I don’t believe that people are either optimists or pessimists. I think life is a lot more complicated than that. Sometimes, I am relentlessly determined to see the positive side of everyone and everything. And other times, I’m a grumpy old git. I’m a sunny curmudgeon, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I mention this because for some time I have been thinking something terrible. Something almost unforgivable, that I would never dream of mentioning in polite company. (Luckily, the shooglypeg does not qualify as polite company). And I suppose I want to make clear, before I give voice to this hideous thought, that I am really a nice person. I do not go around looking for lovely things to be horrible about.
With that said, here goes. I hate the Military Wives song.
I know. I’m sorry. But I’m nice to cats! I stop to tickle their tummies in the street and everything!
It doesn’t help, does it? I’ve just publicly admitted that I despise a song that is raising money for charity, sung by women whose partners are serving our country in desperately dangerous circumstances. I might as well go down to Edinburgh Zoo and punch a panda.
But there is just so much to dislike about it. Putting aside its musical merit, which is easy because it hasn’t got any (thwack! Take that, Sunny the Panda!), the main thing that gets me is that it doesn’t seem to represent any of the military wives I’ve met. This is an insipid, drippy song that sounds like it’s being sung by a bunch of kids. But all the military wives I’ve ever met were terrifying women who could run a business, take care of their own and several other people’s kids, sort out a fight and pack up their entire house in less than a day, all at the same time. They are awe-inspiring, yet this song makes them sound like a dreamy-eyed bunch of damsels, constantly swooning at the window waiting for their Military Husbands to come home.
And that’s another thing. How come they are all wives? I know the army is a bit old-fashioned, but I’m pretty sure there are plenty of military husbands and boyfriends out there, who all feel the pain of their loved one’s absence every bit as much as the women.
But choirmaster Gareth Malone (who, incidentally, I think does a cracking job working in deprived schools and communities: see, I’m not heartless, I’m not!) seems to have focused exclusively on the stereotypical man-in-services-woman-keeping-home-fires-burning type of family.
I heard him a while ago on the radio, explaining why he wanted to do this song, and he said that he wanted to shine a light on these women and look at what happened when women become wives. Which sort of sounds laudable, except that his song suggests what happens is that previously fearsome women become Mills and Boon types who need a male choirmaster to give them a voice. Which they don’t really seem to have found – I have yet to hear a single Military Wife actually speaking for herself. Gareth and his lyricist Paul Mealor seem to be doing all the talking.
Look, I know this all seems terribly bad-tempered. I know the women involved are all adults who have chosen to take part. I hope they’re having a whale of a time and I hope with all my heart that their husbands come back safely from their tours and they all live happily ever after. It’s just that this was a great opportunity to hear from a group that doesn’t often get a voice, and it would have been nice to do something a bit different, rather than the shovelfuls of half-baked soppyness that constitute Wherever You Are.
Although they are on course to prevent Simon Cowell’s latest creation bagging the Christmas Number One, and for that I will forgive them almost anything. See? Always looking for the bright side, that’s me!