For the truly sad, there is always YouTube.
Not that I’m knocking YouTube. I wouldn’t dare with Toni so close. His answer to virtually any question is, “Look on YouTube,” and to be fair, he has a point. You can ask virtually anything and numerous videos will suddenly appear (usually made by teenagers from Minnesota) addressing, if not answering your query. I am sure that if I typed in “What is the square root of minus one” or “Why chameleons?” there would be answers – or something approaching them in all the dazzling frightfulness of human possibility unchained!
But that is not what I am on about. What I am concerned with is packing. An activity that I, and every right thinking person, surely hates. I was once beguiled by a ‘Top 10 packing tips’ electronic siren-picture in a side bar when I was supposed to be doing something else on the computer and I lost a couple of hours wandering through video mazes where human ingenuity had been concentrated on how to pack an entire wardrobe plus electronic equipment into a small case you could take on board a plane and still have space for souvenirs to bring home with you!
I cannot say, truthfully, that I retain much, except to realise that the principle of the Russian matrioshka doll (i.e. one doll inside another inside another and so on) had been taken to another level where electric leads inside socks inside shoes inside bags inside god knows what, was something that every thinking traveller had to do. I also remember that shirts had to be rolled and not folded and that one of those perfumed tumble dryer tissues should be placed in the case to make the clothes smell sweet and not musty when you finally got to your destination.
I still hate packing. And I have hated packing ever since I can remember. I lack that let’s-treat-this-as-a-3D-jigsaw-puzzle approach that separates the anal from whatever the opposite of that is. This hatred rose anew in me while listening to the CD player in the car.
As they are now so cheap I have become addicted to buying box sets of classical music that record companies are issuing to suckers like myself who still do not realise that all this music is available from somewhere else for nothing. I must be the only person in the western world whose electronic music library can be directly sourced to CDs that I own. Leaving that sad fact to one side for the moment, return with me to just before the motorway turnoff towards Terrassa and the first chords of an instantly recognisable tune.
It was the sort of music that comes with baggage. It was jolly and upbeat, but there was also a sense of melancholy connected with it as well. It took me a few minutes to realise that it was music from my college days, and music that was played at a specific time.
My first years in college were spent in Hall in Neuadd Lewis Jones (now demolished), one of three Halls of Residence on the campus of Swansea University: bed, desk and chair, rug, armchair and views over Singleton Park; breakfast and evening meal and a sort of full board at the weekends. During the holidays the halls were needed for conferences and the like so, while we could store some stuff in a lockable part of the wardrobe, we had to clear out. And that is where the packing came into play and my consequent misery.
I found that the only way in which I could counteract my fatalistic torpor when it came to packing was to play music of a sort of compulsively jolly sort. The very music was found on a sale price disk that I probably bought from one of the sales in Duck, Son and Pinker that I haunted. This record was of ballet music by Gluck and Grétry. Wonderful. That disk saved my sanity on more than one occasion when the utter misery of how to pack so much in to so little seemed more than any arts students should be asked to contemplate.
It was a moment of horror when a speaker from my (first) Boot’s “stereo” record player gave the sacred disk a glancing blow during one of my epic packing stints. This did not stop my playing the record, it just meant that at a certain point I had to brace myself for the needle to start skipping through a positively Stockhausian racket until the needle found the grove again and the happiness continued.
I had not looked at the contents of the boxed set that I was playing my way through in the car to Terrassa, it was merely the next disk, number 21 that went into the slot and the Straussian waltzes that came out of the speakers were more than acceptable, and the music matched the way Spanish drivers regard a three lane motorway as a sort of open dance floor to sashay their way around, sometimes with flickering lights to mark where they have been.
It was well into the CD when the music suddenly changed and the unmistakable tunes of Christoph Willibald Gluck came through the speakers and I started humming. The orchestration was hopelessly wrong for the eighteenth century, but by god, it was music and orchestration I knew! And then tune after tune in a sequence that I knew unfolded until the real gem of this collection started, the ballet suite arranged by Constant Lambert from various ballets of André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry. Let me not for a minute pretend that I knew the full first names of these two musicians; I am copying from the notes! But the music was second nature to me.
I have been looking for this recording for years. My original record was ‘sold to Cardiff market’ by Paul when the floor of the attic in which my record collection was stored started to give way under the weight! I never found a copy and now, unlooked for, I have it again!
I wonder if this is a sign that I will be moving again soon?
I sincerely hope not. I prefer to listen and enjoy the jollity and remember the misery in the tranquillity of memory!