Or why does what seems so easy with Cheryl Barker turn out to be tricky with Teddy Tahu Rhodes?

At my daughter’s Speech Night each year, the Headmistress (a sensible and admired woman) takes the ‘speech’ part of the night very seriously. Last year she clocked up a good 22.5 minutes explaining the challenges our daughters face in an uncertain global future. To meet these challenges the young ladies needed a thesaurus of skills. Creativity. Resilience. Imagination. Determination. Exuberance. Dedication. Innovation. By the end of the speech I was exhausted. I needed Resilience just to stay awake. 

Most of the time we attempt to be the best and give our all, but there are some times when you just can’t rise to the occasion, those days when you wake up in the morning, peer out from under the doona and know that it is just going to be a hard day. I would like to propose an international It’s Alright To Make a Mess of It Day, when you can drop things, make mistakes, play forests of wrong notes on the piano and generally forget we are in a fierce global competition that now begins at birth.  

Years ago people seemed to have children and let them grow up and wander the streets and they turned out fine. Now nervous parents are booking maths coaching for their babies. While they are worried that their child is normal, there is an underlying assumption that a child who talks early, gets toilet trained early, can play a Bach violin partita and paint cats by the age of one is somehow going to get an advantage later in life. Yet I’ve never heard anyone at a job interview ask “So when did you give up nappies?”  “Tell me when you first crawled” or “Let’s have a look at those finger paintings!” Life is not a race, it is a long slow voyage of discovery. 

In a change of subject I am pleased to report that I discovered something interesting recently – men and women hold hands in completely different ways. Men naturally hold hands palm down and women tend to hold hands palm up. Try thinking about it next time you walk along a romantic boulevard with your loved one.

“Teddy and I both went for the male hand-hold, which resulted in an awkward moment”

It is a fascinating gender difference, which I have noticed before, but recently it came up in a concert situation. I was on stage with Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Cheryl Barker and at the end of the gig we did that thing where the artists hold raised hands and then bow together. Holding hands with Cheryl was easy, we immediately locked into male and female patterns, as comfortable as an old couple shuffling down the Champs-Élysées, but on the other side there was a tussle. Teddy and I both went for the male palm-down-hand-hold, which resulted in an awkward moment where no-one was holding anything. We attempted a re-docking manoeuvre but once again no success. I realised that for the bow to continue, one of us was going to have to assume the female handhold. As the conductor I thought I had a fair claim to the male version, after all I had waved my arms in a manly fashion all night. But as I looked up at the six-foot-four Teddy, his shirt barely held together by its buttons straining against the rippling muscles underneath, pectoralis major forged in the fiery furnace of New Zealand Rugby, I realised that I was going to have to go for the submissive hold. We joined hands and the three of us finally took a bow. 

They never teach this sort of thing at the Conservatorium, but I think at least part of the final year should be spent on things like the technique and history of bowing, with a particular emphasis on inter-gender handhold exercises in order to increase on-stage Confidence and Global Resilience.