Alex James: The Great Escape

'It's amazing how toddlers can nail a melody'
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The Independent Online

Last week, it looked for a minute as if Blur might get back together to headline Glastonbury next year. Then it was all off again just as quickly. Not happening. Still, Geronimo had asked me to come to his playgroup to sing some songs on Friday, so it wasn't the end of the world. I'm still in showbusiness, baby. It was a big day at playschool, too, the last one of the year, with a party and Father Christmas and presents.

The morning was one of perfect silence and clarity. An immaculate frost had brought nature to a standstill, as if something vast was about to happen. The sun slunk along sideways, a distant silver magic sleigh. It was bone-shakingly cold and beautiful, even in the car park, when I arrived on the other side of the hill at the village hall. It was toasty warm and cuddly in there, and there was tea for the grown-ups. I was cosy inside and out.

Geronimo ran around saying: "My daddy came! My daddy!" They'd had a bit of trouble getting him on the stage for the Nativity last week. He was well cast as a shepherd, but his crook, which is basically a big stick when you think about it, was a mistake and he had all his toy diggers confiscated for bashing baby Jesus.

First, we had to say goodbye to the children who were off to big school next term. They were all standing at the front in a neat row, mostly bewildered, all impossibly cute and well behaved. Then we were on, me and my boy. I sing to my children a lot. They like it more than anything, especially the little ones, or maybe it's me that likes it more than anything. Anyway, they listen.

We kicked off with "Dig dig digging", Geronimo's favourite song. He stood there with his eyes closed and sang every word along with me. He was even getting the tune a bit. It's amazing how kids can nail melodies. The way they say words is more appealing than when people who can actually pronounce things properly say them. It kind of makes you think about the word when a child says it. Simple melodies can be transcendental in a child's voice. It's about the most ear-catching sound there is. Everything about toddlers is musical, really.

We did "Bob the Builder" next, so everyone could join in. The mums were bang on it, knew all the words to the second verse and everything. "What do you want to do next?" "I Fought the Lawnmower," said Geronimo, straight away. The mums joined in with the "I fought the law anna law won" bits. It was like some kind of art-rock experiment. It was going well.

I wanted to do "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" next, but I struggled with it and started it in the wrong key. Then the mums wanted "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", so we sang that a cappella. I started "Stop the Cavalry" and the mums joined in. We were probably enjoying it more than the kids by that time.

But Geronimo wasn't having Jonah Lewie. There were musical differences creeping in already, so we left the stage. It was a big success, though. Fifteen minutes of loveliness. I rather wanted my wife and my children to see me doing my old job in front of a hundred thousand people as the sun went down on the summer solstice. Glastonbury would have been great, but second on the bill to Father Christmas was kind of more important, and probably better fun.