There is a soundtrack to my life, and much as I’d like to pretend that I challenge myself with constantly new experiences it is one that comforts me deeply with its routine.
In the morning, Monday to Saturday, I wake to the Today programme on Radio 4. After some groggy shouting at politicians I disagree with, I make my way downstairs where the digital radio in the kitchen is tuned to BBC 6 Music. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I don’t go into the office and so it’s there all day in the background, a presence that fools me into thinking that I’m not all alone.
On these days, everything builds up to 3.35pm, a time when I am not interruptible under any circumstances – for it is Teatime Themetime. Teatime Themetime is a quiz during the Radcliffe and Maconie show on 6 Music that is really rather simple but has become something of an obsession for me, and (despite his best intentions) my husband. Someone will send in the names of three songs and these will be played one after the other – there is a link between the songs that is not revealed. Listeners attempt to find the link – which could be something incredibly obvious, or something extremely obscure – and text or email it in. My goal every Monday and Tuesday is to get the answer right first and have my name read out on the radio, something that I’ve achieved about twice (which, given my almost religious fervour for entering every single week, makes my success rate about 0.01%…).
I’ve been wondering why I find Teatime Themetime so addictive, and I think there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, it allows me to feel that it’s OK to be smug about my knowledge of obscure musical facts rather than a bit embarrassed given that it came about because I spent my teenage years reading the NME instead of meeting other people or learning about the real world.
There’s another reason why Teatime Themetime appeals. Even though the MS hasn’t physically isolated me from the world (yet) – I mean that it hasn’t stopped me going to work or spending time with my friends – it’s hard to overestimate how much it has isolated me on an emotional level, because untimately I have to face my fear of this disease alone. There is so much I have to keep to myself because revealing it all to anyone would be too much for them to take, so like an iceberg I only display the whitest, nicest bit at the top that’s easy to get your head around. But when I listen to Teatime Themetime, it’s trite to say it, but it feels good to be part of a joint enterprise – lots of other people trying to guess the answer like me. I don’t think about the MS and – even better – my participation isn’t in any way hindered by my leg getting weak, or my eyes going funny, or my feeling overwhelmed with fatigue.
It’s a simple pleasure, and I have learnt to cling to those wherever I find them these days – for they are the best and most comforting of all.