There is a man looking in my study window from the back yard. I suddenly can’t remember where I keep the cricket bat. He’s burly, and he’s tapping on the glass and saying something which I can’t hear because I’m listening to some traditional Georgian choral music on my headphones and I’ve just turned up the volume as high as I can stand to get the full majestic effect.
He’s five feet away, banging on my window and I’m staring back at him, as lifeless as one of those ducks hanging in restaurant windows in Chinatown. The Georgians are giving it handful in my ears. Prickles are running through my blood. He’s yelling now, the man, and I want to run.
He’s pointing to his ears, and at me. He’s lifting something up for me to see. It’s the nozzle of a large vacuum cleaner.
I yank the headphones from my ears with a hand like a boxing glove, and the Georgian wail drops away to silence. At least, it should drop away to silence. Instead I find that outside the headphones the huge, mountainous harmonies are booming around the walls and, critically, out the windows. The headphones are still plugged in.
I jab at my laptop until it stops.
‘Sorry,’ the man is saying. ‘Only I’m steam cleaning the carpets of the place next door and I couldn’t tell if my machine was on or not.’
‘Sorry,’ I say numbly.
He goes to leave, then stops. ‘What is it, anyway? Muslim music or something?’
‘It’s Georgian,’ I say.
‘Oh,’ he says. ‘I thought that was all fiddles and banjos and Lucinda Williams.’
‘There’s another Georgia,’ I say. ‘It’s near Russia.’
‘Oh.’ He doesn’t sound convinced. ‘Good luck with it then.’ He leaves, presumably to call the Terror Hotline.
I investigate the headphones lead. I had plugged it into the microphone jack instead of the headphones jack, which apparently makes the music play at the requested volume through my headphones and deafeningly through the speakers. I plug it into the correct hole, close and lock the window, draw the blinds and make myself a settling cup of tea.
How lucky, I think as the kettle waits for me to look away, that this happened at home. I sometimes have to take the train during the day, and I’m always being told I should take my laptop to get some useful work done in transit. I never, ever do this, because I fear that one of the generation Naomi Robson refers to as Our Young People will take it off me and hurt me and run away.
Now it becomes clear what infinitely greater humiliations could have befallen me. I congratulate myself on my instinctive trust of fear as an evolutionary adaptation.
Back in the study I return to my laptop, put my headphones in, click Play and my eardrums touch in the middle.