Time travelling to reach you

If time travel is supposedly impossible now, how did a podcast just send me back in time by more than a decade?

I listen to various music podcasts at work, and this morning I selected a 2009 episode of “Y-Pod: The Y-Rock on XPN” that featured an interview and three live songs by Travis, an old favourite band of mine from the late nineties / early naughties. I did my PhD in their home town of Glasgow just when they were really getting big, and saw them live at a couple of local festivals and then at a much smaller venue in Paris, where they put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, so I was keen to hear what they’d been up to lately(ish).

The nostalgia started within the first few moments; man, I miss hearing those lovely accents! (No, really – the softer versions of the Glasgow accent are amazing). And I enjoyed the first song they played, a new one, although it was more pleasant than memorable.

But then, they announced that they would play “Writing to Reach You” next.

This song was HUGE. It was their biggest hit, at the peak of their popularity – the one they played as the last song of the encore when they headlined festivals, with thousands of people singing along with every word. But it wasn’t just that: Fran Healy was reminiscing about writing the song – about an ex-girlfriend who’d just dumped him – during the coldest winter in Glasgow’s recent history, when it was -20C outside and he didn’t have central heating and almost gassed himself trying to keep warm, sitting with his guitar between two dodgy gas heaters.


I was there that winter, living in a flat with no central heating* and inch-wide gaps around all the windows, open to the freezing air! We had a dodgy gas heater, which we surrounded with dozens of carbon monoxide monitors, that we didn’t trust enough to leave on at night, meaning that we all slept wearing head-to-toe fleece (including hats and gloves), in sleeping bags, under duvets! AndWriting to Reach You” subsequently became one of “our songs” with an ex-boyfriend, during the long-distance phase of our relationship and immediately after he subsequently dumped me! And it was one of the songs I used to teach one of my flatmates to play guitar** on cider-fuelled nights when we didn’t have enough money to go out!

So, physics shmysics: time travel is possible, but only musicians know its secrets.

This one’s for you, fellow travellers!


*no shortage of Christmas trees, though.

**we changed the lyrics for the benefit of our other flatmate, and serenaded her on mornings when she had a hangover.

Original lyrics:

Every day I wake up and it’s Sunday
Whatever’s in my head won’t go away
The radio is playing all the usual
And what’s a Wonderwall anyway?

Because my inside is outside
My right side’s on the left side
Cause I’m writing to reach you now but
I might never reach you
Only want to teach you
About you
But that’s not you

Our lyrics:

Every day she wakes up and it’s Sunday
The banging in her head won’t go away
She hasn’t had a sober day since Christmas
And what’s a PhD worth anyway?

Because her insides are outside
Her coat’s still on the South Side
She’s Hungover [flatmate’s name] yeah
The one that we all know
Always on the go
In Glasgow
Hungover [flatmate’s name]

Good times… this was when we also wrote The PhD Blues, which we still sing when we get together!

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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2 Responses to Time travelling to reach you

  1. Mike says:

    🙂 I was there that winter as well. The water in the toilet bowl froze.

    But strangely, I never really got into Travis until after I left Glasgow, despite my PhD supervisor’s best efforts. They were just too melancholy for my liking, along with Radiohead (cheer up, your rich!) and sophomoric Coldplay. I suppose I only appreciated their wistful nuances from a distance, tinged with a drop of homesickness. Or the fact that even the most cheerful Finnish music is even more suicide inducing. Still don’t really like Radiohead though. Miserable sods.

  2. cromercrox says:

    I’m afraid I can’t bear Travis. miserable whiners. When Fran Healy appeared on Da Ali G show, and the first thing Ali G asked him was ‘why your music so fuckin’ misrable?’ – I cheered.

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