A couple of years ago Mr M&H and I had the ‘musical instrument’ conversation.
That is, at what age is best for them to start playing an instrument?. Working in music, Mr M&H is naturally very keen to foster a love of music in Mole and Hedgehog, and I learned my share at school, (the piano, recorder, violin, clarinet). We settled on the age of six, reasoning that this is old enough to know what they want to play, and young enough to hard wire the skill into their brains.
So about a year ago we started asking Mole what instrument she wanted to learn. The answer was always the same.
“Are you sure?” we asked nervously, thinking about the endless hours of squeaking coming from her bedroom, driving us bonkers.
“Yes, the violin” she would insist.
So as per the plan, when she reached her sixth birthday, we got her a quarter size violin, found on facebook marketplace for £22. Who said instruments had to be expensive? Second hand is the way to go. This way I know I’m still getting her a quality instrument, but I won’t feel short changed if she only sticks at it for a few weeks.
I asked about violin lessons at her school, and behold, they are available. So as of this week she's signed up and ready to go, toddling off with her violin case every Monday. Luckily there are other children wanting to learn which means they can form a group, making it much less expensive. She seems committed already, getting her violin out every evening and striking little tunes on it. She plays it very sweetly, it doesn’t even hurt my ears, which is a pleasant surprise.
Hedgehog is still four but has made it known that she wants to play the drums.
Lord help us.
Aside from music lessons, Year 1 has opened up the world of after school clubs for Mole. She now does forest school on Tuesdays and tennis on Thursdays. This will switch to gymnastics and cricket after half term. Mole laps it all up, she is in her element.
For me, this would extend the school day by an extra hour, giving me a bit more peace, if it were not for the fact that I still have to fetch Hedgehog at the usual time. It’s not worth going home again for one hour, so we sit around in the playground until Mole is finished. I’ve started bringing a playground picnic now. Hedgehog leans next to me like a little seal, finger in mouth, the other hand twizzling my ear, occasionally letting go to chew her sandwiches, and swig my tea.
Together we watch Mole while she gathers leaves, runs with piles of lawn clippings from across the school field, or hits tennis balls over a net, occasionally turning to give us a coy wave.
When Mole re-joins us they both go off to swing on the climbing frame for a while, just as I want to get home. Eventually I have to walk away with Otter in the buggy, before they come scampering after me. Pretending to leave is becoming my main ploy to speed them up in all things. It seems a bit mean but it works. Like a puddle duck with the ducklings all trailing behind her. Except the part when they drop down the drain.
Hedgehog copies Mole in just about everything. It’s a very sweet duo they have, when they are not fighting or whining.
"She HIT me"
"No I didn't"
"She PUSHED me"
"She started it"
"No, I don't want to"
"She won't play my game"
Last Sunday afternoon for example, they did a rendition of dance shows to Tchaikovsky music that went on for two hours. It was a good excuse to be ‘the audience’ on the sofa and avoid doing the laundry. The ballet shoes came out, Mole took the male part while Hedgehog was the female, and their moves involved lots of close tangoes with frequent kissing. When Mr M&H got home he brought out some more modern music.... from Bjork, to Bat for Lashes, to Lady Gaga, Kate Bush and Adele. Their favourite was Kate Bush. Mole and Hedgehog have good taste.
And what music does Otter like? She’s fascinated when Mr M&H plays the guitar, grabbing at the strings and gazing at him in wonder. I also like to sit her on the piano stool from time to time and let her do some plinky plonking. Some instruments like this that we already play would be useful, so we can do the teaching, as we’ll probably be skint from all the music lessons by then.