I calculated the scale of the problem. Those prolific genius artists were just the start of it – I had 6ft of Fall CDs, 5ft 8in of Miles Davis, 5ft 6in of Sonic Youth and its solo spin-offs, 5ft 2in of John Coltrane, 4ft 11in of the free improviser Derek Bailey, 4ft 4in of Robert Pollard and Guided by Voices, 3ft of Bob Dylan, 2ft 8in of the Byrds and various tributaries, 2ft 6in of the Texan outsider artist Jandek and 2ft 4in of the saxophonist Evan Parker; I had 20ft of European improvised music, 20ft of jazz, 14ft apiece of British folk music, reggae, and blues, 7ft of Japanese psychedelia, and 6ft each of music from Tucson, New Zealand and 1970s Germany. Even after a massive cull, I reckon I still had 350ft of recorded sound which I imagined I needed to keep. And don’t talk to me about iPods. They haven’t built the iPod that can cope with that. And I want inlay cards, and accompanying essays and the physical contact with the physical objects and the memories they evoke.
On the print media front I had about 100ft of fiction, much of it unread; 18ft of poetry, which improves my soul; 6ft of books about stone circles; 12ft of folklore, religion and the occult, and 3ft of the forgotten Welsh mystic Arthur Machen. I’ve got 10ft of inky specialist music fanzines from the 80s and 90s Bucketful of Brains and No Depression that I needed for journalistic fact checking before Wikipedia. And I’m dragging probably 70ft of comics, which I am now saving for my son, who will come to despise them, and me for loving them.
And all this stuff, in the digital age, is literally worthless financially, and losing any value it had daily. There’s nothing here a burglar would even bother with. I’m aware I’m a social relic from an age when you walked through the shopping centre with an unbagged album under your arm to show like-minded souls who you were, and when the book as an object was quietly fetishised. Now kids stake out their personal space with knives and guns and gadgets, and working stiffs flip falsified pages of virtual books on Kindles. I’m like a character in a dystopian science-fiction novel, holed up in a cave full of cultural artefacts, waiting for the young Jenny Agutter to arrive in a tinfoil miniskirt, fleeing a poisonous cloud on the surface, to check out my stash and ask me: “Who exactly was the Quicksilver Messenger Service? Who was this Virginia Woolf? What kind of man was Jonah Hex?”