I’ve got an open bottle of cider in the fridge, going flat. It would seem my silver-topped bottle-stopper has far better things to do.
Strange things are afoot in the house, and have been ever since we took our 3-year-old to a Fisherman’s Friends concert in March. They are now the soundtrack to our lives; no other music is tolerated by she who rules. We listen to Port Isaac’s finest thrice daily (at least), and pore over the group shot, learning their names (at least half of them are called John – does that make it easier or harder?), and who sings lead vocal on each song (occasional guesswork required).
So it is that my once-functional bottle-stopper has been named in honour of bass singer Jon Cleave who, with his handlebar moustache and witty repartee, made a particular impression upon my daughter. During the day, “Jon” attends tea parties with my daughter, in the company of Jeremy the ice cream scoop. As I type, my little one is sleeping with “Jon” clasped lovingly in her fist. Cuddly toys have been cast off in favour of something that will poke her in the eye at 3am.
Some people may Daughter’s obsession with a bunch of middle-aged men rather weird; not I. In 10 years’ time, Daughter’s hormones will be raging and her walls covered with posters of a One Direction-type band who her father and I will dismiss as a bunch of pretty boys with no discernible talent. But for now, her fanaticism has entirely innocent roots. In her eyes, the FFs are gansey-clad, shanty-singing Teletubbies. The fact that Jon and Jeremy sup from Peppa Pig tea cups with penguins named Pootle and Oopsie proves this (kind of).
The guys even followed us to Crete, courtesy of iTunes. We plugged my phone into the hire car; trouble is, I only have two albums on there, and you can guess by whom. (Jon and Jeremy even came in “person”, packed in the Gruffalo Trunki with a wooden duck called Grooby. Shame they didn’t pack their swims, the pool was great).
While I would like a more varied musical diet, I’m quite partial to a shanty myself, and would certainly rather hear this than some of the nursery rhyme CDs I’ve been subjected to in the past. Sure, some of the lyrics are a little bawdy – Drunken Sailor includes several verses I’ve never heard before, such as “Make him sleep with the Captain’s daughter” (followed by “Have you seen the captain’s daughter early in the morning?”). And now I know what keelhauling actually is, I sing about it with marginally less gusto (look it up on Wikipedia – it’s brutal).
We’re still waiting for Daughter to sing “A damn good flogging wouldn’t do us any harm …” in public. And I now know where the Minch is, having looked up the Mingulay Boat Song to find out whether it was really as rude as I thought (it isn’t, so I must have a really dirty mind).
I admit, even, to being vicariously starstruck and milking my contacts. I met Jon Cleave at the Rioyal Cornwall Show, where he was selling copies of his children’s books about Gully the Seagull (a firm favourite in our house – particularly Gully And The Fisherman’s Friends), and his latest novel for grown-ups, Nasty Pasty (www.nastypasty.info). He was charming, even when I introduced him to “Jon Cleave”. “Very decorative,” he said, moustache bristling, adding: “An ice cream scoop – how functional. Typical Jeremy.”
I thought Daughter’s love affair might be over when we attended 80s extravaganza Let’s Rock Bristol. Having braved several monsoons and the ensuing mudbath (although not without a few “I want to go homes”), Daughter punching the air rave-style to Rick Astley, and joined in an audience a capella of Nik Kershaw’s I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, which we heard many, many times the following week. “I went home singing that song – it took me a while to work out why,” said a nursery worker.
But a week later, we had front row seats at the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, at a lunchtime concert by none other than the Fisherman’s Friends. We had a ball. Daughter impressed all around her with her inside-out knowledge of lyrics and actions (to Sailor Ain’t A Sailor – her all-time favourite).
A 4th birthday party is on the horizon, and the Friends may well provide the soundtrack. In fact, I wonder how much they charge for an appearance? That would be some birthday present.