When I was at university, I tried so hard to live within a budget, staying within the confines of my student loan, grant and what I could earn during weekends and holidays (yes, I was the last of the generation that got a small grant and didn’t have to pay fees. I was very fortunate). I would write down all my expenditure and knew what I had in my bank account to the penny. When I was running out of cash, I would live on plain pasta with black pepper. And then I would break, take £100 out of my savings account, and blow the lot on books, CDs and, more rarely, clothes.
This isn’t a post about money. I used up all my ability to budget during my university and travelling days. Now I probably don’t know to the nearest thousand what’s in the joint account without checking. We have an account that combines income and mortgage and our cash flow can be a bit random.
No, this is about music. When I was done with playing the martyr, doing what I thought I should do, denying myself pleasure to be “good”, and I cracked, my extravagance was usually music. (My habit of choosing the “cheap” option, to my own detriment, is a whole other post).
Music has been as important in my life as books – it’s another form if escapism. Oh to have had an ipod when travelling, instead of a battery-guzzling cd player and an ancient in-car tape deck. Mind you, even that brings stories. My tapes included U2 (donated by a Magic Bus driver) and Donovan (from a rather attractive hitch-hiker). My CDs included Pearl Jam (bought for the Kiwi I fell in love with), Jans Joplin (bought to impress said Kiwi!), and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bon Jovi – two CDs that will always be the soundtrack to our breakup.
I have always loved listening to a whole album over and over, learning the words and seeking for meanings, although I often made my own playlists on blank tapes and then discs, long before iTunes made it easy (although moving music from PC to iPad in any structured fashion seems to be beyond my capabilities!)
I’m not sure when that love of music stopped. I haven’t bought a CD for me in a decade. I don’t download music much either. I think the last track I bought was for hubbie’s birthday last year, not including CDs for the children to have in the car. Actually, it was having the children that saw the end of my music. Any attempt to play my choice is met with yells of protest and heaven forbid I try to sing along. Yet music still brings pleasure when I remember to play it. Mostly I listen to the radio. Even then there tend to be only a few tracks that really grab me and they’re played for two weeks by the radio station and then never again.
It’s crazy. Music makes me happy, uplifts me, takes me outside the quagmire of my own head, allows me to find shared feelings, to dance around the kitchen or sob into my tea in a shared cathartic moment. Music fills the spaces, sparks the words and helps my writing when I’m stuck. (Garth Brooks is the master of getting a whole story into a single song). Why deny myself all these opportunities to feel better?
So today I downloaded an eclectic mix of tracks that have made me smile recently – Young Blood by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Happy by Pharrell Williams and (blush) Story of my Life by One Direction. Now I’m trying to remember other uplifting tracks, to download and play when the world gets black (hard to be sad clapping along to Pharrell’s catchy tune!) because everyone’s life needs a decent playlist.