For any of the more mentally challenged amongst you - EG: those of you who may have been unfortunate to read the blog of the my previous long trip in 2005 and 2006 – you may remember that my previousMP3 player was very possibly possessed, and at best had an utterly wicked sense of humour.
Though sad that my old MP3 player longer accompanies me sometimes needs must, and a few months before I departed this time, I bought a replacement. Not used huge amounts initially, I have now been using it long enough and often enough around the Island that I can happily inform you all that it is indeed a worthy successor. Though certainly not possessing the same brilliantly sharp – and, indeed, freaky – sense of humour as my old one, it nonetheless seems to have the unerring habit of choosing at random just the right track for a given moment.
Which is just as well, really.
A friend of mine, Sergio, who also blogs his current trip here on TP when he remembers – which, admittedly, is not often - is an East London lad and he wrote a couple of months back about the Ridiculous-ness (i like that word even though I probably just made it up) hearing an East 17 track on a bus in Siberia and how such tunes and moments get ingrained in your memory. In an odd circular twist to this tale which isn't really a tale, he left on his trip the same day as I left on mine and we met briefly – though deliberately – in Paris that first morning to celebrate our common escape and toast upcoming happy travels. He is also a colleague of David, he who made his surprise appearance on St. Helena either a couple of weeks ago or couple of blog entries back, depending on your point of reference in the Time/Space Continuum.
I agree with Sergio. Music has long been at the core of my travelling memories. Partly, I just love sounds and input, and so constantly bombarding my senses with music. Whilst my memory of dates is pretty much, well, what is the technical term? Horrific? I can associate certain songs to certain days or events or even flash back style moments which when i now hear them I invariably remember, often with a smile. In fact virtually none of these events or moments would be memorable in the slightest if I didn't have the musical memory. And although many of these specific moments in time (to take a few at random: Jamelia's Superstar, for a specific night in Rome in June 2004; a certain section of Tubular Bells II for being sat in a carriage on an old style virgin XC train in pitch black, shooting through Heyford station at speed on the last train to Oxford; the opening to LL Cool J's “I need love” and walking through Birmingham; US3 for drinking coffee in a small shop in Huangzhou, China with 3 friends; A large section from Santana's Ultimate Collection for travelling repeatedly and slowly across Belgium in the cool summer evening breeze; Xi Shua Shua for sitting drinking home made Chilli-Vodka in Sa Pa, Vietnam) occurred in moments before – or without – my MP3 player, many more have occurred since, or at the very least I have subsequently got hold of those tracks and added them to my MP3 player's collection. It also helps explain the increasingly large proportion of songs and albums that I have in languages I don't fully (or at all) understand.
Going back a couple of paragraphs, the reason it is just as well, is that St. Helena plays what can only be described as an eclectic variety of music. The two radio stations do a pretty good job of catering to all tastes, and there is a surprising abundance of live music. Whilst both of those are excellent things to have, it also causing me a problem. With only days to go, I have picked up not a single specific musical memory of St. Helena. What is more worrying is that the few tracks that I have heard repeatedly and I may come to associate with St. Helena are either horrific (Barbie Girl has come up with alarming frequency) or, almost as bad, from possibly the only musical genre that I actively try and avoid: Country.
Now I don't have any huge problem with Country per se, and am quite happy to listen to the odd track here and there. Just not all the time. The problem is that Country music is almost obscenely popular here. Sundays are basically country day, so the radio now stays off and even if I am not out walking, my MP3 player provides a musical background to the days occurrences. There are country shows on both stations throughout the week, and every week the papers advertise upcoming C+W nights and line dances. And whilst I have heard about enough C+W to last me until the worlds economy is happy again, not one track or artist has in any way stuck with me.
And for that, I am forever grateful.