DO you like music? Oh, how interesting. So do I. We’ve so much in common. I riff on the subject this week, after a study showed music was as “addictive as drugs and drink”. As I don’t take drugs and only drink from Monday to Sunday, I wouldn’t know about that.

But I know what the researchers at Canada’s McGill University are talking about, at least until the conversation turns to “The Nucleus Accumbens”. Don’t think I’ve heard of that band, though they sound a bit prog (indeed, I think I may have seen, or certainly heard, a jazz-rock band called Nucleus in the 1970s).

Bottom line is we’d be bereft without tunes. Indeed, before reading about the above study in that Herald newspaper, I’d already made a few notes towards a bombshell article based on exclusive revelations about how music had provided solace to me and also, more psychically, how it triggers memories of places or events.

Regarding the latter, I can only speak of my experiences in my own head. If you want to come in there with me now, I’ll require you to sign an insurance waiver and tick the box confirming that any resulting discombobulation is entirely your own responsibility.

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I can best illustrate the phenomenon with examples. Whenever I hear the album Natsu No Niwa Suite by Odair and Sérgio Assad (brilliant Brazilian acoustic guitar players) or Ravel’s string quartet in F major by the Wihan Quartet (aye, youse thought I was going to mention Agadoo or something by the Bay City Rollers), it takes me back to evening walks I used to have around the lovely suburb of Trinity in Edinburgh (Trinity is the upmarket neighbour of my beloved Leith; same air, same sky).

Though these are different genres of music, both are languid and dreamy, with what I call a “late afternoon” feel (even though it was, as I say, evening on these walks). At that time, I listened on an iPod and, today, in my mind, when I hear either of these pieces of music, I get a still image in my brain of me walking around these leafy streets.

Recently, I’ve been listening to hard rockers Van Halen every night since guitarist Eddie of that ilk died six months ago. Two of their albums in particular take me back to a hard time starting a new job in a strange and not overtly friendly environment.

I picture myself now, on a dark winter evening after another awful day at work, missing home and my girlfriend, as I sat in a temporarily rented cottage in a weird village where I didn’t know a soul. Van Halen took me back to a better place, one that lacked accordions and fiddles.

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Led Zeppelin’s fifth album Houses of the Holy fills my minds with another still image. This time, I’m sitting on a train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, listening to the album on earphones. I’ve just walked out of a job. I’ve no money and nowhere to live. I’ve hit rock-bottom, but a funny thing about that is you reach a calm acceptance of the situation. “It can’t get any worse than this. There’s nothing I can do. I just don’t care any more.”

I hope my describing this curious phenomenon makes some sense to you. It’s slightly different, I think, from music that recalls past loves. That’s hardly surprising, a bit more obvious. This is more nebulous, a bit more random. In the meantime, I’d hoped to speak to you a lot more about prog rock, but I’m getting a message in my earpiece telling me to shut up about music and start talking about the Romans.

A classic case

ANCIENT Rome, which underlies much of Western civilisation, was horrible. It wasn’t just the gruesome games, which were worse than Scottish football.

Cruelty, backstabbing and misogyny permeated the whole society. A new book called A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by Dr Emma Southon, documents the horror. Mass crucifixions you know about from Spartacus. In another instance, 400 men, women and children were crucified after their “owner” was murdered. Slaves might be fed to flesh-eating fish. Criminals might be thrown off a rock or put into a sack with a dog, cockerel, monkey and snake, and thrown into the sea.

You say: “At least they had books, unlike the thicko Celts and Norse. Then there was Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher, and Augustus, who ‘found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble’.”

I’ll give you Aurelius. I’m sure if he were alive today he’d write for The Herald and enjoy prog rock. But Augustus? He preached morality, while sending his missus out to get virgins for him to deflower. He was the ancient world’s Mao Tse Tung.

The truth is, there was little good in any ancient human society. Romans, Celts, Vikings, Egyptians. Nutters, all. You say: “What aboot the Greeks, ken?” The slaughter of Troy? The militaristic Spartans? Nope, horrible. All horrible. Thank goodness we are so much kinder and more reasonable today.

From A to B I cannot see

I CAN no longer drive at night, at least not in rural darkness. This discovery came as a shock. Something must have happened to my eyes. Perhaps, unlike the rest of me, they have grown old.

I see – just – that a ban on night-time driving for over-70s is being mooted. This is wise, though I’m sure some codgers have no problems. Perhaps they eat carrots. I ate one before going out one winter evening. Made no difference.

I’m not even near codgerdom. I’m a young man. Well, not young exactly, nor much of a man. But you get my drift. I’d hate to sit my test again. I can’t reverse-park. Where I learned to drive, the instruction was: “See if you can get it in there, between the field and the sea.”

You can’t rely on buses in the country. There’s one out (and the same one back) a day, on a timetable with baffling footnotes: a. not during school holidays; b. not Sunday to Saturday; c. except when raining; d. bald passengers only. I may have to hire a chauffeur. Are there grants for that?

Muscle binned

NOW they’re telling us to eat spinach and lettuce if we want to build muscle. As it happens, I do eat spinach, but my biceps are more like Olive Oyl’s than Popeye’s. As for lettuce, even if you keep it in the fridge, after two or three weeks it goes all slimy.

They’re also telling us to drink water. Ruddy Nora, have you tasted that stuff? Exactly: doesn’t have a taste. Load of nonsense.

Who wants to build muscle anyway? Research by a dating website shows that women prefer tubby blokes to toned ones. Other surveys show they prefer baldies. No wonder my tea’s oot.

Actually, believe it or not, I don’t bother with such tamfoolery and just want to be on my own. As other women before have found: you can’t live with me and, er, you can’t live with me. Hopeless.

So, even though I’d find it easier to grow antlers than muscles, I’ll keep going down the gym (when it reopens). And, to ensure a full heid of hair, I will continue to spread budgerigar poop and lard on my follicles.

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