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Peter Walker
2013-06-12 14:49:22
Rain down...
The good Capn's lovely post made me recall another instance of the mind associating music with mountains. It's a bit of an anecdote...please forgive the indulgence.

Years ago I did charity walks. Not big, organised things, but self-devised-then-soloed routes in the Scottish Highlands. (As my sister put it: 'Mad **** in the mountains? People will sponsor you!'). This tended to focus my attention on a form of hillwalking that had interested me for years; how much can you do in a single day? (I'm sensible and I hate camping, so multi-day trips were a no-no). So in June 2003 I found myself in Glen Carron at Stupid o'Clock, stepping out into the rain.

I felt under pressure at that moment with 1500 of sponsorship to honour, but I also had my own desire to go longer and tougher than I'd previously managed. 33 miles, 4000m of ascent, river crossings, scrambling...on last day of the holiday I'd booked. It had to be today. So, over the railway, over the bridge, up the Allt a'Chonais track, towards the wilderness. Rain persisted and the clouds clamped themselves to the mountains with a limpet's devotion. I was fitter than ever but conditions were making a positive attitude a tough thing to maintain.

Alone with my thoughts (not unusual in the hills when you're from the mountain wasteland of Cambridge) I let my mind wander, and allowed my internal jukebox to settle wherever it felt like settling. It chose to settle upon a Radiohead album track called 'Scatterbrain', a song of golden guitars in minor keys, pitter-pat percussion (just like the rain bouncing off my hood), and sporting a gorgeous, ghostly vocal.

It's also a song where a man goes out in a storm and gets killed by lightning. And as I forged on up the glen, its refrains repeating in my head, I started to let situational realities infect my 'you can do it' internal urgings. After four miles of steady uphill I reached the point where the stream had to be crossed; here the safety of valley would be left and commitment would be absolute. What confronted me was a seething torrent, spanned optimistically by a two strand bridge. I've always been too gangly to deal comfortably with such constructions, and (to borrow a joke) I'm not as good a swimmer as I once was thanks to evolution.

I thought of the knife-edge sections I would have to do, slippery and cloud-blinded. I imagined teetering across those gossamer steel threads, water ravenous beneath me. My internal jukebox cranked itself up to full volume.

"I'm walking out in a force ten gale,
Birds thrown around, bullets for hail...'

I realised I was doing the wrong thing.

So, Radiohead stopped me from basically committing suicide; the opposite of what most folk think their music does. What might have happened if the IJ had selected the other album that I'd had on heavy rotation that week: Fountains of Wayne's 'Welcome Interstate Managers'? Are any insights into survival situations contained within the lyrics of 'Stacy's Mom'?
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