Who whistles these days? Lily is learning to whistle and practices while she is doing other things like homework. I whistle. My father used to whistle and so did my mother and my maternal grandmother. She, Granny Lucy, was a brilliant whistler. She could whistle vibrato and I was fascinated as to how she did that. I’ve tried and failed to sound like her. Roger Whittaker can whistle beautifully. I sent Lily this link so she could hear how beautiful whistling can be. Kath said that Tex also enjoyed it and wagged his tail in time to the music!

Tex enjoying Roger Whittaker’s whistling

My father had a special “I’m home” whistle that he did when he came in from the farm. I was trying to think of it on Father’s Day but couldn’t quite remember. I emailed my siblings to see if any of them remembered the notes he whistled. Straight away my oldest brother and youngest sister came back to me via phone and messenger to show me. My sister in South Africa phoned me and whistled the notes. Then I remembered and I have been doing the “I’m home” whistle quite a lot. Father was a good man, so kind and patient.

People know who you are if you’re a whistler. When I worked in the retail book trade, no matter where I was my colleagues would say, “There’s Eleanor!” I was also advised not to give up my day job but I think that is just an Australianism because I’m actually quite a good whistler. There is a young woman who works as barista at one of the local cafés; she’s a whistler too. Whistling while you work!

I can whistle, or rather coo, like a dove or pigeon with my hands clasped – and I can make that coo vibrato. The secret is to have warm hands. Cup your hands nice and round, making something similar to an ocarina. When I teach my grandchildren to do this, I cup my hands and let them blow into the space between my thumbs. So long as they keep their lips firm it works. Loose lips just make spit. Loose lips sink ships. I’d like to be able to play an ocarina.

I can whistle loud and shrill with two fingers in the corners of my mouth. I had to practice for a long time to achieve the skill. I finally managed it whilst in school (a long time ago) in a boring lesson. A piercing whistle emerged amongst the spit that was a by-product of the process. Hastily, I took my hand away from my mouth and looked around innocently. I can’t remember what happened after that.

I can whistle shrilly with a gum leaf between my thumbs. I can whistle through an empty toothpaste box. However, I can’t sing at all. I’m absolutely tone deaf.