A plumber in a van swore at me this morning. This was not a great marketing move, in my opinion, in view of the fact that his name and phone number were emblazoned in a misleadingly cheerful looking font across the vehicle. And also given that, thanks to my Brownie Guide training, I can remember phone numbers with one glance and am quite tempted to give him a call (with the 10p I keep handy at all times) and enquire as to exactly what his problem was.

Actually, I can probably guess. Although I would deny it in a court of law, my driving may have been just a teeny bit obnoxious on the way home from dropping Mini-Me at school. The plumber was having none of my sweet smiling and flirty waving as I pulled out into a non-existent gap in the traffic; he slammed on his brakes (in an exaggerated and totally unnecessary fashion, I might add) and flipped me the bird, whilst yelling something obscene. Nice!

I don’t think it was just my audacity at the wheel that annoyed him, however. I’m not sure his mood was helped by the choice of music that was playing in my car. And out of my car. And down most of the street.

It was sunny and I was in a good mood, I’d had maybe one cup of coffee too many and I have finally, having had this car since June, after some serious trial and error and accompanying swearing, managed to buy the correct cable to attach my iPod into some random hole in my car so that the music comes out of the speakers. So, I was making the most of sharing my happiness.

It seems that he didn’t much appreciate S Club 7. What? You can say what you like, but Don’t Stop Movin’  is a great tune on a nice day and has to be played at high volume. Though maybe not out of the windows of a car, the make of which has a reputation for being associated with bad driving, with a grinning lunatic – who had spinning eyeballs from too much caffeine – at the wheel.

As for the choice of music, I have several guilty secrets, most of which I am not about to divulge, seeing as both my mother and the guy I am dating read this, but one of my indulgences is iTunes. I spend a lot of time trawling the store, downloading music and then making playlists. And yes, I know, that is simply the 21st Century equivalent of creating a mixed tape, but (at least in my mind) it is without the slightly pathetic connotations.

When I was growing up, I used to spend hours and hours in my bedroom making tapes, skillfully pressing “Record” and “Play” on my stacking stereo at the same time  and then decorating the cardboard insert from the cassette box.  I grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham and, from the age of about twelve, I would get the bus into town on a Saturday morning and go to the library. The central library had a massive music lending section, so I would rent LPs, take them home to record and then listen over and over again so that I could write down the lyrics. In a world of websites like Metrolyrics, where the words of practically any song are available, that makes me feel quite nostalgic.

Playlist pic

These days on my computer I have a playlist for almost every month, going back a few years. At the end of a month, I create a list of what I’ve been listening to, I download anything of note that I have Shazam-ed and the music serves as a record for the month. When I hear the tunes, I am reminded of events, situations and memories. It’s like a diary, but less self-indulgent and more easily (though not necessarily less-embarrassingly) shared.

Playlists are variable in tone, some tunes are repeated a couple of times over the course of a few months, or may well make a reappearance. Some lists hang together in a pleasing way, others are seemingly totally random, with artists all mixed up with each other, jumping decades, with clashing styles and varying in popularity.

September 2012, for example, so far holds the recently released album by The Killers; Lovely Day (Bill Withers), which is a favourite of mine; Green Day’s Holiday, played recently during a great week in LA; various Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (for whom I share an appreciation with my friend Ruth, whom I met up with a couple of weeks ago); and pianist Clara Haskil playing the Eintritt from Schumann’s Waldszenen Op.82, which I am currently trying to learn to play on the piano.

Like I said, seemingly random, but actually all significant – to me, at least.

A few weeks ago, Mini-Me and I went up to Scotland for the weekend with some friends, M and F,  who have a house up there.  Because of their need to transport stuff for the house, including boxes of wine glasses, lamps and a dog, they were going to drive. Mini-Me and I were kindly offered a lift with them, on the proviso that, due to space issues, I didn’t pack my normal seven pairs of shoes for any weekend trip away and, because we’re getting old , I did some of the driving on the way up to share the ridiculously long journey.

I jumped at the chance to drive their Range Rover – I love it – and I tried not to think of the responsibility of being in charge of my daughter, lamps, wine glasses (which, to be frank, were not desperately well-packed), a heavily pregnant M and their dog, who in Mini-Me’s eyes, is the most important member of their family.

I needn’t have worried. We spent most of the almost 11 hour journey northwards sitting stationary on the M6. My talent at zipping in and out of fast moving traffic was much underused, which was probably to the relief of my passengers, especially the dog who was in danger of having three pairs of wellingtons and half a dozen lampshades landing on his head every time I took a roundabout a bit too fast.

Spending that amount of time in a car with other people tests many things. Not least your tolerance for their choice of music. Let me say, even if you don’t have such an organised (peculiar?) format as I use for arranging your music, the CDs you play in your car hold as much significance and are a very clear indicator of your mood and taste.  I also believe that everyone has a ‘karaoke song’ – secret or otherwise – which they would choose as their number to belt out in public.  A person’s karaoke song is always one they have in their car, and which they perform loudly behind the sound proofing of their car’s exterior, when they are travelling alone. Clearly, mine is S Club 7. Give me a few mojitos and a microphone and I would even be able to take on all seven parts.

It’s a sign of true friendship when someone doesn’t mind that they’re not alone in the car before they start performing their karaoke song. F was driving and, having worked his way through his Barry Manilow CD (being oddly proud that he knew all the words to Mandy), despite my best efforts to muffle him by unwrapping sweets at great speed and shoving them in his mouth, we moved on to The Best Driving Tunes EVER, Volume One. And Two.

Halfway through one of the discs, somewhere short of Manchester, I witnessed a karaoke performance of great merit. F took on Bonnie Tyler and the classic Total Eclipse of the Heart. Now, I have never met anyone who actually knows all the lyrics to this song. One line  in particular is utterly indecipherable, so people just make up their own words.  Not so, F. He had clearly, at some point in his youth, spent a great deal of time figuring out the song and knew it off by heart. Every. Single. Word.  I have rarely felt more proud of my friend.

Weeks later, thanks to my music filing system, I can now relive this journey whenever I wish, as on my playlist for August 2012 is Bonnie Tyler – a strong reminder of a fun weekend away and a long, long, car journey, with a dog and lampshades.

By the way, the indecipherable lyrics in Total Eclipse of the Heart are “Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks”,  should you ever need to know.


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