THE minimalist lifestyle has a certain appeal for me.
But this almost ascetic tendency is at odds with my other need, to hold on to multiple possessions that I have accumulated over the years.
I am perhaps partly influenced by the noble habits of my parents who reached adulthood in the newly post-war era when people were grateful for what they had, were hard up and did not waste anything – the make do and mend generation.
Dad would always have all sorts of bits and bobs in his toolbox, salvaged and kept just in case they might be needed one day.
I am not much better. For example, I have kept hundreds of books that I have read, even though I admit it is rare for me to read a book twice. Rather like my vinyl album collection, books are evocative of the time you first read them, a narrative accompaniment to precious memories.
I’m a huge fan of the late Irish novelist Brian Moore and although I’ve only read two of his books more than once I am enjoying discussing them with one of my sons who, having recently worked his way along the family book shelves, now shares my enjoyment of his writing genius.
Just like the LPs, I prefer to hold on to the space-consuming hard copies even though I could easily access them all in ebook format.
It is the same with my guitars, and I know many people with collections that far eclipse my own. The first decent acoustic I ever owned is a bashed-up Eko Ranger which, while still playable, is inferior in all respects to the others.
I was pleased with myself when, around 25 years ago, I counter-intuitively gave it to a youngster who was taking up the instrument and, for him, it was an upgrade. To my surprise the doorbell rang one Sunday afternoon a few years ago and he was standing there with it, thanking me and saying he no longer needs it. Now I can’t bear to part with it again.
I have two other acoustic guitars, one a solid wood Takamini Martin copy, which I bought second-hand in the 1980s and which has matured in sound beautifully over the years, and one very special instrument, a Taylor, which I bought with money I inherited from my mum.
I also own two bass guitars, a sought-after 1980s Musicman Stingray and a Fender Squire fretless Jazz, plus two electric guitars. One was my very first, a Watkins reverb, bought in a second-hand shop at the bottom of Victoria Road for £8 in 1975, and, my pride and joy, a 1979 US Fender Stratocaster which I’ve owned from new. It was the first thing I saved up for and bought when I started earning and my son had it restored as a surprise for me last Christmas.
Within months of owning it I found myself interviewing Hank Marvin, of The Shadows, when the band came to Guernsey (to mime unfortunately) on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – remember Keith Chegwin (Cheggers) and Maggie Philbin? – which was filmed around the Guernsey Yacht Club. Although his style was a little staid for me, I was in awe of him and he was very generous with his time with this inexperienced young hack.
Once the interview was over, I told him that I had just bought the Strat and that I was disappointed with the action – the tension of the strings. Just like any two best mates talking over their passion we lost all track of time and he said, ‘Really, that’s strange, why don’t you try mine and see how it compares?’, reaching for his own 1959 Strat, the first ever to be imported into the UK.
It felt so good, but my hands went to jelly – who was I to play in front of a guitar god?
I was fortunate that, just at that moment, the producer of the live television show rushed into the room exclaiming to Hank, ‘Oh, there you are, you’re on stage in two minutes’.
Saved by the BBC.
Among my other clutter is a large pile of programmes from performances I have acted in or played in the orchestra pit for over the decades and copies of editorial articles I’ve written, or which were written about me.
Don’t get me wrong, our house is not exactly Steptoe’s yard but it hasn’t escaped me, nor my wife, that if I could bear to divorce myself from some of this ‘stuff’ I’d probably gain at least an extra room’s worth of space. All the same, the accumulation of years of bits and pieces is hard to disown.
And I somehow feel I’d lose part of my DNA in the process.