Thursday, 6 January 2011

Stuff And Nonsense

What will happen when you wake up in the morning and you can’t look out the window in the morning? Surrounded by all the books and records of your lifetime.

Nick Drake. Man, he could write a song so he could.

Having a kid does inevitably lead to being surrounded by ‘stuff’ but unlike my previous life of child-less luxury I’ve not been surrounded by books and records recently but packs of baby wipes, plastic toys, encrusted Weetabix (GM crops aren’t intended to feed the world but provide a cheap alternative to concrete for the construction industry) and piles of laundry.

Kicking the material possession habit is hard for most people. Having less stuff is undoubtedly greener but when there are so many great books, films and records is it so bad to want to own them? I guess buying secondhand is the solution.

I have an embarrassingly large record collection - when we lived in a one bedroom flat in Inverness it did feel like we lived in a library. Every conceivable wall had shelving on it and as the years went by the walls started moving in on us.

We moved to a bigger house (according to Judge Monbiot we were naughty buying a place with three bedrooms when there were only two of us) and when our bundle of joy arrived it was clear to me little hands would find compact discs tempting shiny circles ideal for spreading jam on or feeding between the floorboards. Not to mention the likelihood that the shelves would be climbed.

So after taking a very deep breath I started to pack it all away. The prime cuts of the collection were laboriously added to iTunes and a back up hard drive. Then thousands of CDs were stuffed in body bags and boxes and hidden around the house in every available nook and cranny.

It has removed the deeply anorakish satisfaction of sitting in front of a pile of records listening to obscure tracks, looking up the liner notes and making a connection with another album which is hunted down there and then.

My iPods (I have three - don’t ask) are great but I don’t think I’ll ever shake off the tactile love of a record. I particularly adore the album. The idea that someone thought about the tracks they were laying down, creating in effect a piece of art. Ideally it has a thread running through it, an A side and a B side and interesting artwork and sleeve notes. Downloading a track from the web seems so dull and hollow.

Anyway, it’s been two years since the collection was ‘disappeared’ but Wife Features brought the memories back with a thoughtful Christmas gift. Display cases rather like picture frames.

You insert your chosen CD and it is held in place with neat little rubber bumpers. (Ever said ‘rubber bumpers’ with an Inverness accent? Hours of fun, trust me.)

The removal of the Christmas Tree from the living room has also created a bit of space so the DVD collection has been relocated and put in some sort of order. I took the opportunity to thin it out a bit - for a while there it could be viewed from space.

Into the charity shop/car boot sale/free to a good home bag went things like Jaws 2, Blue Velvet and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I’ve kept hold of my Romero Dead Trilogy.

Some of the films failing to make the cut were simply not ’keepers’ but others like Texas Chainsaw represent an interesting development.

Since becoming a dad - and Wife Features has noticed this too since becoming a mum - my tolerance of violence and gore has been recalibrated. I genuinely cannot imagine when I’ll next get the chance or indeed want to watch something like Predator.

I recently rented The Offence (Sidney Lumet directs and Sean Connery and Ian Bannen star in a superbly gritty drama about a policeman obsessed with cracking the case of a child molester) and had to tell Wife Features not to watch it with me. Absolutely brilliant acting and direction but blimey it’s tough for a parent to stomach and I’m glad I chose to rent rather than buy. Around the same time I dipped into a Hammer box set I have and saw The Nanny (Bette Davis is genuinely terrifying as a hard nut childminder) which similarly spooked me. Great film but it won’t get a repeat showing.

Romero is a special case - I have a soft spot for Dawn of the Dead, full of zombies trying to get into a shopping mall. It’s rather like Escape from New York. Bleak, dystopian, vaguely disturbing films set in the future I can still see a place for on the shelves. Given the increasing austerity, protests and disruption caused by climate change it’s probably useful to know how to land a glider on a skyscraper in case I get the call and have to rescue the President.

Anyway. Stuff. It’s bad but it’s good.

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