Magazine article The Spectator

Great Expectations

Magazine article The Spectator

Great Expectations

Article excerpt

A marshmallow completely failed to live up to its promise yesterday.

It's a good while since I tasted a marshmallow and I was convinced it was going to be gorgeous. Inevitable, I suppose, one's changing tastes, but somehow it always comes as a surprise when I find I don't like things any more. Recently, certain books that I loved when I was younger: books that I once set my compasses by, I find repellent.

There was a time in my life when everything Camus wrote came over as the voice of God speaking the divine language, such a mature way of looking at the world. Now it all strikes me as moody, childish, provincial and very short on laughs. Whole cities, I've tired of. Berlin, for example: how tedious.

Entire nations, too: Iceland, where briefly I was happiest, I don't think I could ever return to with a light heart. Even people I have been close to, I realise I drift away from geographically and emotionally.

Not tunes, though. Tunes are a constant. Through all the shifting sands of a life unfolding, music is incredibly resilient.

Every record I've ever loved, I still love, but particularly the music I loved when I was a teenager. I've even noticed that music I didn't like at all when I was that age has me welling up now. I found myself joyfully accompanying Aha at the top of my voice in the car a while back. And I hated Aha.

I still have nearly all the records I've ever owned, but a big record collection is no longer the priceless asset it once was. Not now I've signed up to 'Spotify'. Spotify is fast replacing iTunes as the music industry insiders' music site of choice. It's similar to iTunes in that it gives you instant access to more or less everything ever recorded, but if you listen to a lot of music it's better value than iTunes because, instead of paying 79p for each track you want to listen to, you pay a monthly subscription for unlimited streaming or you can have everything free, with adverts. It's all quite bewildering, really.

The artists who feature most heavily in my record collection are Ray Conniff and James Last. There are dozens of records by both of them. They all belonged to my grandfather.

I never listened to them, not since he died. …

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