Thursday, February 05, 2009

7:57 Four Minutes Late
So, there I was, gazing out of the window and thinking about 'records' and the days of ‘I’ll do you a tape, if you like’ and about how illegal downloading isn’t killing music any more than home taping killed music because people who think music is important will always find ways to spend their money on it. And that led me to thinking about how expensive records seemed back then, how £2.49 was five weeks pocket money, and how the 50p a week I got from my Mum & Dad was supplemented by the 50p a week I got for going round to my Grandma and Granddad's after school every night to do their shopping. Then, before I knew it, I was remembering the awkward 10 minutes or so I used to spend, after the shopping was bought and put away, standing on the rug in front of the fire trying to think of things to say and wondering if I could leave yet.


Always standing because there was never anywhere to sit. The chairs, like every other surface, were cluttered with the things they had to keep within easy reach – not being particularly mobile, either of them - paperback westerns, knitting needles, oranges, The Yorkshire Post, a pack of cards, an ash tray – the fabulous, magic ashtray which opened up when you pushed down on the plunger and the ash and dog ends whirled down into it. It didn't, but really should have, played 'The Carousel Waltz at the same time – a tea caddy full of cigarette cards, custard creams, raffia, bundles of co op stamp books, wool, the current Empire Stores catalogue. And, beneath these essential day-to-day items, hoarded layers of randomly accumulated stuff that 'might come in'. From time to time there would be an avalanche.

Sometimes I had to get their tea as well. Sardines on toast or a sullenly scrambled egg. The kitchen was as cluttered as the rest of the tiny flat, and the surfaces always slightly sticky.

My Uncle Bob lived in the flat too. He used to climb telegraph poles for Norweb, until he went mad. He didn’t speak much. My Mum said that, when they were tiny, him and his twin brother developed a private language. Once they were apart he didn’t really communicate with anyone.

Because just getting up, never mind moving around, was a struggle, the fire was always on. Because my granddad chain smoked the walls were always yellow. Because my Mum did their laundry for them at the weekends there were always piles of unwashed clothes around.

Because of all these things, it was a flat you could barely breath in.

My Dad's mum lived in a house on the older estate, across the other side of the road, with a garage and a well tended garden. My Nana was the very definition of sprightly. Fastidious, abstemious, proper to a fault. She was climbing on chairs to dust the pelmets into her eighties but, because she didn’t need to offer me 50p a week to do her shopping, I saw far less of her.

And all because Rol mentioned 'records'.

The Old Church Is Still Standing – Martin Stephenson & the Daintees
My Little Town - Simon & Garfunkel

Costafine Town - Splinter
Hello In There - 10,000 Maniacs


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