Hi, I'm Clara. I'm a music critic, and on Sunday 12th June, I tore my eardrum.

Yesterday I mentioned the fact that the bulk of the columns in this series have been about the ways that music has helped validate me, and by extension, helped me to be present with the difficult experiences I've had.

It's easier to do that when you don't feel worried that you're far more intense than anyone else, so by extension feel worried that any and all strong feelings you have might simply be a figment of your imagination - practical to ignore, best to disassociate from.

I do also listen to music alone to help process my intense, good experiences. Less often, but I do it, and on reflection, I think I benefit from it in a similar way. It makes me feel real.


There's a video of David Bowie I often watch. He starts to play the opening chords of 'Rock n Roll Suicide' on the last date of the Ziggy Stardust tour, and has to stop to duck his head to smile at the ground. It looks like what he is feeling is all too much to try and project, all too good to bear. He looks like he feels guilty. Then the bass riff starts up so he has to crack on and start playing.

Three weeks ago I met Cherry Styles, who makes The Chapess zine. Her laptop has a Chapess promo sticker on that reads, "Men will tell you that things you love do not belong to you; screaming, orgasms, punk rock, literature."

It can be hard for a lot of people to feel that things belong to them.

My painfully shy Grandad used to have a smile that always looked like it was overrunning itself. Like the world was small and when he moved his lips he was daring to stretch it out. Music helps me when I most suffer that same reticence. It's like it stretched the world out for my already. I'm not ostentatious to take up space that's already been made for me.


Yesterday I had a two-week medication review regarding my Perforated Eardrum. While I was told I can't listen to music on headphones for a further 3 weeks, I was assured that it is now definite that I'm going to regain full hearing. When Dr. Muthukumarasamy said that, I had to stop and smile at the grey lino floor.

My doctor's appointment was during the day, so after it finished I had to go back to work. It was sunny, and the outside world had the same out-of-bounds feel it used to if I was ever out in the day as a school child. Everything seemed still and untapped, waiting. I had the mad urge that I was going to start to run down the street and bust the day open like a piñata.

Instead, I contented myself with walking towards the tube with great deliberateness. I was wearing the leopard print trainers I saved up for 4 months for, so I looked at my feet while I walked, paying attention to them. They're so unsubtle. I feel about them the same way I feel about eating a lot of chocolate ice cream in one go until you feel a bit manic and your face hurts; they're screechingly trashy and utterly pleasurable.

I watched my feet for a while, but the pleasure of the leopard print trainers is really a one-stop-shop thing. You have a few moments of being gobsmacked by how gaudy they are whenever you see them afresh, then it wears off. The tube was getting closer, I could see the stately red oblong of the sign now. I wanted to savour being out alone and knowing I'm going to get music back properly.

Healing up is going to be slower if I keep aggravating my ear, so overall I'm going to keep being careful. But the risk that I'll go deaf is gone. I stop walking. I look around as though I might be caught. Three equally shifty looking boys wearing school uniforms were approaching. One of them said "hurry up bruv!" in a whisper so urgent it carried far more than a shout would have done. I nod at them as they pass, to say I'm not a grass if they're not.

When they've gone, I reach into my tote bag and shake my headphones out from the nest they've curdled into in the corner in there. I want to listen to something skiffly and sweet, so I pushed the ear buds of my newsagent headphones just over the rim of my ear and listened to 'The Leanover' by Life Without Buildings all the way through. I reach the tube before it finishes, so stand at the lip of the entrance looking down the stairwell for a full minute, thinking, "let's have it out."

It was great.