Menu Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

Re-booting love [October 16]

If I’d consulted a de-cluttering expert this story wouldn’t have had a happy ending. De-clutterers advise us to throw away anything we’re not using all the time, and any objects that make us feel bad. My old Ipod ticked both boxes.

It had been a birthday present from an ex, about a decade ago. Not only had he given me the Ipod, he’d loaded it with a vast sound library; soul, pop, jazz, folk, country, reggae, hip-hop and classical music. Tedious tram rides into work were transformed by this glorious gift.

Skip forward half a decade. The break-up was punishing, the kind you’d like to have surgically removed from your memory bank. I packed everything of ‘ours’ into a cardboard box and hid it under the stairs – letters, books, photos – and the damned Ipod. I couldn’t bring myself to chuck them away but I had to get them out of sight, out of mind.

Skip forward to the present. An elderly relative of mine has fallen ill. He’s sick enough to need a long hospital stay but well enough to be conscious of the cacophony around him. The groans of other patients, the machines that go bing, the visitors on their mobiles – it’s driving him mad. What can I do to help?

One day as I’m sitting by his bed, trying to ignore the wet coughing of the next patient, I remember the Ipod lurking under the stairs. My elderly relative used to be an orchestral musician and he still loves his music. The Ipod was a fifth generation ‘classic’ with simple push buttons. Even an elderly technophobe could use it – if it’s still working.

Back home I ferret under the stairs, pull out the ancient device and blow the dust off. Charged up, it miraculously comes to back to life. There’s a ton of classical music on there, everything from Bach to Mozart to Wagner.

The next time I visit my elderly relative I slip some headphones over his ears and show him how to press the button for Beethoven’s fifth symphony. At the sound of the opening chords a beatific smile lights up his face. He nods and gives me the thumbs up.

Heading out the door I glance back at him. His eyes are closed and his hands are waving in the air, conducting an invisible orchestra. And he’s still smiling.


(This column was first published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald in October 2017)