Turn it up

When we bought our first iPod four years ago we got this little attachment that was supposed to let you play it through the car stereo. How cool is that? All our holidays involved driving and neither the South of France nor the State of Alabama are blessed with Radio 4, NPR talk (in many places or throughout the day) or a good music station. Rather than lugging along our CDs we saw an elegant solution in new technology.

We kept the gadget and its instructions and the iPod charger in a little travel bag that contained Calpol chewables (essential item in luxury travel form), (in its usual state, Calpol, a brand of liquid children’s fever-reducer, is pink and viscous); the mini-screwdriver for changing the batteries of the educational gaming device; the earbuds, so the shrill arithmetic monkey could not be heard by others; the Euros and the dollars; the shopping trolley token for the Hypèr-U and the sleepmasks. That’s us sorted.

Arriving at the rental car lot there would be the usual kerfuffle of ensuring that you had up front the essential car items, directions and music, which were not necessarily in the carry-on bags and had to be dug out of the luggage, and fast, as my husband in a parking lot is always in a hurry.

How does this damn thing work?

You have to press the digital counter to zero, second button I think. No, the one on the right. Okay try that. Now tune to an empty station.

There are no empty stations.

The whole premise seemed impossible.

We never got it to work. I think we still have it. I should throw it out.

We usually brought along CDs because we knew the gadget would fail us.

Because cars were something I associated with being on holiday it was strange to move here and be in a car all of the time. And not be on holiday.

We have public radio here but midday it is brass bands, so not a steady and reliable source. There is a station that plays a curious juxtaposition of provocative, conservative talk and Elton John. I was going a bit mad in my car. It took a while to figure out that cars now come with auxiliary jacks and have a special button on the stereo and all you need is a cord. Finally, iPod in car. I had been waiting years for this.

Therefore: An unexpected upshot of moving has been the rediscovery of music and the discovery of new bands. We have even been to concerts, which my husband sees as a victory over some kind of fundamental intractability in me that he has endured these many years.

I was never one for iPods on the tube. Competing noise. The soundtrack was the city. At home, we listened to Radio 4, an endless stream of spoken word. To retune took more time than it was worth. And so other than Pop Idol, the early years, and brief stints listening to XFM, or what was played in an exercise class, I had left music behind. It did not have a place in my life.

“What’s Will Young up to these days,” I mused as we were driving to Nashville to see the Fleet Foxes.

“I really should have a blog,” my husband snorted.

Therefore: I use iTunes. I have replaced music from my twisted old cassette tapes from high school and college and added new music. From iTunes U, I downloaded some French conversation podcasts from the Open University and listen to people order breakfasts and ask directions. I am getting into vacation mode. Only this year I will leave the thingy behind and pack my magic cord.

Disbelievers waiting for the world to not end on Saturday posted Blondie “Rapture” videos on their Facebook pages. We woke Sunday morning to bits of the Archers Omnibus, followed by Desert Island Discs. In a nice media symbiosis, this week’s castaway was Debbie Harry. She was guarded and unwilling to fully enter into the experience, though she picked songs with great beats, including one that I know from one of our Radio One Live Lounge CDs. And so we wake to live another day and this blog enters its second year. Music has been one of the unexpected benefits of my life as a constant driver. Music and writing, the side benefits of the move for this castaway.

Thanks for listening.


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