Sunday, September 29, 2019


The script for this video is below:

Hello there, this is “Leigh Spence Is Dancing with The Gatekeepers,” I am Leigh Spence and, yes, I have been real all along. No internet characters for me, real life is more than enough. If you have come across from my website at [], thank you, and if something or someone has sent you in the direction of this video, welcome. 

This series is usually a written blog but, to mark article number two hundred, and because it is easier to show you my subject this time around, it is time to try something new. If you think this experiment has worked, and you would like to see more, please like, subscribe, ring the bell, all the usual stuff, and we’ll see where this goes.

We’ll come to our main subject of the HP-12 calculator in a moment, but just in case you were wondering, why is this called “Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers”? Sounds a bit strong, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is I once had a dream where I recorded an electronic art-rock album titled, “Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers,” where one of the tracks apparently had me yelling, “all they have are words” over and over again. The first article in the series, published in May 2016, ended like this: “Dancing with the Gatekeepers” could sound like a mystical battle of good versus evil, but it is much more positive to me: taking delight in the challenges life gives you, and having fun with those that think they have all the answers. It will be more about me trying to make sense of an issue, why I think the way I do, or why I am expected to think something, rather than coming to a decision. Ultimately, I want this to be a fun exploration of the stories we tell ourselves.

One month later, the UK voted to leave the European Union, and five months after that, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Lucky me, so good thing I’ve also talked about the Futurist Cookbook, postmodernism, vaporwave, dead shopping malls, “Myra Breckenridge”, and Jeremy Beadle. That’s not stopping any time soon.

Another reason I have made a video at this point is that I’ve realised I can effectively make a video using stuff found around the house. If I bring out a mirror, I can show you what’s pointing at me because, let’s face it, YouTube is public access television, and we are all content creators now. All I had to buy was the tripod, but everything from my phone’s camera to the tablet autocue, and the microphone on my PC headphones, were waiting for me to say, “I know what I can do.” There is nothing to stop you from having a go.

Anyway, calculators. I usually use a song lyric when I write an article, so I will call this one: “I AM ADDING AND SUBTRACTING, I’M CONTROLLING AND COMPOSING.” Kraftwerk were never one for lyrics, were they? “I AM AN OPERATOR WITH MY POCKET CALCULATOR.”

When did you last buy a calculator? When did you last use one? Have you just bought your child a calculator for school? Do you still have the one YOU used at school? Or do you just use your phone? In the early 1970s, calculators were the first time that the power of computing was made available to everyone, but they had already become a commonplace, even mundane, item by the end of that decade, a feat later equalled by smartphones. And yet, I can’t do without them. I like the idea of having one to hand, to calculate those more pressing questions like, what is the speed of sound through custard, and what are my chances of actually winning the lottery? What is more, why buy a stress ball or a fidget spinner, when a calculator is literally a load of buttons? No wonder I’ve built up quite a collection...


As you can see, a lot of my collection are scientific calculators of a certain vintage, mostly 1980s and 90s, back when they used to cost a bit more. What I have seen now is that, while your standard, four-function calculators have been ten a penny for decades now, even scientific calculators have reached the level where they can be found as disposable tat. That gives me an idea...


However, I want to focus on perhaps the most bizarre calculator of them all. It is a financial calculator, so let’s bring up some pictures of the City of London, where some people may still be stubbornly using it over Microsoft Excel. It has been on sale for nearly forty years now, despite the constant attempts by its producer to make and sell faster, more capable and easier to use machines. You’re already ahead of me if you read the title of the video – it’s the HP-12C.

...and here it is again. There are many videos on YouTube that provide tutorials on how this works, so it’s a big hello to you if you clicked on this one by accident – I can only apologise.

The HP-12C went on sale in 1981. By this point, Hewlett-Packard had introduced “shirt pocket power” with the first scientific calculator, the HP-35 in 1972 – by the way, I’m only quoting what it said in the manual. “Our object in developing the HP-35 was to give you a high precision portable electronic slide rule. We thought you’d like to have something only fictional heroes like James Bond, Walter Mitty or Dick Tracy are supposed to own.” Hilarious to read now, but the HP-35 instantly threw away hundreds of years of using slide rules and logarithm tables. General Electric ordered twenty thousand of them immediately. 

By 1981, HP introduced a range of cheaper calculators, codenamed “Voyager,” all using the same horizontal case. The 10C, 11C and 15C were all scientific calculators of increasing ability, while the 16C was made for computer programmers. Note the ability to change mathematical bases, which I like to use to see what numbers come up. For example, the Book of Revelations states the Number of the Beast is 666, but in hexadecimal, that becomes 29A, or the House Number of the Beast. In Octal, it is 1232, the PIN number of the Beast, while in binary: 





All of the Voyager range, bar the 12C, left the market before the end of the 1980s, overtaken by more capable machines. However, they are very highly sought after – if you can one under a hundred pounds, then get it straight away, because the average price is nearly two hundred pounds.

Why did the 12C stick around? While HP needed to make sure that trigonometric functions, reciprocals, exponentials, square root and so on were included on the first scientific calculator, the first financial calculator, the HP-80, would feature functions invented by HP – the “time value of money,” amortisation of loans, bond prices and yields, accumulated interest rates, mean and standard deviations, past and future dates, days between dates. You didn’t need to know why they work, only that they do. No wonder the manual for the 12C includes a disclaimer advising HP takes no responsibility for the answers their machines create, or any risk that comes from acting upon the answers. It is also why the manual makes sure you know the basics of financial calculators before telling you how to turn the thing on, on page 16.

Taking a look at the 12C, it includes all the usual functions like amortisation of loans – literally how much the payments will cost to kill the loan off - bond prices, depreciation, interest and date calculation. Everything is easy to calculate, because instructions are included on the back. The gold colour distinguishes it from the rest of the Voyager range, and confirms it means business. Also, when the heat is on, the metal construction means the calculator will cool your face. 

I will include at this point that HP calculators are famous for their build quality. Bill Hewlett, the “H” in HP, accidentally dropped an HP-35 when demonstrating it to a client, proving such a sensitive piece of machinery could survive being used in everyday life. Meanwhile, a zookeeper wrote to HP explaining their 12C, which they used to work out feed levels, had been accidentally dropped into a bucket, and eaten by a hippopotamus. When it was eventually recovered, it worked absolutely fine.

You may have noticed there is no equal button. A hallmark of HP calculators is “Reverse Polish Notation”, which basically means that you enter your numbers first, then say what you want to do with them – instead of saying that three plus four equals seven, you say that you are taking three and four, and adding them together. This is why there are no brackets – you don’t need them. You can also stack up to four answers, which means if you want to add this together, you have to do this:

[(3+4) x (5+6)]

Three enter four plus, five enter six plus, multiply, seventy seven

Something you often find on older calculators is the screen blanking out when you press a key, or when it is processing an answer – this is due to the speed of the processor. What I haven’t seen before is this: if I enter the date I am recording this on, 26th September 2019, and see what the date is a hundred and fifty dates from now, you get “running, running, running,” then the answer of 24th January 2020. I guess it’s better than a blank screen, and thinking you broke your device.

The serial number of this model means it was made in 1991, which means there had already been a couple of revisions to the original processor, due to changes in manufacturing, but what I don’t get is this: a faster processor was put in, but it was throttled to the same speed as the original one. Why? If it didn’t work in exactly the same way as the previous versions, would it be less trustworthy? Possibly – business has different priorities from maths and science, and if you’re a company like Goldman Sachs, which used to give every new employee a 12C, you want everything to work in the way you expect, even if you have to make it worse? 

In 2003, HP introduced the 12C Platinum, not Silver, Platinum, Platinum. You now have the option of an equal button, you now have brackets, and a modern ARM processor replaces the original HP “Nut.” A very modern machine. However, you can still buy the original... [PRESS BOTH CALCULATORS TO FACE]

Spreadsheets should have taken over financial calculators entirely by now but, like scientific calculators, you still need them for education, and you still need them for exams. Only four calculators are permitted for use in Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Management Accountant exams, and the 12C and 12C Platinum are two of them. The other two are by Texas Instruments: their BAII Plus, and the BAII Professional. They cover all the main functions, and nothing more. No short cuts, no fancy menus. They have been the go-to devices for so long, there is little point in buying or making anything else, or buying and making anything better.   

Incidentally, both HP and TI’s financial calculators are made for them now, by a company based in Taiwan. Kinpo Electronics also produce calculators for Casio and Canon. The old calculator arms race must be over if they are all coming from the same place.

I should explain that. The early years of calculators really was a race. Texas Instruments created the first prototype for a four-function calculator, known as the “Cal-Tech” prototype, in 1967, but like the production version they made with Canon, the Pocketronic of 1969, they used a paper tape to display the results. Sharp were the first to use an electronic display, on their EL-8 in 1971, but once TI started making their processors available to buy, and once they started selling their own calculators in 1973, the prices of machines crashed – from hundreds of pounds in 1970, to under £10 by 1975. Trying to undercut TI, other calculator makers like Commodore started buying up companies that made their own chips. In Commodore’s case, buying one company, MOS Technology, brought them into contact with the engineer Chuck Peddle, who told them to get into making computers instead, as calculators will become a dead end. The first Commodore computer, the PET, appeared in 1977, and the MOS 6502 processor found in it can also be found in the Commodore VIC-20 and 64, the Apple II, the BBC Micro, the Atari 2600, the Acorn Electron, and some game machine produced by Nintendo. Texas Instruments ultimately failed at home computers, but did invent the Speak & Spell.

Where are calculators now? If you live in the UK, calculators are made by Casio and... that’s about it. If you live in the United States, you could say the same with Texas Instruments. If you want a scientific calculator, it will most likely have the words “Natural Display,” or “Classwiz,” written on it, because the focus is on education, and on how equations work, rather than just entering the numbers. At the same time, the graphing calculator is the last major calculator battle between Casio, HP and Texas Instruments [TI INSPIRE] – honestly, there just aren’t enough buttons on that. 

What is the best calculator to buy? Obviously, it depends on what you need. There is a reason why Casio and TI are the best-known brands, it is because they are the most comprehensive, the easiest to use, and they are what everyone else has. I honestly think the Casio FX-991EX Classwiz is the best, most comprehensive calculator on sale today, and has been made to be perfect for GCSE and A-Level students. But my favourite calculator to use? [HOLDING UP HP-12C] How about the one so perfect that no-one wants to let it go? 

Thank you for listening and watching. Again, if would like to see more please like, subscribe, or ring the bell. In the meantime, the nostalgia culture crisis continues every week at [].

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


“I personally do not believe that you can tell if a movie is ‘good’ or bad’ when it comes out. All you can be sure of is this: Does it ‘work’ or not? For audiences.”

When William Goldman, one of the greatest screenwriters ever seen in Hollywood, died in November 2018, the hard job for reporters was to pick which film made the headline: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “All the President’s Men,” “Misery,” “The Stepford Wives,” “Marathon Man,” and “The Princess Bride.” The first two scripts won Academy Awards for Goldman, and the last two were adapted from his own novels – the mastery and wide range of his craft, both literary and cinematic, are not in question.

However, what was also mentioned, in practically every report, was the work I mostly know Goldman for writing: a book, part-memoir, part-diatribe, part-screenwriting manual, that both defined and hindered his career in Hollywood, and defined Hollywood itself forever more. “Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting” was published in 1983, by which point Goldman’s scripts were either made into bad films, like a musical version of “Grand Hotel,” or were not made at all, like a version of “The Right Stuff.” The New Hollywood era that was ushered in alongside “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” had also been killed off by the self-indulgent production of “Heaven’s Gate,” putting power back into the hands of producers.

“Adventures in the Screen Trade” lays bare Goldman’s cynicism about the Hollywood machine, through explaining how awards should be given for holding meetings, explaining the types of first pages that guarantee a script will never be read, and notably repeats a phrase used by production managers when calculating the cost of having a star in your film: “add one third for the shit.” However, the most enduring phrase from the book, a phrase Goldman later said he expected to be written on his gravestone, was “Nobody Knows Anything.” When it first appears, it is repeated for emphasis. The phrase refers to how nobody knows what film is going to be a success – the then-recently-released “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is mentioned, as every major studio passed on it except for Paramount, while the Julie Andrews musical “Star!” bombed when released, despite going over well in previews.

The middle section of the book recounts Goldman’s scripts one by one, success and failure. It is as valuable a passage to read as all the other scriptwriting manuals you can buy although, this time, the writer has a recognisable track record. The main lesson here is, also repeated for emphasis, “Screenplay is Structure,” regardless of having well-written scenes or dialogue – for example, “Back to the Future” is all structure, to the extent that the “Johnny B. Goode” performance scene was nearly cut by its writers for being technically superfluous. The last section of the book takes a detailed look at Goldman adapting “Da Vinci,” one of his own short stories. You are given the original story, and the finished script, which is then analysed by a production designer, an editor, a cinematographer, a composer, and a director, to give you a good idea of how your script is to be used – for all the creativity, a script is an instruction manual.

William Goldman would later write a sequel, titled “Which Lie Did I Tell?” in 2000, and titles his time around his writing of the first book as “The Leper”. “The Princess Bride” was still to come, a film that gained a cult following on home video, after doing less well in cinemas – in Hollywood, nobody knows anything. Crucially, his ex-wife had told him she realised the time alone was getting to him, and “the socialness of moviemaking” was what he missed. He ended the first book by wishing his readers, “...may all your scars be little ones...” He was right about his own.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


This new sitcom sounds promising: “When the governor of California gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the highest performing schools in the state. The influx of new students gives the over privileged kids a much needed and hilarious dose of reality.” 

However, this description misses details I have removed: the governor’s name is “Zack Morris,” and the high-performing school named is “Bayside High.” So, after the original show, “The New Class,” “The College Years,” “Hawaiian Style” and the original prototype, “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” 2020 will herald the sixth version of the “Saved By The Bell” franchise, with original high school students Jesse Spano and A.C. Slater, still played by Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez, now portrayed as parents. Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn’t know the show was happening, so may not appear as Zack, while Dennis Haskins presumably has his phone on permanent standby to reprise his role as Mr. Belding. It’s also missing other notable names like Dustin Diamond, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Lark Voorhies and Raphael-Bob Waksberg. (The last one never appeared in the show, and is actually the creator of “BoJack Horseman.”)

It took a while to realise why this news came to me as being both predictable and depressing. Because the original “Saved By The Bell” now seems a thick slab of unironic Nineties kiddie schmaltz with attitude, a world untouched by the irony and cynicism that later characterised the decade, trying to bring it back feels like a cynical – as I hoped to make clear at the start, the new version’s concept could stand on its own, without the nostalgic decals.

“Saved By The Bell” itself began in 1989 as an attempt to try something new, reworking a failed Disney Channel sitcom, “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” into a more hip show focusing on the students, and placing it, as the sole live-action scripted show, among the Saturday morning cartoons playing to younger children on NBC. (The original show has been repeated as “Saved By The Bell: The Junior High Years,” although using the iconic, boisterous theme tune to introduce Disney stalwart Hayley Mills is really jarring.) 

By 1992, NBC had ditched the rest of the cartoons to target the teenage audience, with similar shows like “California Dreams,” “Hang Time,” “City Guys” and “One World.” This successful template has also served to displace cartoons at Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. NBC had its Must See TV on Thursday nights, led by “Friends,” “Frasier,” “Seinfeld” and “Will & Grace,” while “Saved By the Bell” led “TNBC” on Saturday mornings. Meanwhile, “Blossom,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” were found on Monday nights, and cartoons were found, well, elsewhere.  NBC reached a high-water mark in the 1990s with their shows, defining comedy on television to this day, especially if trying to revive “Friends” is your end goal in life.

Along with yet another version of “Battlestar Galactica,” and with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on securing the online rights to “The Office” and other shows, it feels like NBC’s new “Peacock” streaming service, and its new version of “Saved By The Bell,” is trying to capture the childhood of its target audience. It is only missing “Seinfeld,” which will be going to Netflix, which remade “Full House,” and started the recent trend in reviving old shows. 

I got through two episodes of the new “Will & Grace” before realising the moment in time that it captured between 1998 and 2006 – that particular presentation of gay people on TV that was new at the time – has moved on, leaving the new version to catch up to avoid a culture clash. All revivals appear to be based on that same premise, from “Murphy Brown” to “Roseanne,” which ultimately had to leave its star behind to become “The Conners.” 

I would talk about the one new drama series I did see will be launched on “Peacock,” except it is “Brave New World,” based on the Aldous Huxley novel. Too much money is being spent to risk staking even some of it on something new.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Many short-lived TV shows are filed under, “it was a good idea at the time,” but “New Monkees,” broadcast in 1987, can also be found under, “needs more work… a LOT more work.” A very short-lived show, lasting for only thirteen episodes (reduced from the intended twenty-two), one album and one single, it was never, to my knowledge, shown in the UK… although we did get “The Munsters Today” and “California Dreams” instead, lucky us.

“New Monkees” was borne out of the wave of nostalgia for the original “The Monkees” TV series, which reached its twentieth anniversary in 1986: MTV’s marathon showing of “Monkees” episodes on 23rd February that year spurred a revival that kept the show on the air, drawing more attention to the band’s current 20th Anniversary tour. (Michael Nesmith was absent from the tour, but his media projects at the time, including a music video show for Nickelodeon in 1980, “PopClips,” gave him a claim to having invented MTV.)

Now that TV had caught up with the original show, with MTV, blue screen special effects, and a postmodernist mixing of styles, a remake of the show was begun, with a new band picked after auditioning over five thousand people. The group that appeared on screen were both actors and musicians from the start: Larry Saltis, Dino Kovas, Jared Chandler and Marty Ross, the last of which was already a musician with a band named The Wigs, before becoming a prolific composer for film and TV.

Having seen the first episode of “New Monkees” in a very soft-pictured, off-broadcast VHS copy posted to YouTube – the show has never been released on home video in any format – I can see it is as “Eighties” as “The Monkees” was “Sixties.” Bits of it play out like you are watching MTV, with the band name, song name and record company appearing in one corner of the screen when each song begins. There is an odd scene where the band talks about how they were inspired by The Monkees, but it feels like they were being interviewed for “Entertainment Tonight.” Old out-of-context black and white film clips are played for comic effect. The band lives in a giant pastel-coloured house that looks like a hi-fi system. They have a crusty English butler, and a computer that runs the house that is almost like Holly from “Red Dwarf,” but looks like the lips from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” then crossed with “Max Headroom.”

While the plot of the first episode was as inconsequential as the original show – it looked to be like they were trying to get rid of miniature clouds that were raining in the house (which is, by the way, a house they never seem to leave) – the main cause of the show feels like building a fanbase, then selling albums to it although, with only the first episode to go on, this may not have been how it eventually played out on screen. However, if the original Monkees borrowed from The Beatles, the New Monkees appeared to go with Mr. Mister and, even then, more like “Kyrie” than “Broken Wings.” You wonder why they used the name “Monkees,” except to achieve success through brand association – it would be like S Club 7 calling themselves The New Bay City Rollers.

As it turned out, the “Monkees” name sunk the whole “New Monkees” project, as it resulted in a court case with the original band, but by the time that was settled out of court, the nostalgia train had moved on for both bands. With little media available for the band, their subsequent appearances have been in nostalgic meet-and-greets from those that still remember their short run – their first live performance would not be until 2007, with another ten years later. Their latest concert, in February 2019, was held the Pig ‘n Whistle restaurant in Los Angeles, alongside original Monkee Micky Dolenz, enough water having flowed under the bridge. However, if another episode of “New Monkees” appears online, it may only be of historical interest, just like the nostalgia that gave birth to it.

Saturday, September 7, 2019


It is Friday 6th September, and Sky News is handed a leaked Government memo. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister since Wednesday 24th July, is “proroguing” Parliament (discontinuing the session without dissolving it) for five weeks, and is seen as a move to disrupt efforts to ensure the United Kingdom leaves the European Union with a deal on trade and other matters. 

The memo, in Johnson’s handwriting, had been presented the day before, in redacted form, during a court case aimed at stopping the prorogation, and stated that, “the whole September session is a rigmarole [REDATCTED] to show the public that MPs were earning that crust.” 

Just as Donald Trump had been defending the use of a Sharpie pen to draw around the state of Alabama on a map indicating the path of a hurricane, indicating it had been forecast to hit it, but won’t anymore – breathe in, breath out – the redaction was to hide something embarrassing, rather than sensitive: “girly swot Cameron,” referring to the Prime Minister before the last one. David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and Johnson’s brother Jo, all attended Oxford University, and because Boris Johnson “only” achieved a 2:1, while the other two have firsts, they are “girly swots,” a remark made in 2013, while Johnson was mayor of London.

Two days earlier, on Wednesday 4th September, Johnson shouted across the floor of the House of Commons, at Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, “call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.” Corbyn was among those calling for one previously, as one way of resolving the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit, but when it became clear that Johnson could call one for after the current Friday 31st October date for exiting the EU, the withdrawal of that support became a further way to frustrate the Prime Minister...

...not that Boris Johnson couldn’t do that by himself. On Tuesday 3rd September, the first day Johnson spoke in Parliament as Prime Minister, twenty-one Conservative MPs were effectively kicked out of the party for voting against the Government for a bill aimed at preventing the UK leaving the EU without a deal - these included Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, and former Chancellors of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke. Earlier the same day, another Tory MP, Phillip Lee, walked across the Commons floor to join another party, wiping out the Government’s one-seat majority before the vote even happened. On Thursday 5thSeptember, the aforementioned Jo Johnson, also an MP, resigned from the Cabinet, writing on Twitter that, “in recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension and time for others to take on my roles as MP & minister.” On Saturday 7th September, the Work and Pensions Secretary resigns as both a Cabinet member and a Conservative - Amber Rudd described what happened to her colleagues as an act of political vandalism.

Along with other defenestrated MPs like Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve and Rory Stewart, Johnson had effectively removed the more moderate voices from his Parliamentary party, pushing the Conservatives further to the right. Perhaps it will render Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party obsolete, but it could make the Conservatives obsolete before then – on Thursday 5thSeptember, Johnson made a speech stating he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, leading to questions about why officers from West Yorkshire Police were being used as a backdrop, especially when one stood behind the Prime Minister needed to sit down.

As a girly swot, a big girl’s blouse, and someone politically slightly left of centre, who doesn’t consider themselves a Leaver or Remainer because they didn’t want the entire poorly-executed mess of Brexit in the first place, mainly because it served to answer existential questions within the Conservative Party rather than in the wider United Kingdom, this last week has been especially hard. I can’t be as laid back as Jacob Rees-Mogg about it – in the moment that picture was captured of him slouching across the Commons front bench, he looked like he was waiting to be painted, but only as a fool. The only reason I have felt the need to recount the last week is to make it clear to myself that it happened. Future school children will be taught Brexit in history class, by which time more sense will have been made about what happened, due to the one thing I currently cannot have: hindsight.

The last week in British politics will ultimately prove that Boris Johnson’s most satisfying performance will have been as a guest presenter of “Have I Got News for You” – he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance in 2004, alongside Stephen Fry and Paul Merton, ultimately losing out to Jonathan Ross.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


It turns out that my drug of choice is music. 

This has not come as a result of a testing process – a supplement that came with “The Observer” newspaper in around 2001, about the culture of drugs, demystified how recreational drugs worked so effectively that I have never felt the need to seek them out. It is why I tend to associate the effects of LSD with lack of sleep – I am aware the brain’s synapses are compromised in both cases.

The supplement made no mention of music, but why would it? To even be considered as a kind of drug, music would have to be lined up alongside food, sex and caffeine, and other things where they become problematic in their overuse. Like caffeine, I may use music as a tool – it wouldn’t be a surprise that I may be listening to my Walkman as I write this because, in this particular moment, it is helping me concentrate on the task at hand.

What has brought on this thought? Like all confrontational moments, it was a slice in time. In my case, it was leaving home for work in haste, and forgetting my headphones. With no music to help me continue to wake up, and relax ahead of a gruelling work day, the bus journey I almost missed was conducted in total silence, giving my mind time to learn how to deal with the problem I had created. I attempted to rationalise the lack of background sound, presenting it to myself as an opportunity to undertake my day in a different way, but by the mid-point of the journey, I began feeling sweaty – I was not used to the silence, not used to feeling without access to music. 

I had to buy lunch from a supermarket once I was off the bus – I could buy another pair of headphones from there. Once inside, and before picking up said lunch, I stood in front of rows of pegs, with different sets of headphones for sale, mostly in-ear versions that block outside noise – I still need to hear where I am going, I am not a complete animal. However, the problem I created for myself begat further problems – which ones to buy, how much to pay to fix my problem (as in buying a cheap pair to used once, or spend more on headphones like I usually use), and then factoring in the cost of a pair of scissors to open the plastic packaging.

As naturally as could be expected, I left for the last walk to work with the worst possible outcome – a cheap pair of in-ear headphones, a third of what I spent on a proper pair, and with a third of the volume. Half my remaining journey to work was spent walking along a busy road – I could not hear the first minute of the song I was playing. In that moment, doing nothing would have been an easier option, but I did what I knew would be best for me, no matter how expedient it turned out. 

Was there a need for me to tell you any of this? It’s good to share, and it’s good to make sense of the path down which your actions will lead you. I could have augmented this with music theory, and how music is used to lead people into feeling certain emotions, for example during films, and how people may not listen to music because of this – the philosopher and composer Theodor Adorno would have been good for this, but he hated jazz, so I don’t care. Not having mentioned any songs or artists by name, just needing MUSIC, says a lot – my taste is good, but I still hate silence.