Bicycles, Barry White, and a Man with a Chip on his Shoulder

Bicycles, Barry White and a Man with a Cjhip on his Shoulder!Digital memories are pretty easy to save these days. Take a picture with your camera or smartphone and press the save button. That’s your picture saved.

Later you can transfer the picture or video to a laptop or a hard drive for safekeeping. Years ago it wasn’t so easy but at least today you can scan those old photographs into your PC and save them as digital media. Even old videos and 8mm home movies can be digitised and saved if you have the right software.  Still, memories are not just pictures. There are all sorts of things that can trigger your thoughts and bring back some long forgotten moment or event, or just something you haven’t thought of for a while.

It could be a piece of music or passing some old haunt, some pub you used to go in when you were younger but haven’t visited for a long while.

Something that was a trigger for old memories for me was an old tape recording I made when I was in my teens.

I used to make lots of recordings when I was much younger. I saved up and bought a tape cassette recorder and apart from recording music –they call them mix tapes these days but I never heard that term years ago when I was making ‘mix’ tapes- I used to record little plays and sketches I had written. My brother was press ganged into helping with these enterprises and I used various techniques to get him involved:

  1. Bullying
  2. Threats and intimidation.
  3. Violence
  4. Bribery

Yes, they all worked to greater and lesser degrees. It’s funny to listen to the tapes now because I can tell pretty much by his attitude when he went along with me willingly or otherwise. One other inducement I used was swapping. He might want a particular record or something that I had so we would swap that and some weeks later usually swap back. Lots of times I used to swap a record for my bicycle and that’s where I felt I really had one over on Colin, my brother, because he couldn’t, and still can’t ride a bike! Yes, I was on to a winner there because I’d swap my bike for a record or book and I had full use of the item while he couldn’t use the bike because he couldn’t ride it!

One time he really got one over on me. We had swapped my bike for one of his records or something or other; I can’t really remember what. Anyway, one day I went to go out on my bike- OK, his bike- opened the shed and it was gone. What had happened? Had it been stolen, where was it?

‘The bike?’ he answered blithely; he had sold it to his friend because he wanted money to buy a new LP!

My Mother facilitated the removal of my hands from his throat with a firm whack to the back of my head and asked what was going on?

He sold my bike!’ I yelled.

‘Your bike?’ she replied. ‘Didn’t you swap it with him? Isn’t it his bike?’

Yes but, yes but,’ was all I could say.

The tapes were mostly comedy sketches on the lines of Spike Milligan who was then a hero of mine. One of them went like this;

CUE COWBOY MUSIC

ME: Hey Stewart, I’m gonna knock that chip right off your shoulder!

COLIN: That’s no chip –it’s a potato!

ME: King Edward’s?

COLIN: No, he can get his own, it’s one of mine!

(These are the jokes folks, as someone used to say!)

My brother wasn’t the only person I dragged into making tape recordings. My old school friend Steve was a music fan like me. Well, I say like me but his music knowledge was prodigious. Name any record and he would say with certainty- ‘that went to number 2 in July 1974’ or whenever.

There was a radio programme we both liked. It was My Top 12 on Radio 2 and it was something on the lines of ‘desert island discs’. Someone from the music world would be interviewed and would choose their top twelve records.

Anyway, Steve and I decided to make a version for each other. One weekend I interviewed him talking about his favourite music for which he provided full chart statistics, naturally. On another weekend we reversed roles and he interviewed me for which I provided limited chart stats, usually something like, ‘that one just nudged into the top twenty to which my friend would reply, ‘yes, actually number 23 was the highest chart placing in October 1975.’

We slagged off all the music we looked down on and praised all the music we loved. Poor old Barry White (the same Barry White whose Greatest Hits is sometimes played in my car) got something of a drubbing. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were praised as a musical discovery of the highest order. (Steve who? Was he the guy who did ‘Come up and See Me, make me smile?)

Through the magic of the digital age I recently processed that old tape and converted it into a CD which I played in my car on the way into work today and it was lovely to listen to my old friend again.

Steve was the inspiration for the character of Matty in my novel Floating In Space. He was a lovely guy although something of a music nerd. We had a parting of the ways years ago when his brother came to rent a room in my house. He proceeded to wind up my bills; gas, electric and telephone, to such an incredible volume I could no longer afford to have him living with me. Steve took his brother’s eviction personally and alas that was the end of our friendship.

I always assumed one day we would have a pint together and talk about music, sci-fi and cult TV once again, just like we used to back in the seventies and eighties. We did keep in touch through an intermediary, my brother Colin. We last had a long telephone chat in the early 1990’s and talked about a reunion. I never heard from him again and when I enquired about him to his sister, whom I located on social media, she revealed he had been taken ill with cancer and had passed away.

Steve, as well as being a great music fan was something of an aircraft anorak too. He stars in my second most watched video on you tube, a documentary we made in 1986 with Steve espousing his love of aircraft. I think he’d be thrilled to find that over 5,000 viewers have watched it.

One tip just to finish with. Hang on to the recordings you make with your iPad and iPhone and all the other modern day gadgets. Keep them safe; invest in a portable hard drive to store them.

Get ready to invest in new software which will convert the files to whatever new application we will be using in the future because in thirty years time you’ll want to look back at those memories and relive those earlier times.


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Four Random Thoughts on a Sun Lounger

fourrandomOne

Lying on a sunbed under a blue sky and a hot sun must be one of the most relaxing and therapeutic things I can think of. The only sound is the rippling of the water in the heated pool and the rumbling of my own thoughts and I am thinking that as I write this it’s the last day of my holiday and in a few days time I’ll be back at work again, ploughing through a thousand e-mails, if not more.  Tomorrow someone else will be sitting here, in my villa, in my seat, drinking wine from my glass and contemplating the blue sky that I so love. I particularly like the heated pool and it has been great to swim every day and my fitness levels must have improved. A few years back I hurt my neck and it’s hard for me to twist and take a breath in the water so what was so good for me was that I was able to swim the whole length of this rather small pool in one breath. When we stayed in Portugal last year and had a big pool I was struggling to get to the other end underwater!

Two

One other thing that I enjoy when lying in the sun is listening to music on my MP3 player. As much as I have embraced technology I have been a bit of a late starter when it comes to MP3 players. It was only about two or three years ago that I changed from a car with a tape player to one with a CD player and since then I have had to start making CDs to play when I’m motoring rather than the tapes I’ve been making ever since cassette tape recorders appeared in the early seventies. Of course, once the CDs are copied to your PC it’s a pretty easy matter to then pop them onto your MP3 player. Quite recently I came across some software that has enabled me to digitise some of my old tapes and vinyl records. One of my favourite tapes was something I concocted over thirty years ago and has soundtrack music from my favourite films and TV shows along with some of my favourite dialogue too, things like Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront, James Garner and Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, and Michael Caine in Alfie. It’s almost surreal to lie here under the warm sun listening -not to the latest downloads but to a compilation I put together over thirty years ago!

Three

This is a lovely villa, near to the bars and restaurants and from the balcony I can see the flickering of the flags on the boats in the harbour. At our favourite bar the Café Beruggo, the staff turned out in force to say goodbye which was really nice. Of course the last days of a holiday are always sad and it’s hard to hand over the property to the next holiday maker. It was just as hard when I was much younger and the holidays of my childhood were spent in rented caravans in places like Skegness, Prestatyn, Blackpool and Rhyl. I remember one such holiday when my brother and I ran excitedly through the caravan park following instructions on the lines of ‘go to the third row, turn left and your caravan is at the end with the red roof.’ Well, we went past lots of modern looking caravans, turned left but the one at the end was an old van, looking for all the world like one of those caravans you see seemingly abandoned in some corner of a farmer’s field or on a construction site. That couldn’t be our van? Surely not! When my dad tried the key and it worked, we entered into this old and rather dingy caravan in a state of disappointment and settled down for our week’s holiday. It was so ancient that it had gas lights that were lit by a match. The van filled with that aroma of calor gas that I always liked and I remember playing cards and board games at night lit by the glow of those lamps. Those were the days when Mum booked the holiday from a classified advert in the Manchester Evening News so we never knew what to expect. That particular caravan was a disappointment but there were others that she booked that were wonderful.

Four

One final thought on caravans. Once, a few years ago, Liz and I stopped for a few days at a caravan park in France. Our van was opposite the touring section and I remember one day, sitting in my deck chair in the sun reading a book when a foreign motor home trundled over and parked up opposite. The motor home was towing a small car which was unhooked and parked. Then a huge awning was wound out from the motor home, a ground sheet dropped down, and various items of garden furniture appeared. Not long after that our new neighbour rolled out something that looked like a circular wheelie bin. As I gazed on over the rim of my paperback the top of the object opened and a huge satellite dish that surely must have been NASA surplus stock was raised and aimed at some distant TV station. The Germans had arrived.


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my novel ‘Floating In Space.’ Click the links at the top of the page to find out more.