“Anyone want to choose the next song? … Anyone?”
YoungLochinvar and I look round the circle of Elfins and are met by slightly bemused stares. We have been asked by FellowKnitter to help out with a session singing campfire songs, leading up to the Whitsun camp in Epping Forest. Elfins are the youngest in our local Woodcraft Folk group – ages up to about 7 – and we are looking at a dozen or so of them. They’re a tough audience to get going, that’s for sure. I’m jolly grateful that YoungL has come along with his guitar, as otherwise you’d only be able to hear FellowKnitter and I laying our burdens down and refusing to study war (whatever Mr Gove may say).
I’ve brought along my guitar too but I’m nowhere near as good as YoungL because I can’t play bar chords; even an F which pops up with alarming frequency in campfire songs. When I’m hacking it at school, I transpose everything to a key I can play, regardless of the fact that this makes most of the songs too high or too low to sing. I’m thinking of publishing these as a collection called ‘No F in Songs’.
“How about the Penguin song?” suggests FellowKnitter. I don’t know this one, so YoungL leads it, which gives me a chance to have a proper look at the Elfins.
I don’t really know this particular bunch of kids but about half of them – and most of the volunteer helpers – look as if they hail from Asian families. The ethnic mix of our bit of the woods has changed a lot, even in the time since my kids were Elfins. I recognise that some people find this unsettling but personally it’s one of things I love about living in London. It’s so blooming interesting: you can meet the world without leaving the borough.
Next song? Hoorah – a suggestion! And one I like, what’s more. You might have been brought up with this song from your cradle but I have to confess that I first met Back of the Bus when YoungL and InfantPhenomenon were Woodies. It’s inspired by Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her bus seat and has a catchy tune with a nice repetitive chorus and no effing Fs, so I can play it.
YoungL belts out the words and by the end most of the Elfins are rooming in the jailhouse, and swimming in the swimming pool, and voting at the Courthouse.
“How did it go?” asked ActorLaddie, dishing up the dinner.
“Slightly surreal,” I tell him. “I do love the campfire songs but I wonder what the kids make of them. The words seem so far from their own lives.”
What a ridiculous thing to say! The news this morning is of the eleven people killed in Karachi as they queued to vote in Pakistan, and of the brave people intent on continuing democracy there, whatever it takes. There are many still very familiar with the risks of sitting at the front of the bus, in whatever form that may take. This may include some of our Elfin families, who knows?
Compared to that, my tiptoeing around not wanting to upset people by asking them to sign a petition is pretty pathetic. There are wrongs to be righted out there and, as soon as I’ve had another cup of tea, I’m going to get up and do it. Though I do have some planning to do… and I’d better check if Graham Norton has Retweeted my message…
PS: If you’re a UK resident, have you signed the e-petition asking for increased Government funding for Parkinson’s research? There’s a link to the petition here. 2,039 signatures at present: just under 98,000 to go.