Picture the scene, dear reader. It is a Sunday afternoon in casa fatboyfat. The two of us are engaged in the sort of advanced relaxation common only amongst people who don't have children.
Right, that's lost all the parent readers.
Katie is (wo)manfully wading her way through the latest Patricia Cornwell. It has a scalpel on the front cover. I've said enough. I am to be found on the other sofa, a netbook computer gently warming my nether regions and putting paid to any plans my mother may have of being a grandparent once more.
"It's a bit quiet." Katie says, ironically breaking the silence. "Do you want to put some music on?"
"Why not? Any requests?"
"No, just put it on shuffle."
This could turn nasty. There are a lot of things hidden in that little black sliver of Apple-branded plastic. Amongst its zeroes and ones there are tracks that wake you up, tracks that bring you down. Songs that speak of love, others that testify the pain of separation.
And quite a lot of widdly guitars.
We settle down. And for about twenty minutes, things are going alright. We get a little bit of Van the Man, from the Astral Weeks album. Some Proclaimers. Even an instrumental Pogues number. My iPod appears to have gone Celtic on me. I'm thankful. I don't own any Enya.
However I'm still on edge. I glance nervously at the remote control as each song ends, waiting to pounce if something threatens to disrupt the mood. You don't get this with 'Play Album'. You know what to expect. You can say to yourself, "It's OK, I fully expect that I'm going to get twelve tracks of witty-yet-occasionally-dark-yet-somehow-uplifting-introspection." (Elbow). Or "Here comes another set of bouncy-ditties-about-your-uncle-who-works-on-the-market." (Squeeze).
But if there's a chance of your flow being disturbed by a seven-minute essay on the essential hopelessness of the human spirit, you know there's a risk of being Radioheaded. It doesn't lead to a restful afternoon. Katie will raise an eyebrow above Patricia, and I will be gently but firmly quizzed.
There are things on that iPod that are the result of going on iTunes after rather too much red wine. There should be a law, or at least some sort of "Are You Absolutely Sure?" process to stop drunken song downloading. But there isn't, so I live in constant fear that the shuffle will unearth one of these Merlot-fuelled moments.
But we'd managed so well this afternoon. Surely nothing could come along to disturb the vibe?
Then this comes on:
"Care to explain this one, then?"
"I have no words."