I'm not sure if this is a side effect of loss, or just of growing older, but rather than appreciating the abundance of wonderful stuff I do possess, I find myself increasingly dwelling on the things that I no longer have. I suppose anything else would be like lopping someone's arm off and expecting that amputee immediately to express their gratitude for the three limbs that they still found themselves in possession of; you might be able to see the logic of the proposition, perhaps, but you would probably feel entitled to remain somewhat aggrieved at being an arm down. Oh we all come to terms with loss eventually in our own ways, but the first part of that process, surely, is to accept the loss, to acknowledge it for what it it is; unwelcome, intrusive and painful, and perhaps even plain bloody unfair. Later, maybe, there will be time for us to count our blessings, more room to give thanks for what we still have. But first we need to mourn for what's been taken from us; perhaps even to rage.
And loss, you start to realise, is not a temporary, once and for all occurence; loss goes on and on. Once lost to us, people stay lost and their continued absence becomes apparent in a variety of ways, even if we do find ways to bring the lost ones back and keep them living, if only in our minds. And then, just as you feel you've come to terms with one, another loss occurs. And one day, like those ubiquitous gondolas that so derail the Monty Python travelogue's narrator, you feel one day that is all that there will be; loss, loss and more fucking loss. And that's just the lost people. Loss then opens up a second, a third and a fourth front; you lose your looks, lose your youth and finally you lose your mind.
Perhaps this is as much a sign of the extent to which I've been shaped by the materialistic culture that I was born into and grew up in as much as it's a symptom of loss, but the finding of lost things now has a definite allure for me. We are all too aware of the realities of of life and death and have already or soon will be keeping a careful watch on that unyielding, hoarding burglar we call Time. So there's something quite joyous, I find, in the perversity of these thief-defying artifacts, the ones that turn up every now and then, unsoiled, unblemished to remind you of a time long gone. You welcome them home as you would a returning prodigal.
To that end, my counter to the losses - my compensatory factor if you like - has been buying second hand records. Like many in the mid 1980s, I got caught up in the rush to CD and pretty much gave up on those relatively fragile 33 1/3s and 45s some time ago. Then, sometime around 2002 or 2003, I bought the cheapest turntable that I could find with the aim of transferring to CD some of my harder to find old LPs. The turntable quickly became an obsession. The already surprisingly good sound achieved by this incredibly modest deck meant that it was rapidly enhanced and customised, tweaked and supercharged before it soon gave way to better turntables as the crazy, rekindled passion grew. The old family home was ransacked for what remained of my collection - sadly, nowhere near complete after a series of retrospectively agonising carboot sales and visits to the Collectors Record Shop. Daft, I know. But it was one way of coping with loss.
My mum had died in August 2002, you see. It was a long illness, very traumatic at the time and I suppose, looking back now, something of a watershed in my own life. You can still think of yourself as being young in your mid-to-late thirties. But death just makes you feel so old. It's not so much that you become more aware of all those days stacked up behind you. No, it's just the sheer violence that a loved one's death can inflict upon your body. Death just wears you out, frankly - at least, the ones that come at the end of long drawn out illness do. In death's wake, everything you do seems slower, less natural, less spontaneous; the easy pace of youth moves into a slower gear; your Little Red Corvette is forced to dawdle on the narrow country lane by the snail-like milkfloat chuntering up ahead.
But, if anyone's still reading after such a bleak opening as this, it's not all bad news up ahead. You start to cling, as you get older, to the comforting myth that youth is indeed wasted on the young. It isn't, of course, but there is a dividend of clarity that pays out when that superannuated body of yours starts to slow. There's the bittersweet thrill of finding lots of good stuff that you missed out on at the time and thought had gone for good and yet, there it is, still waiting patiently, like an over-generous or slightly desperate blind date. And what seemed at the time to have been a curse, to have missed out on the Sixties as those of us did who's teenage years happened to take place in that decade's wake, now seems more opportune. It's only six years, after all, between the Beatles split and the rise of the Sex Pistols. Another seven, and we've reached the Smiths. We were close enough to peer back not too far at all that wacky flower power stuff and still had plenty of good things to look forward to, one starts to feels as the years tick on. So Pop Time can do old gits like me a favour, even if the Old Father kind is not so....well, kind.
It does seem strange to me that a grown man - I'm well into my 42nd year as I write this - still has so much time for such a supposedly juvenile form. I suppose that we all carry a residue of youth, even when it seems it ought to have no place in us. And, as you get older, you start to realise with increasing certainty that there really is no way back. You can only rewrite so much history. You remain the product of the choices that you made and if you want to understand yourself, you have to face up to and understand those choices. I guess that, if I'm honest, is what is fuelling this quest.
I haven't told you about the quest, have I? That's age for you. This will probably seem to most of you like tilting at a windmill, but what the heck. I've compiled a list of 100 records - 50 singles, 50 LPs - all of which at one time or another passed through my hands but none of which I currently own. I 've replaced most of the things I used to have on vinyl, but not these strays who've somehow slipped through the net. The quest is to find them and to discover what, if anything, they still mean to me; a sort of audit of their emotional value, I guess. It's a pretty poor list if truth be told - as you'll see tomorrow when I post the names of the 50 singles up. But it's an honest one. They are all missing records. I just want to find out how much I'm missing them. And who knows, in amongst the mistakes, and the horrors, there may be a few pleasant surprises. I just hope that I can find them all...who knows - maybe some of you may even be able to help?
L.U.V. on y'all,
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