. I even persuaded a prominent MP into the studio. In short I had the time of my life. My monthly earnings fell a bit short but sometimes you just have to do these things.
But after those three weeks were up, I felt a bit burnt out with it and my regular presenting slots faded away. Also ‘local’ in Cornwall often entails a 45 minute drive. I was travelling for two hours without even spending any time in the studio or collecting requests from patients. When your kids are young, two hours of free time are so so precious. But I remain committed to the station, helping with publicity where I can and knowing one day I’ll get back into the presenting side of things. Last Friday was a marathon broadcast and I did a two hour early evening slot. The drive time slot, as my wife noted. Sadly no-one’s going anywhere all weekend at that time of day on a Friday in hospital. Well, unless it’s upstairs, so to speak. Anyway the fun I had preparing for and doing the show only made me more determined to get back into it soon.
For now the other activity taking up my time is the band. I say band but it’s actually a choir. A male voice choir in fact so the boys are mostly, well, old blokes. The guy I sit next to in the baritone section is one of the youngest and he’s 70 in January.
I joined about a year ago and they’re a really great bunch of people. I did wonder at first would it be a bit too blokish with lots of men sitting around moaning about their wives and recycling Bernard Manning jokes but there’s none of that. We are all there purely for the love and joy of singing.
Within weeks of joining I took part in their Christmas concert, then we spend the next couple of months rehearsing for a county music festival where we came first in one of the categories we entered. We learnt more songs and had a pretty successful summer season, supporting local charities and also, sadly, performing at the funeral of a prominent local man – but we’re booked for a wedding in December. And now we’ve just finished this CD, to sell in time for our run of winter gigs. There’s about 15 tracks on there. OK I daresay we are no Only Men Aloud but it was great fun to do and for me the perfect memento of a very enjoyable first year in the choir.
It’s so important for us working mums and dads to have this kind of getaway and distraction as a regular fixture in our lives. Every Monday evening I go along to practice for a couple of hours and forget about my worries about meeting the bills and having to make sure those kids are alright and happy. In fact I barely talk about them. Don’t get me wrong -this isn’t some secret double life I have. The kids have seen me in concert (well, sort of – I’m in the second row behind a couple of tall fellas). It’s just that I literally become immersed in the singing and the good company who are all enjoying the same thing. It’s wonderful. I heartily recommend every one of us working parents find an activity or pursuit that will do the same for them.
I saw a photo on an advert the other day which showed some young adults laughing and having a good time. I thought, ‘yeah, I bet they don’t have kids’ and momentarily mourned those long gone carefree days. But actually it doesn’t have to be like that. Life still can be carefree for us from time to time.
I do think that had we not moved to Cornwall, I would have never joined a radio station or a choir which would have been a shame because the opportunities are pretty much everywhere. When I faced the prospect of working back in London on a regular basis earlier this year, I looked into whether there was a hospital radio station and a male voice choir in the city. And of course both of these boxes were ticked. In fact there is more chance that you’ll find like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts forming groups, societies and organisations in a town or city. It’s not just people in the country who knit jumpers and decorate cakes.
So stop making excuses and do that activity you have always wanted to do but keep saying you have no time with the work and kids. Make time.
And then, like me and those pretend young adults in that photo, you’ll be living the dream. At Saturday’s recording, we’d just sung our best performance of the day with ‘What a Wonderful World’ and I turned to the chairman of the choir (one of just two members who are younger than me) and said ‘that could be our Christmas single’. He laughed in appreciation of the idea but perhaps thought I was a little bit bonkers. But then I told him how I’d contacted a few online mp3 stores to see if there was anyway we could get one of our tracks made available for download and even eligible for the charts. ‘We could be this year’s Rage Against The Machine!’ I said. Heck I’ve also got an idea for the music video in my head, but I stopped short of telling him that.
But you have to have a dream, you just have to. Or, as the song says, how are you going to have a dream come true? You can’t let kids stop you dreaming.
OK, for the choir to beat Cher Lloyd to this year’s Christmas No. 1 is a bit of a wild one – though, if anyone can help us on the way, please let me know. Instead I’ll settle for one day being like the chap in the bass section of the choir who was recently handed a badge to commemorate being one of our number for 50 years. 50 years! Proudly he told me that he actually joined in 1956 and then left three years later when his wife fell pregnant. A few months after the baby was born, his wife said to him ‘right, then, you’d better get back to your choir.’ And he did. Fifty years on I doubt you’ll find a happier, more kindly, contented soul.
And wild dreams aside, isn’t that what life is all about?