Last week my mum presented Mr Shoestring with this old song book, which she suggested he could cut up and paper walls with. It is full of old imperialist and traditional airs, and I can remember singing some of them at school. We didn’t think overly hard about the lyrics of the songs in our school singing sessions and some of them are rather questionable by today’s standards. But it did give us a sense of enjoyment and pleasure in singing.
As a family we used to sing a lot as we drove around in the car. We were a family of three sisters and in between slapping each other and squabbling over who got the horrible position of having to sit in the middle of the back seat (the "window" seats were always the favourites), we had a lot of singing sessions. In fact as soon as we got into the car we seemed to begin singing and our songs included roundelays and harmonies.
I can’t say that any of us were great singers, but it helped to pass the time and we enjoyed ourselves.
When my own children were young I would try in vain to get them to sing, but they always seemed embarrassed and said their voices were terrible, which wasn't the point from my perspective, but they would not be moved. I figured most people can enjoy singing but there I was wrong. For instance, Mr Shoestring tells me that he was a foundation member of one school and because the roll was so small all pupils had to be members of the school choir – except Mr Shoestring and two other boys. The leader of the choir told them to mouth the words to the songs, but on no account to utter a sound! Apparently their voices were so flat as to be a positive hindrance rather than a help in the choir. Poor things, wouldn’t that scar you for life? Perhaps our children inherited Mr Shoestring’s fear of singing after hearing this, who knows. Whatever the reason, singing has died out in our family except as a strange private idiosyncrasy, which is a pity. I suspect it is the same for many families, perhaps we need to attempt a revival but there would be strong resistance from the non-singers among us.