‘Anyone can play the drum: you just hit it.’
This seemed like a really stupid argument, especially if you were talking about a drummer in a band….but the guy in question was talking about ME and the band in question was the 1st Ramsgate Boys Brigade.
In the late 80s, there were two Boys Brigades in Ramsgate, imaginatively titled 1st and 2nd Ramsgate. We were 1st Ramsgate and our brigade captain wanted to be the best: the best figure marchers, the best athletes…and the best musicians.
Sadly, what he had to contend with was a bunch of largely unenthusiastic kids who were being faced with two really tedious instrument choices: the bugle or the drum. I’d already failed at the bugle, something of statement considering that all you had to do was blow into it with a sort of modified mouth-fart in order to make it scream.
‘Can you blow a raspberry?’ the officer in charge had asked me.
‘Yes. Everyone can.’
‘So do it. Right now. Blow a raspberry.’
I did. The kid next to me laughed.
‘Right. Now put the bugle to your lips and do it again.’
‘Not like THAT.’
I frowned. ‘I just did what you told me.’
‘It sounded different.’
‘I think it’s because of the bugle.’
‘No, trust me: it’s YOU.’
The guy talking was no more than a teenager himself, but had an air of authority that made him seem so much older. He also had a face fuzz that was starting to graduate from chin pubes to that odd stage where you end up looking a bit like the Missing Link. In the Boys Brigade at that time, he was like a god.
‘Purse your lips together like you’re kissing a girl.’
‘I’ve never kissed a girl.’ The boy next to me sniggered.
‘Don’t tell people THAT!’
‘Why? It’s true.’
‘You know what a kiss IS, though? Right?’
‘Yeah; of course.’
‘So do that with your lips.’
‘Now put the bugle up to your mouth and blow.’
‘Not like THAT.’
In conclusion, that was pretty much the end of the bugle. Next, I was moved onto the drums. Presumably, this was because they reckoned that even if I was really bad the sound of the other drummers would drown me out – how wrong they were.
We all stood in a line rat-a-tat-tatting tunes like ‘A Hunting We Will Go’ and another one that sounded like really heavy rain.
All this time, the band leader (an older, soft-natured gentleman) stood in front of us, squinting with his head on one side, trying to figure out what was wrong. He suddenly focused his gaze on the right hand column of the band, walked along the line and stopped. Right beside me.
‘It’s David, right?’
‘Yes, Officer! SIR!.’
‘That’s fine, David. It’s not the army. Just relax.’
‘SIR! YES SIR!’
‘Good. Can I just hear you on your own, David?’
I played the drum.
He stared at me for a long time afterwards, smiled compassionately and folded his arms.
‘David,’ he said. ‘Have you ever carried a flag?’
‘Would you like to?’
I looked over at the company’s ceremonial flag: it was massive.
‘I don’t think so, Sir. I’m not sure I could carry it. What if I fall over and it hits the person in front of me. I think it might hit more than one person in front of me. I think it might hit the entire line. Then, if I tripped sideways it might be like TWO lines that go down.’
There was a long, pregnant pause before the guy spoke again.
‘I think we should start you off with the bugle, then maybe have a try with the drums and leave the flag as a last resort.’
He handed me the bugle. ‘Do you know how to blow a raspberry?’
In the end, I spent precisely eight Sundays trying each and every active role in the band. I played the bugle (once), the drum (twice) and even carried the flag (less than once because someone else had to take over when we got to the church).
These days, I still miss the Boys’ Brigade….but I don’t think it misses me.
This blog was written by Davey Stone on Saturday 6th March, 2021.