The Casual Father: ‘What are the words to wheels on the bus...?’

Michael Steward

Michael Steward - Credit: Archant

I was in a band once. Well, it was more of an acoustic duo, but for a while my friend Dave and I had designs on the big time. He was the singer, and I was the moody, song writing guitarist of The Glory.

Why a music industry mogul didn’t see the potential in two lads who strummed Oasis covers alongside a few non-descript songs of their own, with no bass or drums, on the highly regarded Suffolk rural pub circuit, I’ll never know.

But I’m ok with it.

It is only since becoming a father that I have found my song writing skills once again being scrutinized.

This time, the words and music by Michael Steward aren’t being judged by Dave, or by friends, or by the 20 people who used to drunkenly sit through our gigs and shout for Bryan Adams’s Summer of 69 every time we would play one of our own.

Oh no. This time they are being analysed (and criticised) by the wife.

“You need to sing to her more,” she demands as I listen to her beautifully deliver another masterpiece to Elizabeth, making up her own words to the tune of Old Macdonald or the wheels on the bus, or one of those.

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“Just sing what comes into your head,” she advises as she passes our daughter to me. What follows is a tuneless dirge that repeats Elizabeth’s name about seven times, before ending with “We love you.”

My attempt to serenade the little girl in my arms is sincere, but it would have sent even the most diehard fan of The Glory searching for the nearest exit, possibly without even requesting Bryan Adams first.

“Didn’t you used to write songs?” asks the wife accusingly, “They really aren’t very creative.” I can’t disagree with her, but any attempts to improve on the “Elizabeth song” fall even flatter, both in key and in the reception they receive.

“It’s no wonder you never made it as a song writer,” jibes the wife, who after listening to several efforts at original stuff finally says: “Just sing the Grand old Duke of York to her, she likes that.”

So there I was, chief song writer of The Glory, unable to produce anything beyond a 17th century nursery rhyme to entertain a six-week old, and I barely remembered the words to that.

Are there classes for that sort of stuff? A sort of dads nursery rhyme/songs for little ones refresher course?

Might be worth me attending one if there is, as I can’t seem to remember which way the wheels of the bus go round or what type of animals Old Macdonald used to rear on his farm.

I settle for wedging Elizabeth on the couch, getting out the guitar and playing a few instrumental numbers. She gives me a knowing look and immediately I just know what she’s thinking….

“I wonder if daddy knows Summer of 69.”