Advice for an unexpected summons

When the doctor said I had to go straight back into hospital because my blood test results were so dire, and never mind passing ‘GO’ or pausing for a cup of tea, it posed only minor practical problems. But since then I’ve wondered if there was any good advice I could offer others. In an emergency, how could you be ready for action in a similar situation?

Eyebrows spring to mind first, I confess, because frankly, decently plucked eyebrows come right into their own in some emergencies. I rather wish I’d given them priority at the time. But (a) any guys out there still reading this probably aren’t going to give a damn about their eyebrows, however sexist that may sound, and (b) it’s way too general a point for this context. (See also, e.g., clean nightwear, slippers, spongebag refills refilled, and some attractively varied reading material. You could work all that out for yourselves, right?)

But I’d never before realised how important it is to have all – repeat, all – your music on your iPod, and effectively organised into accessible playlists. And here are three good examples of why that is so, and just how much frustration and angst you might avoid in a similar future crisis.


Example Number One: The Goldberg Variations.

I have the glorious Glenn Gould CD version on my iPod, which you might think would do the trick – indeed, that it might do just about any trick imaginable. But the trouble is that it not only includes the 30 harpsichord tracks themselves but also, oh damn and blast, a surprisingly loud interview with GG right at the end. So any attempt I make to be soothed into sleep or at least into relaxation by the hypnotic patterns of the Variations is destroyed – right at the very end, when you might think that otherwise the lulling would have worked. This playlist needs urgent revision! I need to make a new one that doesn’t include the shock of the shouty damn interview!


Example Number Two: Nancy Griffith

Nanci Griffith has recorded at least two versions of her glorious “Love at the Five & Dime” song. The version I usually seek out begins with a paean of praise for the old Woolworth stores and then segues into the song itself. (I especially love the bit where she says she spotted a Woolworth’s store on her first visit to the UK and longed to stop the car, leap out, and buy a load of “unnecessary plastic objects”.) But because of the hospital drugs, or exhaustion, or general endemic incompetence, it took me hours – truly hours of faffing around – to find that one. I should have it carefully lodged in a special playlist such asĀ  “Old Favourites”. And I will do, just as soon as possible, when I’m back home.


Example Number Three: my rest of entire music library

And why on earth I haven’t automatically added all new CDs to my iPod? Go on, tell me why not. Incompetence? Indolence? I even add them to my backup hard drive, for pity’s sake. But there’s a whole raft of music to which I can’t listen here in hospital, because – grits teeth in frustration – I didn’t add the CDs to my iPod. What’s more, I have at best only half-remembered clues about what the missing CDs might be. I have five Schubert piano trios on my iPod but surely that’s not all I own? Where are the Mozart operas? What about more Locatelli? This is all very frustrating. And here’s the worst bit: I don’t even know for sure what I’m missing.

I wake in the night and think: didn’t Phil give me some Ali Farka Toure? Where the heck’s that gone? And the thing is, on one level I could imagine myself perfectly content if my whole iPod was stocked only with Leonard Cohen. Maybe only with Leonard Cohen on repeat, singing ‘The Tower of Song”. Or maybe only with Sharon Robinson on repeat singing ‘”Alexandra Leaving”.

But then again, you need some variety in hospital life. Like – going home would make a pleasant change, I sigh in self-pitying fashion.

And my advice for today: get your iPods up to date, dear friends.







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