Teddy Quincey is no stranger to heartbreak, and at the grand old age of 79, he knows only too well that life can be a series of surprises. Some surprises that are indeed very welcome, and others, not so much.
He has recently written and recorded a song, titled ‘Robin on the Starch Pack’, with which he hopes to inspire others and in turn for them to make a donation to Prevent Breast Cancer.
In our latest blog, he touches on how his life has been affected by breast cancer, and how he has found joy in music.
As a grandfather in a family that has experienced the loss of both a partner and a child to breast cancer, my memories are both joyous and heart-breaking. But life does go on and can still be filled with wonderful people and experiences that make it brilliant.
I hope that this story of a 79-year-old ‘newby’ singer songwriter might strike a chord with Prevent Breast Cancer supporters and inspire them to make a donation. Their excellent work needs your support to ensure that fewer families are affected by this tenacious and often inherited disease.
Our genes might mean that we inherit something covetable, like beautiful ‘peat bog eyes’ (more on this later), but they can also bear something more sinister.
How the song came about
In the early hours of a morning in October of last year, with no previous form or intention, I wrote a song. It was a culmination of random thoughts, of which I have a lot of, but somehow, they came together.
Like-minded ukulele enthusiast, Trevor, who I met in Cumbria, warmly described one of our companions as being able to ‘charm the robin off a starch pack’. This was an expression I’d not heard of before, but I was very taken with it, particularly as I remember the robin he was referring to from the Reckitts’ starch box that was a staple for families such as mine in the 40s and 50s.
I’ve always liked a robin. I’m a fair-weather gardener but will often glance up from weeding or digging to spy one perched, quietly, watching my progress and hoping for an insect titbit. They’ll appear from no-where and depart as suddenly, but their bright eyes take it all in.
My wife Stephanie had shiny, dark, wavy hair and lovely deep brown eyes. Her mother said she owed these ‘peat bog eyes’ to her Irish ancestry.
There have been plenty of ‘peat bog eyes’ in our children and grandchildren, none more so than for Jo, our first daughter. It was she who was wrapped up warmly in a moses basket on a magical Christmas Eve, when Stephanie and I crunched our way home after Midnight mass, through a blanket of sparkling, freshly fallen snow.
The first fifty years of my life passed with more ups than downs. I was lucky enough to spend most if it with both Stephanie and Jo, and to accumulate many marvellous memories, which still delight. But in 2008, we lost Stephanie to breast cancer, and then tragically in 2015, Jo, too.
The song itself
It was all these early hour thoughts that very surprisingly turned into my song. Not a love song, but a song about love, named after the robin on the starch pack, with the dark shiny eyes. For me, this song is very much the result of small steps taken along a new path.
In Spring 2007, on a whim, I decided to clear some of the junk that had accumulated in the attic of our Swanmore home during the 30 years we had lived there. In amongst the piles of junk, was my father’s banjolele, circa 1920/30, estimated cost 2s 6d old money. It was damaged, but not irreparably. A few weeks later, with new strings and skin, I was determined to learn to play it. Progress was slow, not helped by big hands, sensitive tuning and a complete lack of musical background.
Fast forward to December 2014 when I was (only) 72, my now good friend Beverly Lambert had put a notice in our parish magazine suggesting forming a ukulele club. Now the banjolele is a close and noisy cousin to the ukulele and on a second whim, I asked if I might come along to the proposed inaugural meeting. Although I had made it clear that I had little or no skill, the answer was an unequivocal yes, and I became a Soberton Strummer.
These two small steps had taken me to the start of a musical path. I learnt about chords and strum patters, key and time, and the word ‘gig’ entered my vocabulary. I made new friends, including Brian who encouraged my singing, Shaun who brought fun and discipline to my learning and Peter who with the skill of a talented luthier, modified my banjolele so it became much more straight forward to play. It was the ‘Wednesday Group’ who reinforced what a pleasure it is to make music with others, and I learnt the words ‘open mic’, and with it, the confidence to sing in public.
So, I am now a singer/songwriter. I suspect a one off, but who knows.
With the help of a new friend, Dafydd, I made my recording, which I hope you and others will like, or at least like the sentiment and enthusiasm. I hope that that my song will inspire many donations to Prevent Breast Cancer, and I’d love for you to share it with friends and colleagues whom you think may enjoy it.
Thank you to Teddy for sharing his inspirational journey and for fundraising for Prevent Breast Cancer.
Visit Teddy’s JustGiving page today.
Listen to his song on YouTube.