It’s been a strange couple of weeks. In the UK for the first time in awhile. This was meant to be a different type of trip, fun and adventure for me and Ben as he made some big decisions in his life that would ultimately impact the whole family. Over the last ten days I have not managed to have the “conversation” I thought I wanted to have.
This has been waylaid by my dad being in hospital the entire time. Days have been taken up looking after my mother, drinking coffee with her and then visiting in the hospital. This has not been the most exciting time for poor Ben, he has been very patient with it however. All in all it’s been somewhat bemusing. We have not managed to achieve any of the things I wanted to. Which makes me think those things maybe were not ever achievable.
Maybe the time for the heart to heart is gone with Ben and even with my own dad.
It’s odd coming from a city that is known around the world. You tell anyone you meet that you are form Liverpool they will know certain facts, mainly about the Beatles or one of the two football teams. It is however a whole lot more than that. An independent city that has finally succumbed it seems to gentrification and it’s own fame. The lines to Anfield were multinational this Sunday and you hear many languages as you wonder around town. The working class houses in the city center now multi thousand pound apartments. It is almost certainly a different city than the one I wondered around as a child/young man, there is however enough familiarity in the streets that I can still navigate with ease.
Slightly drunk on Sunday having met up with two friends that I had not seen in 20 or so years we reminisced about the apartment Andy, who was not present, had lived in. He lived on the top floor of a tenement on Bold Place opposite the bombed out church. The lower floors housed some prostitutes who would try and feed him up as he was so skinny. He is still skinny and living in the south of England now. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you about the prostitutes though. The day ended in the Pilgrim surrounded by slightly self conscious students watching the football. The football was glorious, the students remained self conscious as the still slightly drunk older men shouted and chanted and cheered.
John made the observation that we all had felt so dangerous back then. How we must have pissed off a lot of people and also how people had looked after the stupid drunk 16 year olds in town. A kinder gentler more connected world. Now the self conscious students just looked bemused by the slightly drunk older men. They also somehow managed to be a little disapproving. Didn’t they know that in our prime we had screamed into the maelstrom that was Hawkwind, The Clash, Magazine, Gong and Here and Now, we had been through the excesses necessary and survived. We were entitled to our bleary gazes and ragged chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone.
We staggered around from one teenage hang out to the next. Reminiscing and laughing as Ben looked bemused at these middle aged men remembering a time before smart phones and streaming jukeboxes. The Marlborough is no longer the Marlborough and Val is long gone, as is Big Clive from the Swan and the Wilsons is nothing but a memory, the Cracke is living on its brief flirtation with John Lennon as a student. At least John and Paul(the immortal Gooey) had held on to most of their hair even though they had moved to Manchester, of course who am I to complain with the 6000 mile move.
It had been Record Store Day the day before. I showed Ben where Probe used to be and the slightly diminished sad place where it is now. We never went in though. I suppose I should have really as that is what a collector should do isn’t it. I have never really experienced the thrill or need for RSD. I do however have a few of the releases I have picked up when they go on sale or online. We also walked past several other record stores that did not drag me in, mostly because they were closed.
Being in an urban environment as opposed to the rural environment we normally inhabit is a shock to the system. There is no roar of large diesel engines heading out in the morning or the sound of woodpeckers in the evening and the frogs who could forget the frogs, there is however the constant hum of the M62 across the field and the trains every 15 minutes or so and the harsh laughter in the streets and car doors slamming.
So for two weeks I have lain in my childhood bed listening to the music of my youth on headphones. The very same way I used to listen late at night so as not to disturb my parents. These days those albums are streamed on Spotify and not on crackly discs of vinyl. Each night has taken me through an album of the past in its entirety. No shuffle play and no skipping the annoying track allowed. The sounds of my youth in my ears as I come to terms with my parents aging and my youngest leaving home.
In this way I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Here Come the Warm Jets, Hunky Dory, Wind and Withering, Close to the Edge, Stormcock, Meddle, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Space Ritual, Thick as a Brick, Audentity, Ricochet and Full House amongst others. Sometimes I woke up to Spotify deciding what I should listen to next based on some algorithm that would predict my taste. This was invariably not what I wanted to hear at all.
Then one night I looked up into the corner of the bedroom and there she was glaring down on me in her glory, the glow in the dark Virgin Mary that had counted my teenage years . Her ghostly green hue looking at me disapprovingly as I drifted off to In Search of Space. She has been a story I told my friends in the past and there she still is watching quietly as I tried to do my best.
In a fit of rebellion against the Virgin in the corner I bought Hawkwind ‘s record store day offering The 1999 party finally in vinyl were it belongs. I sat and looked at the record and then succumbed to streaming it. No Bob Calvert but Simon House on violin and keyboards and the joy of the glories of Lemmy and the boys blowing the minds of Chicagos youth. Tonight I sat down finally at home and played the record and it is as good as I hoped it would be. It’s anarchic and wild and free flowing, from a time when the pettiness of band life had not destroyed the fun of making a racket.
At the end of the day with all the travails that family bring, the worry of parents and their health, the difficult decisions children have to make and then the knowledge they have to make the decisions for themselves it is good to know there is always a Hawkwind record that will screw its your mind. My dad also reminded me that Ben is just like me, he is going to make his own mind up and at the end of the day a parents job is to love their children to support them to trust them and sometimes to pick up the pieces when they fall.