Posted by: Corri van de Stege | March 29, 2008

Music on the road

On Friday morning my phone alarm wakes me and I take a split second to realise where the unfamiliar buzz comes from and that I am in a hotel room.  I am fast asleep after a restless night, drinking tea to while the time away and reading before eventually nodding off again. 
    It’s dry, just, when I set off from the car park and the sat nav directs me to the college I am visiting for yet another project and yet another interview.  However, the grey sky bursts open as I drive along and by the time I arrive for my meeting the wind and rain are lashing it down.  The car park I enter is a nearly derelict piece of land, with great gaping holes in the crumbling tarmac, which are filled with dirty brown water, wasteland under the angry rain. 
 My umbrella needs steadying against the wind and I cling to it like a life raft as I make my way round the back of tired looking buildings and then when I come to the front it looks a different place.  I realise there is another entrance, which leads to a small but neat and tidy car park right outside the reception – it must be a well kept secret as there are only two cars parked in the bays marked visitors.  I’ve parked in the student car park and I wonder why they have to make do with that miserable piece of land at the back, neglected and muddy.
    After my interview, a pleasant meeting with lots of cups of tea I start my journey back home.  Greyness is all around, cars appear and disappear into a fog of water and I have to concentrate against the relentless swipes of the windscreen wiper.   It is Friday and the M25 motorway is building up for its daily nightmare of traffic jams, worse on a Friday.  I’m lucky it’s only midday and I will be well out of it by the time the rest of London and suburbs tries to get home.  The build up just before the Dartford Tunnel has started and the road works don’t help matters.  A newly erected sign points motorists heading for the tunnel and the M11 across a newly built bridge over and away from the London bound traffic.  My sat nav becomes confused in the spaghetti on its screen and the female voice, do I hear a note of stress or irritation? tells me to go across, no to turn left, no to go forward across the roundabout and to take the second exit, until I safely rejoin the motorway and the arrow across the screen steadies itself once more reassured that it knows where it is taking me. 
 Once on the M11 I decide to stop for a break when I get to the Services near Stanstead Airport. People hurry out of and into cars, clutching jackets over their heads, umbrellas blowing, hairs flying and hugging bags of food, trying to escape the misery as quickly as they can.  Inside there is the usual melee of travellers grabbing a coffee, a hamburger, anything to still the bored but tense craving that builds up driving through these horrendous weather conditions.  I have a large cappuccino, a treat to a ‘decaffeinated coffee’ drinker, and a tired looking but hot panini, the melted mozzarella cheese sticks to the bag in which it is handed to me: no plates in this café on the move, however hard the woman next to me grumbles about that.  The coffee kicks in quickly, unused as I am to the shots.  I drink cappuccinos only to treat myself a couple of times a week. 
   When I get back to the car I feel revived and decide to pull myself out of my work stupor and listen to Andrea Bocelli.  I’m on my own so I turn up the volume and I can sing along, without anyone being bothered by my less than professional accompaniment, imaging I have a perfect pitch.  Swathes of water hit my car as I overtake lorries overtaking other lorries and red backlights of other cars flicker angrily through the spray.
   Plaisir d’Amour, ne dure qu’un moment, Andrea sings and I wholeheartedly concur.  Yes most of life is about the grind and about other things that make up the waking hours – nevertheless the music helps to evoke a sense of well-being, almost contentedness.  Together we sing Ola la serenata! And for the duration of the cd until I get home, I can happily ignore the tediousness of the driving and the onslaught of the rain.
   At home the headlines in the paper loudly proclaim Carla Sarkozy’s success as the wife of the French president on a state visit to England.  Here is a woman who has managed to spin out her plaisir d’amour into something a lot longer than a moment. Even the Guardian joins the adulation, however cheekily comparing Carla’s conversations with Jane Birkin’s Je t’aime… moi non plus.  A different approach I guess to Andrea’s Sentimento.

 This morning all is sunny outside, the sky is clear, belying the picture I have of the previous day.


  1. Oh, so glad there was a change in the weather to welcome you home! Traveling can be so tiring. I always try to treat myself with some “guilty pleasure” when I’m traveling – like a Mocha Latte and a gossip magazine 😉

    And listening to Andrea Bocelli is certainly a good way to pass the time.

  2. gossipy magazines are great, but not when you’re driving…. 🙂

  3. What a marvellous post! I rather like a rainy day myself and you’ve described the wildness of the weather and how it shaped the day so evocatively here.

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