8.45 am, the local health centre. I am still in shock at having got an appointment for the same morning I made the call and don't feel fully awake. I prefer a gentle start to the day, however early I have to set my alarm to get it, along with a second cup of tea. Some time after 9 o'clock I realise the waiting room has pop music playing. It's been a while since I've seen a doctor and this surprises me. I am used to noise in libraries nowadays, although they haven't started playing music yet, but a disco beat in a medical facility is a new one on me.
The DJ tells me I am listening to Heart FM. I've heard of this station - it isn't just for hospitals - but am not a regular listener. She (or he? are there two of them?) is playing some kind of 'guess the year' game with the audience of which I am now a member. "The soundtrack to your life," she tells me in that happy pop-radio voice. I wonder why they still do this when the answer is only a click of the mouse away. I look around at the others waiting to be seen by the doctor. The receptionist apart, there doesn't appear to be anyone here under fifty and no one is visibly enjoying the disco beat, even if it comes from some time in the early 1980s. I like the music of Sting well enough but 'Every Breath You Take' sounds singularly inappropriate in the present circumstances. If I didn't know better I would think the DJ was taking the micky. I can't have been the only one in the room who just wanted some head space.
Now it's the Eurhythmics and Annie Lennox singing 'Sweet dreams are made of this'. The thick synth bass is almost too much. I usually hate listening to inane presenters waffle endlessly between tracks but the speculation of her listeners as to whether the year is 1982 or 1983 comes as a relief. Spandau Ballet arrive a little later with 'True' (have you guessed the year yet?). It's an anodyne song but at least it's only a dance number if you're feeling smoochy.
Finally, at 9.40am (God bless the NHS) I get to see a doctor. I must have missed the part where the year is revealed. That must have been while I was trying to drown out the din by playing arpeggios in my head. As I leave the building five minutes later the couple in their 80s, who have been waiting almost as long as me, still appear baffled by the benefits of technology as implemented by well meaning managers busily paving the road to Hell with their good intentions. Perhaps the manager who came up with this particular idea should come and attempt an early morning sing-song going. 'Roll Out the Barrel' or 'Bohemian Rhapsody' perhaps? Maybe they could try a line-dancing session and gauge the response.
The Eurhythmics may have formed part of the soundtrack to my life but then so has silence. Even in my early twenties, when feeling the worse for wear in the morning I know which I preferred. Nothing in the intervening years has made me change my mind. I happen to know that, as well as Heart FM, there is an entire genre of 'healing sounds' available on CD but silence is so much cheaper and far less likely to irritate. Please let silence be, if not the soundtrack to my whole life, at least the soundtrack to my doctor's waiting room.