Recognise any of these?
I count these cassette tapes among some of my oldest friends.
Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, I scrupulously saved up, then bought each precious album in triumph. I would listen to them over and over as I drove around the Welsh countryside in my cream and maroon Citroen 2CV, until the tape wore thin and the singing voices crackled.
Or – realistic in the knowledge that I would never be able to save enough from my job at the local swimming pool to buy, say, the entire Pixies back catalogue – I borrowed tapes off friends, and captured the plaintive tones of Black Francis on my own C90.
I used these towers of tapes as mental armour against the rest of the (as I saw it back then) musically unenlightened, non-‘alternative’ people in my small teenage world. When I was listening to Kristen Hersch sing about ghostly voices sliding down telephone receivers, the fact that I felt different to everyone around me didn’t matter a jot. In fact, it seemed like something to be proud of. Who wants to be the straight act when your head’s in a musical world populated by stoners, misfits and tortured artists?
Then, as I moved away from home, into a big city and onto a life full of people with experiences varied and very different to my own, these stacks of cassettes turned into stepping stones. I developed a more eclectic set of musical tastes. As well as keeping up with old favourites, I allowed myself to listen to music that would never have gained entry to the list of ‘good’ bands drawn up by John Peel, Steve Lamacq, Mark & Lard, and Jo Whiley.
Heck, I even once bought a CD by Natasha Bedingfield.
I moved on. And, over twenty years since I bought them, these tapes have been sitting on a shelf, untouched, for far too long. We don’t own a cassette player any more; and anyway, I own several of these albums on CD.
It felt like it was time to say goodbye.
I took a memento snapshot, which I posted on facebook before I put the cassettes out on the street, for a passer-by to pick up and add to their own collection of relics. But, an hour or two later, a lump came to my throat while I was reading the comments people posted on my blog facebook page, and on my private account. Old friends (some of whom had owned the originals from which these C90s were nabbed) picked out their favourite albums. New pals pointed out that chucking away the cassettes was like throwing out my youth. Pretty much unanimously, people advised me to hang on to these old treasures.
So, I couldn’t do it. I rescued the piles (to be honest, I’m not sure how many of the people who walk down our street collect old cassettes anyway) and now they’re sitting in an upstairs cupboard in our loft conversion, bracing themselves for the next big clear-out.
I wonder what will come of them when that happens. I might be brave, and convince myself that saying goodbye to these plasticy, slightly grimy objects wouldn’t result in the deletion of pleasant memories from my adolescence. That if I threw them away, I wouldn’t be getting rid of an essential part of who I was, and where I’ve come from.
But then again, I probably won’t be able to go through with it then, either. I suspect they’ll have to prise them out of my gnarled 102-year-old hands when they come for a final visit to my geriatric care home.
Do you have any old possessions that you simply couldn’t part with?
This post is part of Our Time of Gifts, my year-long adventure in sharing. Each week, I’ll try to loan or giving something away, then see what the universe brings to my doorstep.
Click here to find out more about Our Time of Gifts.