I recall, as a teenager, recording plays and other things onto cassette tape. I also recollect that sinking feeling when the cassette tape became horribly tangled (those c120 tapes where amongst the worst offenders, at least in my memory).
Besides recording, I also built up (and still retain) a large library of spoken word cassettes, ranging from Stevenson’s Kidnapped through to The Turn of the Screw and When Eight Bells Toll.
Despite my memories of cassettes becoming mangled, I still have great affection for the technology, which perhaps explains why I still retain those spoken word cassettes from my childhood and teenage years.
I therefore confess to having given in to a certain amount of nostalgia as I listened to an item on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row about the rise and fall of the cassette tape, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000sz98. The item is about 10 minutes in length and can be found at the start of the podcast.
The above is one of the poems I am minded to read at a poetry reading on Thursday 4 July. This will be a private event (unfortunately not open to the public), hence I wanted to share this poem here in order that it may be more widely enjoyed.
England is ticking grandfather clocks
And country cots,
Their doors still without locks.
It is a place of church choirs
And open pub fires,
Where dogs lie
While their owner’s sigh
Over an article in the Daily Telegraph.
England is young men full of testosterone
Who refuse to leave it alone,
And draw their knives,
With no concern for mothers or wives.
England is a tower block
Where people lock
Against thieves and hoares.
England is a place of country houses,
Sit at oak tables
Cherishing half fables
Of a past
That is vanishing fast
Some thought his poetry meant this
And still others that.
He wore a hat
And often (being lost in rhymes)
Went out with no raincoat.
He had no moat
And little private wealth.
The reader sighs
Trying to categorise
The poet’s view.
Some declare that he was a Tory of the deepest blue
(while others protest this was not true!).
A few saw a man of the left,
But found themselves bereft
On finding verse which (they say)
Romanticised the nobility of yesterday.
Perhaps the poet smiles somewhere
(or, perchance he doesn’t care),
For who knows
Where the rhymer goes
When his ink runs dry
And his words finally die.
In the flames of this fire,
Fanning my desire
For a past when the publican laid logs
And drinker’s faces
Gathered around the blaze as their dogs
Lazed beside the eternal flame.
It is not the same
Since the pub changed hands. The beer
Remains unchanged, yet I fear
The flame does not burn as bright
Of a winter’s night
And the grate is too often cold.
We have all done things in life which we later regret. As a child (teenager) I owned a Braille edition of The Little Oxford Dictionary Of Current English. I regularly consulted the dictionary (all 16 braille volumes of it)! To ascertain the meaning of words with which I was unfamiliar. It was an invaluable resource and, in retrospect I can not, for the life of me recollect why I decided to donate The Little Oxford to The National Library For The Blind in Stockport (UK). My decision to donate was no doubt connected with the proliferation of online dictionaries (why retain a dictionary which occupies a whole bookshelf when one can ascertain the same information by logging onto Google or another internet search engine of your choosing)? However I now regret my hasty decision, and wishing to obtain an updated replacement I logged onto the Royal National Institute Of Blind People’s (RNIB’s) website, only to discover that the Dictionary is no longer available in Braille.
Why the desire for a paper dictionary? Online dictionaries are convenient in that they do not take up shelf space. In addition an internet work of reference can (unlike it’s print counterpart) be easily updated. However online dictionaries (the free ones at any rate) tend to be chock full of advertisements (I hate wading through ads to find what I am looking for). Additionally I dislike being online while writing. The ideal, for me at least is to turn off my mobile, log off the internet and close e-mail thereby ensuring that I can concentrate, 100 percent on my writing. Also, to be frank I like leafing through paper dictionaries, perhaps at the age of 45 this love of traditional sources of reference is ineradicable. I suspect that in years to come paper dictionaries will become quite collectable. It will be a talking point when someone has on their shelves a copy of the last print edition of The Oxford English Dictionary but, in the meantime I still regret the loss of my 16 volumes!