Pongs and Songs and a Virtual Time-Traveller


I recall the celebrant at my wife’s funeral asking me if there was a ‘special’ song that we had shared. I surprised her by saying no and adding that our musical tastes were quite dissimilar. I was glad of the situation because (thought I) it would mean that I could continue to listen to the music I liked without being forced to think of her, and (naturally) becoming upset. What I had failed to consider is the fact that human  memories are often triggered by sounds – particularly music. There have been many cases, since her passing, when I have needed to switch off a song, or take myself away somewhere to be alone until I can recover my emotional equilibrium. But yesterday (13.03.2022) I was caught unawares by my car radio. Flicking impatiently through a multitude of channels, I paused as the opening bars of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be‘ filled the passenger compartment. In an instant I’d travelled back to 2019; aboard an Easyjet Airbus to Spain; my MP3 player earphones buried in my ears – listening to the same song; my wife beside me as she played upon her beloved Apple iPad. It came like a bodyblow. I had to pull over in traffic – unbidden tears welling. In the space of a few seconds it seemed that all the effort I had put into trying to recover from my loss had been for nothing. But, of course, I got over it. I pulled myself together, and resumed my journey to collect our daughter from her day care centre. But I continued in silence. Music is a cruel time machine. It lays in ambush. Then today, some thirty hours later, I decided to ride my freshly-repaired motorcycle in the dark. Once I’d accustomed myself to the remarkable quality of the ride produced by new tyres and clutch, and travelling along an unlit and nondescript country road, the cold air made my nose run, and I sniffed involuntarily. As quickly as the music of the previous day had taken me back in time, so too did the aromas of the English countryside at night. I was momentarily confused. I didn’t know where I was. Then, for the briefest of moments, I thought I was a twenty-something version of myself, riding my bike to visit my new girlfriend’s house. Then, as I recognised the true situation – that I was sixty-five, and that it wasn’t March 1981 – far from being upset, I felt something akin to gratitude. Gratitude for the almost four decades that were to follow on from that year. For a life worth living. Sometimes  time travel can be a happy affair after all. Certainly, from my experience, pongs beat songs every time. 

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