One of the little pleasures of moving rooms and possessions around is finding things you forgot you had. This is especially true of books. As the boys and I ferried various tomes from boxes to shelves I found myself surprised and beguiled by some of the lost gems that were exhumed; each one a memento of another time and another me.
As a kid some of the very first books I owned were about the space race. My mother spent a lot of money on buying me glossy large format hardbacks that detailed the conquest of space. Tragically my interest in science veered dramatically off course thanks to the dramatic gravity of flying saucers. It was probably seeing The Day The Earth Stood Still and then reading HG Wells’ War Of The Worlds at Wallsend library that got me started.
But what really accelerated the process was finding a section in the library containing books with REAL pictures no less! Flying Saucers Have Landed by George Adamski and Desmond fed my already febrile ten year-old brain with accounts of meeting ski-suit wearing martians called Orthon and travelling to inter-planetary council meetings on Venus.
The regular space race seemed too mundane by comparison. One of the first books I bought at Woolworth’s with my pocket money was Flying Saucers On The Attack. I still love the blunt no-nonsense cover and chapters with loopy titles such as “Colossal Death Ray Aeroform.” I stopped collecting these wonderful American imports when I entered my teens but this one miraculously survived the purges of youth. There's a neat online collection of these books here.
From a different section there came a note book of mine circa 1979 / 80 ponderously titled N O T E S 3. The blokey with all that hair who’d more than likely just stubbed out a cigarette before posing for the camera is someone I used to know very well but can now barely remember. Poverty clearly agreed with me judging by my fresh but keen face and lack of girth. Obviously this was taken before my playboy lifestyle and assiduous gourmandising kicked in. I can state without fear of contradiction that I am now twice the man I used to be.
The photograph was taken in the recording studio of Spectro Arts Workshop in
Finding Yevtushenko’s selected poems was interesting. I had no idea that I even had it. Looking inside the cover I discover that I bought it on
It was bought second-hand from a shop on Percy Street in Newcastle. I don't remember the name now but at the time it was the book shop closest to the university and as such had a good supply of worthy books being off-loaded by skint students or those having passed beyond academia and out into the real world of hard knocks.
I'd often hang around on the days when they used to put out their "new" old stock in much the way a fly hovers around shit. This one cost 75p and if I ever read it then it failed to make any impression on me at the time. But rather than sling it out at the time, for some reason I must have kept it - albeit buried at the bottom of unloved and neglected boxes of detritus.
With a cup of tea and a restorative ginger snap I sat down yesterday and read the first poem in the collection which I extract here.
As we get older we get honester,
And these objective changes correspond
like a language to me and my mutations.
If the way I see you now is not the way
in which we saw you once, if in you
what I see now is new
it was by self-discovery I found it.
I realize that my twenty years might be
less than mature: but for a reassessment:
what I said and ought not to have said,
and ought to have said and was silent.