Back in 1987 I was a freelance software developer. In the autumn of that year I was working on a contract at offices some 15 miles from Leicester where I lived then, driving north up the A46 in the mornings. It was an easy journey. The road was fairly straight and not too busy. And it wound through some pleasant countryside. As commutes go it was about as good as it gets.
One bright and unseasonably warm October morning, with my mind on autopilot, the car radio began to play pizzicato strings, spitting out the notes like orange pips, as if to say, “Wake up, this is interesting”. As I retuned my ears the violins were joined by grand piano chords and then a woman’s voice began to sing a gentle accompaniment to my rural journey. Soon the sound swelled in a dramatic crescendo as if the low autumn sun had peeped out from a cloud and spread a golden glow across the hills.
Don’t push too hard,
Your dreams are china in your hand.
Suddenly, my routine journey had been transformed into a relaxing road trip and that ordinary working day now felt like a holiday.
Over the next few weeks China In Your Hand was played a lot on the radio. It spent five weeks at number one on the UK singles chart and was almost guaranteed to grace the airwaves during my 35 minute drive to work. I got to know that song very well, singing along to it in the car. It became my anthem of the road.
My software contract ended after a few months and my work took me elsewhere. Then, another ten years on, the Crotchety Couple moved 100 miles away to York and we rarely used the A46 until we moved back to Leicestershire in 2015. In the meantime the stretch of the A46 that took me to work in 1987 has been completely rebuilt. What was a single-carriageway road following the course of the Roman Fosse Way is now a “high quality grade-separated dual-carriageway” making it a fast and effective route between Leicester and Lincoln.
Last week the Crochetys took a day trip to Doddington Hall to see the gardens and sculpture exhibition. The Hall is just outside the city of Lincoln and the A46 takes us almost door to door. Although the road looks completely different now, driving north along it that morning still reminded me of the day in 1987 when I heard China In Your Hand for the first time. A song that stays with you that long is surely worthy of a Track of the Week slot.
As is often the case Crotchety Man was never able to make out all of the words and it was only when researching the song for this post that I finally discovered what it’s about. The phrase “china in your hand” suggests a precious fragility and “don’t push too hard” is clearly a plea to be careful. But what is it that we hold? What will shatter like a porcelain teacup if we drop it?
In fact, the song refers to Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, in which the brilliant science student Victor Frankenstein succeeds in creating a living being from non-living material. But the beautiful creature that Victor had envisaged turns out to be a hideous monster who is repulsed by his own appearance and rejected by all those who meet him. In his anguish the monster kills Victor’s brother and his bride-to-be. It is a classic story of a man blind to the consequences of his dreams. As the song puts it:
Your dreams are china in your hand.
Don’t wish too hard
Because they may come true …
I have no qualms adding China In Your Hand to the track-of-the-week list but I’m afraid I am unable to recommend anything else by T’Pau. I have listened to the first six tracks from their Heart and Soul – The Very Best of T’Pau album and that was as much anodyne pop as I could stomach in one helping. If that is the very best they can do Crotchety Man will be looking elsewhere for fulfilment of his dreams. You never know, though, if I wish hard enough my dreams just might come true one day.