We all have favourites. Favourite people (I met mine 40 years ago and I have been married to her for 34 of those years), favourite places (there is a bar on the beach at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola where you can taste the salt from the sea and drink ice-cold beer), favourite things (the first computer I ever bought, and old BBC microcomputer). We feel at one with favourites, at comfort with them. If there was such a thing as a soul, they would be soul-mates. Until a few days ago, if you had asked me what my favourite musical instrument was, I would have replied without hesitation, the trombone. The choice, I must stress, is that of a listener to music and not a player. I have a well-documented inability to produce any musical note and the thought of producing two in close proximity to one another strikes fear into my very heart. Many decades ago, after singing The Red Flag whilst travelling back on a coach from a Halifax Labour Party Housing Sub-Committee visit to Sheffield, I was told by Doreen Pickles that I was tone deaf and that I must never again subject the world to the sound of my singing, whistling, humming or playing.
The only person who has swum against the tide of this judgement, is my friend Ed. Wise beyond his twelve years, Ed decided to take sole charge of my musical education. He has a belief - the kind of belief that cannot be shaken by inconsequential things such as evidence - that I should be just as capable of playing a musical instrument as anyone else. It is just a matter of finding the right instrument. He will turn up at our house with a variety of instruments, demonstrate them with measured adroitness, and then invite me to give them a try. The rest of his family and the rest of mine will then block their ears as I squeak and squawk into trumpets, bugles and cornets.
When he arrived on Sunday he carried a case of interesting proportions, inside of which was a euphonium. It looked pleasing, and when Ed demonstrated it, it sounded pleasing. The name is pleasing. I suddenly remembered that my grandfather had played the Euphonium in the Band of Hope band, and the memory was pleasing. With trembling lips, I lifted it into place and blew. Ed said I did very well taking into account I had never played a euphonium before. The rest of the family still hid away. But I knew that I had found my favourite instrument
I have searched the internet and discovered that euphoniums can be bought for as little as £200. I am hoping that all my friends will launch a public appeal to raise the cash to buy me one for my birthday. I have this abiding vision of on a bright summers' morning, stepping onto my balcony with its yellow wooden rail, raising the euphonium to my lips and playing . Man and instrument in perfect harmony.