Good Or Shit: Mood Swing

8 August 2012 | 3:28 pm | Liz Galinovic

Today we go "dancing through queues and crowds with more cheer than Santa on meth".

The young-ish man walked through the carpark, his hands in his pockets, his white Polo cap curved around his eyes in a perfect semi-circle – the result of having constantly molded it with his hands like a nervous habit. The curved peak shielded his face from the overhanging security cameras while his little eyes darted every which way, searching for movement amongst the few remaining cars. It was the perfect spot for a little fun. Spill a little blood, go home with a new wallet and mobile phone. In fact, it wasn't even about the cash anymore, it was all about the blood. His own was pumping and this practically deserted carpark was the perfect place to make someone else's gush.

He skipped along in his Nike TN's, peeking into car windows as he waited for an unsuspecting citizen to return to their vehicle. He was raring to go, straining on his chain, punching the air and saying 'oos oos' in time to the beat of his fists. And then he heard speakers crackle. He looked up around him and spotted them beneath the cameras. They crackled again. He only had a short moment to wonder what was about to happen before it did happen – some dead Russian's numerical-something-or-other symphony began to play. Soft and soothing string sections, low penetrative horns, moody wind instruments, his evening ruined. He didn't want to fight anymore, he wanted to waltz.

No it's not A Clockwork Orange fan-fiction it's what one might imagine as a scene in the mind of some city councillor when they came up with the idea of playing classical music in deserted areas at night as a psychological deterrent for thugs. I haven't got a clue if it actually works. It always sounded like a stretch to me, but a recent experience in a overly crowded market – overly crowded areas often make me want to draw blood – got me thinking about the concept of music as a mood-manipulator.

My friend and I started the morning with a YouTubing of the Bedknobs And Broomsticks hit tune Portobello Road, because that's where we were headed and we wanted to get into the mood. A good mood. We knew it was going to be hideously packed, it's always hideously packed, but the Olympics is on and, as much as I hoped that would mean the extra few hundreds of thousands of people would spend all their time at the Olympic stadium, at least a hundred thousand of them planned to spend Saturday at the famous Notting Hill market. So, we accepted that we were going to spend the day walking at a snail's pace and trying not touch bits of strange people we didn't want to touch but who were undoubtedly going to end up wedged against us.

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"Portobello Road, Portobello Road," we sang, over and over, because they were the only lyrics we knew. But, much to our pleasure, when we joined the hoards and hoards of people trudging past George Orwell's house and wondering where Hugh Grant lived in the movie Notting Hill and whether every second blue door was that door, we found that despite our usually crowd-hating selves, there was an unusual amount of pep in our step.

 It started when walked past a rockabilly band in full get-up, bursting with rock, blues, country and a touch of swing. We practically boogied past antique stalls and I Love London t-shirts until we could no longer hear the band because we had come upon a vintage music stall playing hits from the '30s and '40s. Instantly sorry that neither of us could properly swing dance, we wiggled the next hundred metres with our palms up in front of our chests because for some reason we imagined that was how you would dance in the '30s and '40s if you couldn't swing dance.

As we left the '30s and '40s behind we found ourselves raising air-mics to our mouths and singing (loudly) "Only the lonely" to Roy Orbison's song of the same name (this was definitely a highlight). We morphed from air-mics to swag as we were overcome by the reggae and boom bap blasting out of stalls where dreadlocked Jamaican men hacked into coconuts with machetes. And then we got the air-mic back out for Etta James tunes.

This is how we travelled – all the way up one end of Portobello Road (roughly a kilometre) and all the way back again. In the best mood. We were practically skipping. No, we were dancing. Dancing through queues and crowds with more cheer than Santa on meth. And it was all because of the music. Even the busker who, for some truly bizarre and unknown reason chose to sing Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know, managed to make us immune to the hundreds of tourists who bumped, knocked, and physically pushed past us all day.

But, to bring us back to the lad in the deserted carpark – music doesn't always seem to have a joyous effect on people. I did overhear an exchange between a woman who bumped another woman and it went like this –
Bumpee: "Fooken mind yourself!"
Bumpee's Boyfriend: "Fooken Romanian c**t's."

"Portobello Road, Portobello Road, you'll find what you want at the Portobello Road."