One of my main jobs as the, er, alpha male of the family, the rampant silverback, the protector and provider, is, to blow down any length of tubing we encounter. Any cardboard tube longer than a toilet roll, scaffolding, drainpipes, those curious concertina-like lengths of plastic hosing you find coming out of the ground on building sites, etc etc. To lay aside my habitual modesty for a moment, I’m very good at this. I can produce a variety of tones and effects, from a plangent musicality, not unlike an oboe, through a faintly comic didgeridoo, all the way to a bone-shaking, biblical horn-blast. So I was quite pleased when my daughter’s new violin bow came in a nice long tube. I expected to produce something like the sound envisaged by Wagner when Wotan prowls around the stage: sonorous, deep, majestic and yet unsettling. However, in front of the whole family, all I managed to emit was a feeble honk, like the last dyspeptic belch of a disappointed man, dying in a nursing home, in Slough.
At this point my son stepped forward and took the tube from my unresisting hands. He then blew upon it, and the entire flat resounded. It was like a trumpeting mastodon. The rest of the family broke into applause, and I trailed to my study, defeated, alone. The baton had been passed. The old silverback was defeated. And yet I felt, co-mingled with the gloom of perished glory, that spark of pride. I’d taught the boy well. My work was done.