For the past two weekends I have been trying to resolve the sale of my wife’s and mine long playing records. This is a compact way of describing the process that has been slowly unravelling since we met and so that is the plot I shall try and detail. As I type my wife has just congratulated me on “sorting the records out”. That’s more money than I thought she declares gaily dismissing three quarters of my life’s memories. Stick to the plot. Last Saturday I packed the four crates into the car and ordered the boys into the car for the drive a mile down the road. This took longer than a non-parent record collection indulging individual would anticipate and consequently we were fractionally too late for the loading bay outside the shop. After two circuits the space had become available when the Astra van pulled off. The boys and I spotted no cameras pointed at the bay and decided to take a chance. The moment we got in the space a large whale of a bus surfaced and sung loudly. Swearing I pulled off vowing to return. This weekend refreshed and having inflated the tyres I did indeed return and this time before four and without the boys. Having parked in the loading bay I begin hauling the records into the shop and up to the counter. The sales assistants are not as friendly as the owner had been on the phone. He had been effusive and rang me to ensure I was coming. Fair enough I thought he’s running a business. The conversation about when to come back to see how much they are worth is awkward and involves me struggling to pitch my commitment, after all I am well aware that the money is not really anything more than an added bonus to retrieving what amounts to a large area of storage space in our sixties estate house. Added to this a skinny young man begins asking me what sort of records I’m selling as he prepares to mount his fixed gear racing bike outside. Again conversation is dislocated- I er mmm – sort of thing. “Oh that’s a shame I would have liked some of them” he enthuses. Records delivered I Slide into the driver’s seat and move into the traffic being careful not to get in the way of any whale like buses.
Work is frantic at the moment or at least the affect on my brain of lecturing to students who are now aware of the value of their education at a university that spends the 2nd to lowest amount on staff in the country is frantic. Consequently on Wednesday I get a call from the owner wondering when I’m going to come in to collect my booty. “It’s up to you if you keep the records we can’t sell”. “I think I’ll collect them thanks”. The owner is understanding and as he has done all the way through this protracted transaction he puts me at my ease. I really do not feel that I am being conned out of a gold mine. I set off after work with plenty of time to park around the corner knowing that the loading bay is off limits after 4 o’clock. Why don’t more people write about the neurosis of parking and camera guilt? Or do I just read the wrong papers? I suppose parking is like admitting you don’t cycle your fixed gear racing bike everywhere. I mean I could have hired a little cycling wagon to deliver the records. I find a space and am anxious because I know I have no change and earlier this year have had a parking fine dispute rebuffed because in Southwark you are not allowed time to go and get change. But wait a stranger is approaching me with an idea for a transaction. It seems he has just bought a ticket that he won’t be needing as his girlfriend doesn’t like the look of the restaurant. The parking official watches as we discuss the deal and to my amazement seems to approve. “I’ve got no change, “ I explain. “Don’t worry” says the stranger “at least someone will get use from it.”
Once in the shop I saunter up to the counter and introduce myself. Tom, the owner is keen to show me the break down of how he has come up with the figure of £85 for the records in my collection that he thinks he can sell. I believe him and recognise that this is a business transaction, which means both parties have to be happy. Tom is after all allowing me to keep the tow crates of records he won’t, in his opinion be able to sell. I like Tom, he is clear and at the same time not devoid of sensitivity. Tom understands. At least that’s what the thought growing in my mind seems to say. Tom is keen to show me the box of records he is keeping. I notice straight away the promo copy of pillows and prayers with its stapled extra tall cover sticking out the top. The record that would have been an eBay sensation… then tom flips to my copy of setting sons by the jam. These are records I remember buying. This was the album directly after the sublime All Mod Cons and I remember being vaguely disappointed with it then. Girl On The Phone will never grow on me despite containing the lyric “ she knows the size of my cock”. I mean that is a very strange choice for an opening track. I just had to check that really was the opening track and notice that it was recorded in 1979. I was eleven and I already knew what I liked. What I liked was the Modern World a far more romantic indeterminate album. With these thoughts flashing through my brain in under a second I wave my hand and demand that Tom stops showing me. Tom understands. I now realise that Tom is used to dealing with bereavement. His tone is gentle and functional. I am laying my records to rest and tom is helping me expertly through the process. I never got around to alphabeticising them and would have to look through them to know what records I had. Owning records is not always about obssesively cataloguing them. One day I would systemise my collection but until then at least each time I played a record was like diving for treasure. This diving has been increasingly rare in my days of parenthood. Parenthood is a very different process to adulthood. I seem to have spent most of my parenthood trying to pack up or jettison all the shackles that I gained during adulthood. Thinking about it most of my records were from childhood. I did start to put records onto my computer and every now and then will be surprised by the 60 min version of See Emily play popping up on my I pod. If I were to break down the time it would have taken to put my records on hard drive I would have had to reduce my sleep to a mere 2 hours in order to find the time for the thousands of farts I do every year. Setting Sons was the only record Tom managed to see me and now its after image burns into my consciousness like the reverse image of Jesus Christ in a Victorian novelty gift book. It was a rubbish record. On the Canadian release they had Strange Town as the first track. In England this haunting piece of urban alienation fell between albums. I used to like it when singles could be caught between long playing releases. It made life more interesting when you had to seek things out.
I make further small talk with Tom being careful not to be too sentimental. Neither of us needs to point out the obvious emotional resonance of this exchange. I mean Tom has seen my records and has guessed that I bought them when they came out. “I’m just happy that someone will get some enjoyment from them,” I tell Tom who reports that yes there are people who like to come in here and browse of a weekend. I leave with £85 and two boxes of unwanted albums that will all sell for lots on eBay. Girl on the Phone would never have grown on me. Now I can start again. Find myself in a strange town - which was the one Jam record I never owned. Perhaps Tom has a copy in stock.