Tag Archives: music

The Confluence of Chance

At the time of writing this post, five months have passed since I lost my wife to cancer. Rather annoyingly I’ve discovered that I’m no nearer getting over her death today than I was at the time it happened. Then I had so much to do – all the legalities and stuff – that my mind was completely occupied. Most of every day my mind is still occupied. Thank goodness for my writing and photography: I can escape into those slightly off-beat worlds. But today (like every day) something from the real world – from the past – impinged itself upon my cocoon: in this case a letter from The Tax Man, stating that she had over-paid income tax during 2020, and that, as her ‘legal personal representative’ (read; grieving husband), I am entitled to the rebate. My initial reaction was ‘Oh, that’s good; I’ll use that to buy a get-you-home spare wheel for the Skoda.’ Then it struck me that even now she is still helping me provide for our Special Needs daughter – which is what she would have wanted – in the form of her company pension; discounted food at my favourite supermarket; and now this. But rather than bouy me up, this thought just reminded me of my loss. But then I made a poor decision: I sat down at my computer to take my mind off the subject. Automatically I reached across to the stereo and switched it on. It auto-played Michael Buble’s ‘Home’, which is a sad song about how his career took him away from the woman he loved. Being in a heightened emotional state I found the song depressingly sad, but I was determined to sing along – until the line ‘And I feel like I’m living someone else’s life; it’s like I just stepped outside’, when I went into meltdown –  slapping at the OFF button in desperation. I never really understood grief before – despite losing both parents and two brothers. I wonder if I’ve been storing  it up all these years: it certainly feels like it. But at least I have a release valve: it’s called The Earplug Adventures; and right now I’m going to pour myself a coffee; sit myself down; and write the next episode. It won’t be poignant: it will be funny. I’m determined.

Tooty’s Techno-Mashup 2: And Tooty Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes!

Now Tooty’s never been at the forefront of technological change: he’s one of those who believe in the maxim “If it aint broke don’t fix it”. But once something new has been proven beneficial to him, he will embrace it like a long-lost legionnaire embraces a desert fort’s water butt. That is – he goes for it wholeheartedly. But, despite his adoption of technological advancement, he doesn’t abandon the old tech willy-nilly. No: it goes into his attic – collecting dust, cob-webs, spider shit, and (if he’s unlucky) moisture. And it is because of this reticence of his that recently, whilst searching his attic (for something entirely unrelated) he discovered a plastic box containing a bunch of these…

They are, of course, compact cassette audio tapes – still in their original cellophane wrappers and, consequently immaculate.

“Now what would Tooty want with those old slabs of plastic crap?” I hear you muse, “Why, they’re even older than video tapes – and they went out with the Ark!”

Well I’ll tell you. Tooty normally drives a very pleasant modern 21st century car, featuring a turbo-charged, three cylinder petrol engine that is frugal, reasonably clean, bloody quick, and sounds really nice when he floors the accelerator in any of the six gears available to him. But in his garden he keeps one of these…

Yes, it’s an old car. It goes (rather well), is taxed and insured, and can be driven any time he wants. He doesn’t need it: it’s a drain on resources: and it takes up room that could be better used. But he likes it. He likes the slow, lazy steering: the even slower, even lazier automatic gearbox; and the smooth quiet four-cylinder engine that originated in Japan and couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. It also comes equipped with one of these…

For those of you born on or near the time of the millennium, that is an FM/AM radio with compact cassette player. Once big news. Groovy even. Something that (if Tooty wants to listen to music of his choice, and not some noise selected by a ‘right-on’ self-important ‘presenter’ who wouldn’t know good music if it chewed on his/her privates) requires compact cassettes. Cue the recent discoveries.

“Ah,” I hear your finger raised questioningly, “but how does he get his preferred digitised music from his laptop/MP3 player onto the cassette?”

Well it wasn’t just the cassettes he found up there on the top floor: he also found this…

Yes, it’s an ancient twin-deck ‘boom box’ – designed and fabricated decades before the very idea of DAB radio. But here’s the thing: Panasonic inadvertently future-proofed this delightfully analogue device. They saw that people might want to record from their Compact Discs, (Hah – remember them?) which of course they did because their cars weren’t fitted with CD players (also which his modern car isn’t either: it’s all multi-media and Bluetooth stuff). But what they couldn’t have imagined is that their ‘CD In Line’ sockets could carry the yet to be developed digital information that comes from the Internet.

“Great,” you could be excused for uttering in a doubtful tone, “but how does Tooty get the aforementioned digital information to the boom box?”

Every single electrical item that Tooty has bought over the years came equipped with connecting cables. He didn’t throw them away either. So, after a half-hour’s rummage he surfaced with this…

One end into his laptop’s headphone socket: the other two into the stereo CD In Line sockets on the boom box…

Then it’s simply a matter of pressing RECORD on the Panasonic, and PLAY on the Toshiba laptop. Of course he has to listen to every song: but if you’re doing the ironing, or knocking up dinner, where’s the pain in that? And now he can listen to modern songs in his old car, without having to listen to a load of over-exuberant drivel. Did I hear the word ‘genius’ mentioned?

Sudden Unbearable Sadness

Like most men (and probably women too) I like to put off the house work until I can’t put it off any longer. Ironing clothes in particular. So when the kitchen table begins to bow beneath the weight of so much laundry I reach for a CD to put in my ancient (1990s) stereo – before I pull the ironing board out from the cupboard beneath the stairs and plug in the iron. Today I selected this CD…

I bought it for my late wife. I don’t know if she ever played it; but I knew I hadn’t. I figured it must be pretty good – Richard Carpenter having re-mixed his original works with new accompanyment from the Royal Philharmonic – especially if the listener likes high production values, wonderful melodies, superb chord progressions, and harmonies to die for. Of course it also included many songs that I’ve been singing along to for the past five decades, so I knew I’d like it. It was a no-brainer choice. What could go wrong? And indeed, for 99% of the CD nothing did go wrong. In fact it  made the chores an absolute delight. Then, after a couple of verses and chorus or two of the final track – ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ – with me singing along with gusto – the words to the song suddenly penetrated into my consciousness. It is a joyous song about two young people starting out their life together. It is a beautiful song with wonderful lyrics. But it was those very lyrics which cut me to the core. At first it was just for me that I felt such sudden and unbearable sadness. Then my thoughts went to all of those millions of other, older people for whom those lyrics can be so painful. To anyone who has lost the most important person in their life  -. especially in these days of Covid 19. My eyes redden and my throat constricts as I write these words. I had been singing along so merrily too. Then “So much of life ahead. We’ll find a place to grow.” And other lines: “Sharing horizons that are new to us.” And: “working together day to day”. I suddenly thought – I’ve done all that. So many of us have. Struggled to raise a family and keep a roof over our heads. Just getting through life together as a not-always-dynamic-duo, doing the best they could. I don’t suppose any of us thought about a time when we wouldn’t be sharing those horizons. That we wouldn’t be working together day to day. How many couples have planned their retirement together? How many have worked a lifetime and now ask for the reward at the end of it – only to be denied when one partner dies? Utimately the answer must be everyone. Those are the lyrics of a young person, for a young person. That beautiful song – and it is beautiful – is now torture for me. Go listen to it: I’m sure you’ll agree. But not if you’re over sixty.