Magazine article The Spectator

Joys of Acquisition

Magazine article The Spectator

Joys of Acquisition

Article excerpt

One of the pleasures of living in north London is that you live close enough together to look in everyone's windows to see what they are all up to. There's a woman on the other side of the road from me whose two small children watch a lot of CBeebies while she sits staring at her laptop for hours on end. Needless to say I am intrigued. Is she another writer? Or playing online poker with Australian insomniacs? Or is she just on eBay like everyone else?

As a faintly addictive type myself, I can see the dangerous appeal of eBay, and when I have made my first million I, too, may log on. But for now I'm sticking with amazon.co.uk. My friend Mitch has been buying CDs on Amazon for years, and evangelising on their behalf for nearly as long. But he lives in the wilds of Sussex, several days' drive from a decent record shop, which probably wouldn't have the rare Richard Thompson import he desperately seeks anyway. When the first Steely Dan album in 20 years came out a few autumns ago, Mitch preordered it on Amazon and looked forward to the little brown packet flopping through his letter box. Whereas I, disinclined to abandon an ancient ritual, wandered down to Crouch End and queued in the local Our Price behind some grunting troglodytes who were buying the new Oasis album, also released that day. The pleasure lay in the anticipation, as always; but Mitch and I also realised that pleasure lay in the realisation that pleasure lay in the anticipation. We relished our relishing. But, in each case, that relishing was partly defined by the way we got hold of the thing: me handing over coinage to a sulky youth in a soon-to-be closed high-street store, and him sitting in his comfortably upholstered executive chair waiting for Postie.

Mitch, of course, was right. Our Price stores are no more. The chain which bought Our Price stores is no more, either. Even good, lovingly tended specialist record shops are closing down at a frightening rate. I came across a lovely music shop in Devon the other day, run by fans, full of unknown pleasures, the sort of shop you could browse in for hours. Outside on a blackboard was written 'No more crappy downloads! Hear the music as it was made to be heard on CD! …

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