Do you remember when the only musical instrument most children could play was the descant recorder?

Most children except me that is for I could never get more than a shrill screech out of the ancient instruments of torture that used to live in a bucket in the music block in my old grammar school.

The bucket was half filled with Dettol to prevent the spread of bugs amongst the hundreds of boys who sucked and blew on them every day, and in my experience, Dettol is not conducive to a sound musical development strategy.

I still cannot get a recognisable tune out of any musical instrument, unless you count a two-fingered Chopsticks on the piano, and a one-fingered Groovy Kind of Love from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.

That’s why I am lost in awe at the keyboard skills of my grandchildren, who play exquisitely on their own, and even better when duetting.

My best friend at school was a top quality musician who could play multiple instruments, from piano, organ, trumpet and violin to a cool lead guitar.

I once went with him to Liverpool, where he was taking an exam on the revered organ at the Anglican cathedral in the lobscouse capital.

We got there much too early, and he passed the time by knocking out amazing versions of Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo and A Whiter Shade of Pale on the mighty organ, much to the puzzlement of tourists visiting the sacred site.

He recently retired as an examiner with one of the top music boards in the land, while I can still hardly play a note on anything.

I was lucky enough to be at an exclusive musical gathering some weeks ago featuring some of the very top names in Northumbrian folk music, including several members of the outrageously talented Tickell family, and a couple of former members of much missed Hexham folk band the Marras.

And among the highlights of the event were performances by two children on instruments a world away from the disinfectant soaked days of my youth.

One little girl played exquisitely on a harp as big as she was, and a young lad skirled away on the mouth-blown Scottish smallpipes,

It was a wonderful experience, augmented by lots of singing too, including selections from granddaughter Abbey, and various lachrymal Irish and Geordie ditties.

Cushie Butterfield and Fog on the Tyne rang out, and then came the moment I had been dreading, when I was asked if I would care to make some vocal contribution to the evening, either in the form of a song or recitation – it was that kind of night.

My singing has been described variously as sounding like a halfpenny trumpet, or a great black-backed gull passing a pine cone, but lubricated by several cans of Stella Artois, I agreed to give it a go.

I toyed with giving them my celebrated rendition of Marriott Edgar’s brilliant monologue about what happened when young Albert Ramsbottom was foolish enough to bung his stick with the horse’s head handle into the ear of Wallace, the slumbering lion at Blackpool Zoo, but realised I only knew about a quarter of the words.

So I dug deep into the memory banks to come up with a Lancashire song which I suppose will seldom have been sung in the North Tyne before.

I somehow managed to get through The Rawtenstall Annual Fair, but as Mrs Hextol noted, I was shaking like an aspen in a hurricane, partly through sheer terror at performing before such exalted company, and partly because I wasn’t entirely sure I could remember all the words from a song I hadn’t heard in about 40 years.

There were probably only a couple of dozen people or so in the room, most of whom I was related to or I had known for many years, but it was still one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.

Abbey, who has sung before thousands at Bellingham Show and elsewhere, was open-mouthed while Mrs Hextol was firing mind bullets at me in case the song was a rugby song, not to be sung to an audience containing many impressionable youngsters.

However, I am pleased to say the song appeared to go down reasonably well – and the shaking stopped after only a few days.