Well, have I had a time of it? I can answer that question quite easily: yes, I have had a time of it.
Let me explain how. There’s a small, peculiar room – really a roomlet – in my house which I call the Cubby Hole but which a poster on the door also declares to be the Fortress of Solitude (as in Superman’s haven in the Arctic).
Once, my plan had been to write the great novel in there, far from the distractions of computers, television, and so forth. That went well for a day.
Apart from anything else, you can’t stand up in that room and, consequently, it’s a fat lot of use for pacing back and forth, which is the first requirement of a writer.
It really is the most peculiar little place. It’s about twelve feet long and three feet wide, and sits in the roof at the back of the house. I keep my electric guitar and amplifier in here, noodling away when I’ve nothing better to do, which accounts for roughly 92 per cent of my life.
Two wide parallel chests sit in here too, one containing photographs and one containing vinyl albums.
My first plan was just to spend an evening looking at the photographs, which I hadn’t done for years. I’m glad they’re in print form and not just on the computer, which has lost about 150 pictures of mine on account of it being a dense, malevolent piece of hardware dedicated to raising my blood pressure and sending me to an early grave.
As I got the prints out, it occurred to me to play some old records too. For, here in the Cubby Hole of Solitude, I also have one of those slightly cheesy, retro record players that you used to see advertised a lot.
While cheap, it turned out be a marvellous gizmo that also plays CDs, cassettes and the radio. So I put on some of the earliest records that I’d bought and had a party in my ears.
As for the photos, apart from a couple of old loves, and a reminder that I used to look more like an elf than (as now) a troll, the photos left me curiously unmoved. This applied particularly to those that just featured places with no people in them.
Of course, there was the suburban hill, and some of my few holidays or previous lives in peculiar places. But, since these places look pretty much the same now, there was little to get nostalgic about.
It’s only people that change. I was going to say that, in our earlier years, we just lived our lives and never gave a thought to ageing, but that isn’t true. Many people tell me they hated hitting 30 because then they really started to think about getting older.
But the world then was still our oyster, whereas now it’s our tinned sardine, cramped and damp and bony. I can live with that.
I’m lucky in that I’ve always been miserable, so I cannot look back and say: “I was happy then.” Because I know fine well that I wasn’t.
But, hunched up in the Cubby Fortress for a couple of hours, seeing the past and listening to it on vinyl, I had a pleasant time of it.