I knew today was going to be a good day when I drove onto the A40 towards London and then heard the travel report on the radio less than 30 seconds later – two incidents on the A40 London bound, expect delays. Typical. So I thought to myself this could go one of two ways: either I swear a lot, bang the steering wheel, get stressed or I just sit back and let it wash over me. Quite out of character, I decided to do the latter. I think it was because the sun was out, something of a rare occurrence in the UK of late. I think I was a bit giddy from a glimpse of blue sky.
Sitting on the A40 for an hour and a half co-incided with one of those “guess the year” radio shows in which they play you the top ten on that day in a particular year (usually from many years gone by – pensioner pop as I affectionately call it). I think I’m pretty good on the ’80s ones – I would go as far as to say really rather good, not so hot on the ’90s and pretty damn useless on the ’00s. As usual there were the phone-in guesses and their back stories, “1982 – I just know because that was the year that Gazza and I met at a roller-disco” or “1983 – I’m sure it is because that was the year that Jezza dumped me and I went to Corfu for a girls’ holiday”.
It got me thinking about how memories are sparked, how they become almost tangible, how you are thrown right back into a moment from the past. We all have different triggers. For some people, it is something visual – a photo or an object; for others it is a smell – a perfume that someone wore or a food that you used to cook; for me, it is music. A tune can come on the radio or my iPod and I’m straight back there, the time passed evaporates. I have different tunes that resonate with different phases in my past. For example, take James’s “Sit Down, Sit Down Next to Me” – immediately I am back in a hovel of a nightclub in Reading on a Sunday evening, I am about 18 years old and we are all sitting down on the dance floor for the duration of the song. Yes, we thought this literal interpretation of the song was really funny and really cool – like we were staging some sort of sit-in, protest of sorts. This particular period was at the end of my “goth” phase – lots of dark make-up, lots of black and paisley shirts in various shades of purple – it wasn’t a good look then – hideous actually -and is quite horrifying to me now.
Take another tune – “Ride on Time”, Black Box. I think I’ve mentioned this one before but this is for me the tune that sums up the late ’80s for me (summer of ’89 to be precise) and if I hear it, I immediately want to get up and dance but this time I am wearing one of those lycra mini-skirts so beloved of the late ’80s – the same skirt which my father insisted on calling a belt which gives some indication of just how short it was – and a “body” (do you remember those – basically the same as babygro vests with poppers underneath that your average 6 month old wears nowadays).
It is not just the memories that flood back but also all the accompanying emotions of those heady days on the brink of adulthood. At the risk of sounding like someone who is 40 (oh yes, I just remembered I am 40), I do wonder if the songs I hear on the radio today will do the same for this generation of youngsters. I promise I am not going to say they all sound the same but I can’t help thinking that those of my youth were better, more memorable. Actually, in fairness I do actually like a lot of the music released at the moment and I do have a playlist of such stuff to play on the school run – don’t let anyone say I am not a cool mum. However, I also have a playlist of my so-called pensioner pop – music from my prime. I would never play my pensioner pop on the school run – I have an image to uphold after all – but today on the A40, on my own, I had my pensioner pop playlist on full volume and I knew every note, every lyric and I loved it. Thank you A40 for being predictably jammed this morning – blue skies, just myself for company, great tunes (a few odd looks from those who were sharing the road with me) – I had a ball.