Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On godparents and sibling rivalry,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? ' My sister-in-law and my niece have asked my husband and me to be our niece's godparents. I found this odd since she is thirteen years old and 'had' godparents. Can you just change godparents? And is there something 'legal' in the church we should be doing?

Ask Alice

Alice Dear anon,

Well, it's not usual, but it's certainly not unheard-of, either. Sometimes the original godparents fall out with the parents, sometimes the godparents lose their faith (or move away etc). You won't have to promise to do the square thing by said child in church, of course -- or do anything, as you put it, 'legal' -- but you shouldn't take it on if you feel uncomfortable about getting close(r) to the kid, being willing and able to proffer good advice, and so on.

Oddly enough, I helped to edit a very good book on this subject a couple of years ago (and no, I don't get royalties from it!!!) This is How to be an Inspiring Godparent by Wendy Haynes, ISBN 97809757338-4-4, see


Ask Alice

? 'Hi Alice,

My brother and I both play violin (I'm younger). In our school we have a music competition and I asked if I could borrow his violin, which is better than mine and he said no. As he's in senior school I think this is very unfair. I think I could win with his violin, and maybe not with mine. How can I make him loan it?

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Mike,

You can't 'make' him loan it at all. It's his violin.

Of course, he ought to be generous enough to want to loan it, but (as you know as well as I do) sibling rivalry is a very complicated thing. (Why do I keep imagining that your older brother failed to win the music competition when he was at your school??!!!)

(This is partly your parents' fault. Surely their family isn't so mammoth that you and your brother had to double-up on the same instrument in the first place, which is very bad family policy. I mean, what's wrong with the cello, the flute, the French horn, etc etc??)

Anyway, you have several possible courses of action.

  1. You could pick a fight with him (but he's presumably bigger and would cremate you, and it wouldn't solve the violin problem either).
  2. You could complain to your parents about his attitude (could solve violin problem but would probably seriously impair brotherly relations).
  3. You could win the competition on your own violin (boy, would that annoy your brother!!!!)
  4. You could reasonably and calmly ask him again, saying that of course you wouldn't do his violin as much justice as he would, but that you would be so grateful you'd let him (a) borrow something of yours he likes, (b) pay him all your savings so he could download more stuff onto his ipod or (c) whatever else you can think of. This may not work violin-wise (back to plan 3!!!) but it just might, depends on lots of things.

Hope you win!!!!!!

Copyright © 10 April 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice



 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>