Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

When it is too painful to go forward any more, it is time to go back. And so it was that I found myself in the Oxfam bookshop down a little cobbled street, buying second-hand vinyl records. I had not gone into the Oxfam bookshop to buy vinyl records. I had gone in to see whether they stocked such a thing as a desk diary. I have been having an awful time since 1 January searching in vain for this most obsolete of items - an A4, one-pageto-a-day, wide-ruled desk diary.

'Why don't you just put all your appointments in your BlackBerry like a normal person?' said a girlfriend snootily.

'Because I don't want to. I want to write them down. Then, when I look back over the pages in the months or years to come, I can orientate myself. I can remember things about any given day by looking at the style of my writing or the pen I used. Also, I like writing things by hand, I like turning pages. I don't like pressing little buttons on my phone.

I am a human being, not a number, ' I added, channelling Patrick McGoohan, as I usually do when thus frustrated.

'Oh, but you need this app. . .'

'Please do not speak to me of apps. I refuse to acknowledge that there is such a thing.'

'You're weird.'

'That's as maybe.'

Fortunately, the Oxfam bookshop not only looked like the past - on account of it having books in it - but it smelt of the past, too. In particular, it had the whiff of a slightly damp primary school classroom during breaktime on a rainy day when the children are cooped up with the wooden toys and the indoor sandpit. Breathing in the slightly fetid air infused me with a sudden sense that maybe, just maybe, despite the march of slick technology and everything hideously clever that was coming with it, including digital diaries, things might be alright, after all.

An old man in an anorak was sitting in a lumpy chair reading a paperback book. Possibly he had been there for hours and would be there until the shop closed. Certainly, he didn't look like he was going to part with any money. And yet nobody of authority in the shop seemed in the least bit bothered about it. I felt a nice feeling somewhere in the region of my heart.

Then my heart positively soared when I noticed the vinyl records on a shelf along the back wall. …

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