The Singing Subconscious
In our family there's a game we play at times – a kind of 'name that tune' meets 'a penny for your thoughts'. It's about those songs that rise up from the depths of your mind, the ones you hum or whistle as you go about your day, barely aware of what the tune is, let alone where it came from.
My father was typical of his generation in that he said very little about his thoughts and feelings. He was hard to read, too, maintaining a calm pleasant manner most of the time, with occasional bursts of swearing if he hit his thumb while building or was trapped behind a slow driver, especially one with a hat on. (His belief that a driver wearing a hat will be incompetent or unpredictable has proved a surprisingly accurate cue for defensive driving.)
But Dad whistled. In Gisborne, where he grew up, he was known for it and told us with pride how people called, 'Good night, Noel' into the darkness as he whistled Stardust on his way home from a dance. I used to take note of the tune, figure out the lyrics and ponder where they might fit. Little old wine drinker me as he went over to the shed to check on his brew of plum wine was an easy one, but who was Gentle on his mind?
My son Nick knows the game and when he says that he can't get the theme from The Muppet Show out of his mind, he's not surprised that I ask, 'So who's being a muppet then?' He tells me about a difficult customer.
So you'll understand when I say that I'm pleased with my current swimming song. I'm whistling it as I walk up the steps of the pool and I sing it softly in the shower after my swim.
Learning to swim hasn't been a walk in the park. Some days, early in the process, I came into the pool whistling tunelessly like Jiminy Cricket keeping fear at bay. I 've had periods of Throw me a lifeline and Give me hope Joanna and a long stretch of Livin' on a Prayer - 'oh, we're halfway there' being a comment on my inability to complete a lap.
Today's song is in the jubilant tones of Freddy Mercury. No, not We are the champions – maybe next year! But I haven't been whistling in the wind this past year.
My new tune is Don't stop me now – 'cause I'm having a good time, having a good time.