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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On end-pin stoppers, music exams and godparents,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Dear Alice,

I feel a bit odd about one of my husband's brother's family. I don't want to say anything against them, they are friendly and helpful in many respects but they have three sons who seem to play, between them, about fifteen musical instruments, all to a very high standard and whenever we meet both he and his wife are always talking about the eldest's distinction Grade VIII on the trombone and the second one's distinction Grade VIII on the violin, and how the youngest should have gotten the highest possible mark on whatever he plays except that his accompanist couldn't come. Speaking for myself, I feel dead proud my son won merit on his first cello exam but when they go on and on I feel absolutely furious inside.

Please help me because it's driving me crazy.

Ask Alice

Alice Dear Anon,

So sorry to get your email.

However, first try to remember that your brother-in-law and wife probably only drivel on about their sons because they have nothing very thrilling to report about themselves. I'm sure (I think) that they don't mean to make you -- or anyone -- feel lousy. Attempt to feel sympathetic, if you can. Don't take them on ('What a shame Leonard got just that little bit too nervous to achieve full marks like Aaron did!') but try to change the subject instead.

Sooner or later they will learn that music exams mean nothing (beyond, in a few cases, getting into a sought-after school).

In short, it's not your job to disabuse them so soon, especially as life will do it anyway ...


Ask Alice

? 'Hi Alice,

I wondered if you had heard of the latest design of end-pin stopper (rubber, with a hole, but still attached securely to the chair).

Don't they feel a bit spongy?
George, Berkshire

Ask Alice

Alice Hi George,

I have seen them but haven't tried them. My worry is that they might not feel quite as secure as the strap-type, but am very willing to be informed otherwise ...


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? 'Alice,

We just had our 4th child and are trying to choose godparents. Can her older brother and older sister be her godparents?

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Sophy,

As far as I know, almost anyone can be godparents, as long as they are willing to trot along to the ceremony and mumble the correct words at the correct times. However, if you're asking me whether I'd advise an older sibling as godparents, I have to say that I think you're on the optimistic side.

For a start -- though I hate to mention it -- there is, um, such a thing as sibling rivalry. What you're looking for in a godparent is a stable older person, not a teenager just as likely -- at least sometimes -- to wish that your fourth kid had not materialized.

Secondly, ideally godparents are people of your generation, rather than your kids': people mature and well-balanced who can be perceived as sources of knowledge and advice, sometimes even in preference to a parent, especially where matters of morals or religion are concerned. There may in short be an age-gap between the older brother and sister and your fourth child, but it would have to be a gap of over fifteen or twenty years to make ideal godparents in that regard.

Thirdly, what price the third kid? For example, if you choose kids 1 and 2 as the godparents to kid 4, I worry about kid 3.

Other than that, great idea, go for it.

Yours dubiously,

Copyright © 25 September 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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