I’ve had a few jobs in my life – I usually do more than one at any time. Some of them pay me a wage, others don’t – or barely do. Some of my jobs/tasks just feel like homework, the most relentless kind, self-imposed too, I guess. But the best job I’ve ever had is being a dad. It’s a tough gig sometimes too.
The toughest. But it’s easily the most rewarding. For the last few years I’ve been a full-time stay at home dad. I cram in a bit of freelance writing around that. I head out and play some records in pubs some nights too – in and around going to gigs as a reviewer or, erm, blogger-at-large.
Oscar is my son. He’s six now. When he was born – and I wrote about him in that link there – some chump in the comments said something like “good luck writing this blog each day now”.
That’s been my main inspiration ever since – that comment. Some nights – or early in the morning – I think of having a day off. And then I remember that there’s no way I’m going to give that person the sick pleasure of a smirk.
The stupidity of it all is that they probably don’t even remember writing their throwaway comment. But I remember it. It was a wonderful challenge. It stays with me – to this day. They might not even be reading this blog – so will never read this – but they did me a strange, wonderful, sadistic favour.
I’m lucky that Oscar loves music. Or I’m cursed. He’s lucky – some people say – to have a dad so keen on music. Soon people will start telling him he’s cursed.
At any rate we are good buddies. And well suited. I see just enough of myself in him to feel some strange pride and responsibility. He’s stubborn. But he can’t have got that from me. He’s passionate, there’s some wisdom there, he likes to talk…
I see so much of his mother in him that I know he has a fighting chance in this world. I take my job chaperoning him pretty seriously – even if it’s just to fast-forward the ads before Dora. It’s something that needs to be done.
I never know what music Oscar will dig – The Beatles were a big part of his life. And I figure that’s a great musical education right there, you could dedicate your life to what’s on their albums and perhaps far too many people have. But sometimes I try to introduce him to something and it just does not work.
So it was weird when, one day, I played him Neneh Cherry’s latest album, Blank Project. I was reviewing the album. But also I bought the LP which meant there was a bonus CD – perfect for Oscar’s bedroom. He likes to have control of the stereo (did I mention I see a bit of myself in him?) Well, I never really expected he’d get hooked on the Blank Project. But he certainly did. And still is.
About three years ago now Neneh Cherry played in Wellington. Obviously there was no way I could take Oscar to the gig. But a friend suggested I see if I could take him down to the soundcheck.
Anyone who has read this blog often enough (and that’s really your own fault – just because I turn up every day doesn’t mean you have to) should know that I never would have thought of that; should know I never try to – ever – get backstage, or meet and greet, or turn up at soundcheck.
The target I seemed to have on my back made me less likely to be the gushing fan. But every now and then I have my mark-out moments, as a wrestling fan would say. Or I catch myself out in that moment, or just after.
Still, I never would have thought that I could ask to turn up at soundcheck. Or that Oscar would (really) know that meant. Or would want to…
But, the seed was planted, the suggestion made. I sent an email off to the promoter. He – a wonderful chap by the way, a rarity in his chosen profession – replied saying that he would try to make that work, he couldn’t see why not. Etc.
But I was relaxed. I wasn’t too concerned about it happening. I figured – for whatever reason – it wouldn’t. I have had a few instances where I’ve been required backstage, or side of stage, to do an interview on the spot and so on. It’s nowhere near as glamourous as people think – and that includes if you never for a second thought it was anywhere near glamorous. And schedules are made to be broken. Things happen. It’s hard to pin it down to a precise moment and to make something stick.
But, on that Tuesday afternoon I get the call – around 4pm. A late confirmation that if we head down to the venue in the next half-hour we could see and hear some soundcheck; we could probably meet Neneh Cherry, have a chat.
Now, I’ve already spoken to her on the phone, my small part in helping to sell the show. But I run it by Oscar. He’s on the couch after a tough day at the painting easel at his daycare facility. I ask him, straight up, “Oscar, would you like to go and meet Neneh Cherry?”
He runs to his room, returns with his Blank Project CD. He says, “I would be so excited to meet her”.
And so we’re off. We chance it. I don’t know if he’s going to demand scrambled eggs as soon as we get there, or to turn around immediately and request a ride home as it’s time to catch up on Peppa Pig. But I figure that we’ll give it a shot.
So, he’s scared – a bit – when we get there. It’s dark, and they’re testing the lights for the show. We lurk about outside. We meet Neneh Cherry. She’s introduced to us. She scribbles on my LP and Oscar’s CD. She compliments him on his shoes.
We talk about her day, her days, her daze…she’s been on whirlwind flights and a couple of gigs in Perth. Things are good. But it’s all tour and grind.
We lurk some more.
The drums are being thwacked. So Oscar decides to brave the darkness, to check it out. He likes what he hears. He starts spinning in circles, waving his hands frantically, doing his dance.
Neneh joins him for a wee impromptu boogie. Then she pops back outside and he tells her that he’s hungry. She runs upstairs to fish out some blueberries from the rider. He sits and eats them. We talk a bit more about life. She’s a mother and grandmother. She knows children very well. It’s so obvious to see.
She goes inside to get her jacket. Oscar says, “Where did that girl go? I like her!”
We go inside. Me – slightly sheepish. He – the sheepdog, rounding me in.
Once inside he decides he’s the interviewer. Neneh mentions that her birthday is coming up soon. Oscar asks, “How older will you be turning?” She tells him her age. He then asks if she’d like to come to his birthday party. It’s going to be a disco dance party he informs her. She can bring her drums – and he points to the stage.
I’m not sure where to look or what to say – and of course I’m proud as punch.
She was so kind. So generous. So understanding.
We left before she tested her vocals.
She asked Oscar for a hug.
We left and he said, outside, “I really liked that girl! She was very nice!”
I reminded him that we had just met Neneh Cherry. He told me that he knew that. Obviously.
And we blasted her CD in the car, Oscar clutching the paper-cover signed by Neneh.
He’s been clutching it for most of the time since. He wants to have it with him whenever we’re in the car so he can “show the people”.
The gig was amazing. It was everything I hoped for and expected. And then a little bit more.
And the next day when Oscar woke up he asked me if I had enjoyed the concert. And I told him it was great. He said he’d like to go when he’s bigger, when she comes back. (“I will see here play her songs another day”).
I’ll tell you again that it’s the best gig – parenting. It’s the most fun you can have on the verge of stressing out. And then sometimes, every now and then, like once a year or so, it collides with your other job – in the best possible way. And that’s some strange reward indeed.
He’s still telling me “that was funny, daddy, how we met Neneh Cherry” as if it’s something most three year olds do – or would even want to do. And I’m still remembering that when she was Oscar’s age Neneh Cherry was being cuddled by Miles Davis or Ornette Coleman.
It’s all relative. Of course. All down to the relatives…
But that Tuesday was a pretty neat day, as music blogger and reviewer, as father and Neneh Cherry fan. It all came together on that day One of those one-day-only specials.