I’m about to go on stage at Glastonbury and play my Ben 10 guitar in front of thousands of people. I am the world’s best-kept musical secret. I am billed (by myself) as the first musician to bridge the gap between Julie Andrews singing ‘The Hills Are Alive’ and David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’, a gap that should never, for the sake of decency, be filled. I walk on stage and it is worth it for those few seconds of glory where everyone is in the palm of my hand, waiting for the first note… I knock out a handful and stop, look out over a sea of heads and prayer flags with my name on them and I know. I know that after a magnificent set from ‘The Killers’, the first few notes of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ won’t cut it. There are five-year olds in the audience who could do a better rendition on a triangle. I give them the opening riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’. There are three year olds who could do that with a pair of castanets and still look good. A wave of humiliation hits me like a breeze block wall. I wake up. Of course it is a dream. I have neither the barefaced audacity nor the talent. I never did learn the rest of the song. However, in 1981 I did have long curly hair and on reflection before I burnt the photograph, looked like a cheaper version of Dolly Parton. No, I am not a musical fraud. I am a fraud in other ways…
In November, I was interviewed for a program on ‘International Men’s Day’. I was pitched, along with three other men as a ‘role model’ and even a ‘local legend’. Let’s be honest, I am a bloke who has been a ‘stay at home dad’ for 20 years, which I know does sound like someone who simply refuses to leave the house and do a proper job. I am also a writer my literary agent currently refers to as a ‘mid-range author’. It’s all ego-fluffing stuff. I should be buzzing like a bee. I feel nervous that I might be legendary for something I am not yet aware of, which could one day make up a headline and ruin my life.
I arrived on the penthouse floor of a local hotel where a microphone looking like a character from the Muppets was thrust into my face along with a piercing light. It was more like the torture scene from ‘Marathon Man’ than a little chat with a seasoned interviewer who made me feel far more important than I actually am. We chatted about mental health and the disparity between genders and how men are finding it increasingly hard to find roles and titles without Alpha or Neanderthal in the wording. They even put up a picture of one of the covers of my ‘mid-range’ books. Every effort was made to ‘big’ me up. It was a good job I didn’t bring my Ben 10 guitar.
The other interviewees arrived. We only had a sporting hero, a man who runs a charity to support disadvantaged children and a soldier who lost an arm and both legs to a mine in Afghanistan, all with Queen’s honours and rightly so. I thought about saying ‘I’m a stay at home dad, put that in your pipe’. I didn’t because my jaw was resting on the lush carpet.
What I thought was this- ‘I bet they don’t interview women on ‘International Women’s Day’ to talk about being a stay at home mother as if it were some sort of gold medal expedition from which most people never return. They don’t do this because it’s what women do, every day, since time began, without the interviews and the accolades’. My MBE hasn’t yet arrived, but it’s Christmas and there’s a lot of post.
If I could do the interview again, I would say this- I would say this is one of the reasons there is gender disparity, less opportunity for some women to gain back the ground they might have lost in their careers because they have looked after the children, due to a society still archaically hard-wired to an outdated ethic. So, don’t make me a role model, unless we make every mother one too, rewarding them with the respect they deserve and the commensurate opportunities. So there, I’ve said it now.
I also got a ‘fan badge’ on LinkedIn because so many people liked my interview. I mean, are you being serious? That’s the ‘fan badge’ gone then.