I think it was the first recorded music I ever had. Mum and Dad had bought me a cassette recorder for my 14th birthday. A few months later it broke down, and when it came back from repair (Hah! these days they’d just send you a new one!) there was – bizarrely – a pre-recorded music cassette loaded. “Aqualung” by some band called Jethro Tull (to me just a name from history lessons). Until then all I knew was the music of the church choir, musical films, and such like. I thought Aqualung it was good, and in fact now realize it must have been quite an influence on me. There are – arguably – three musical genres to Aqualung that have over the years proved to be the arteries of my musical sensibility: folk, rock and blues. Recently I’ve been filling some gaps in our music collection that opened up when, in the 1990s, Denise and I migrated from vinyl to CD, losing some old friends along the way; but today one such gap has been made good with a used but perfect CD of Aqualung bought on ebay. My goodness it really was – and is – a classic! Original, distinctive, profoundly musical, witty, moving: truly inspiring, and a great listen from beginning to end. I got off to a good start, didn’t I? All thanks to someone at the electronic repairs firm who is probably this moment blogging about the time he lost the first ever and best ever pre-recorded audio cassette he’d ever bought – Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung”.
Jonathan. My Dad died in April. It was not a surprise – in fact it was what he wanted. Quite simply, he’d had enough, and he refused food, drink and medication as long as was necessary. Mentally, there was nothing wrong with him – other than a sticky memory key. That was easy to work around: I’d press my own MR key and on we would go. But – and forgive the shift of metaphors – there’d been a series of physical problems over the past twenty years or so, increasingly with the exhaust manifold, and you know how it is, if you leave that kind of thing, they’re difficult to fix, and the spares just aren’t available, and all you end up with is bodges and breakdowns. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could get yourself out of the garage and out on the open road ; but you’ve been there, you’ve seen it, and reading the book is just not the same. There comes a time when it’s just not worth filling up the tank any more. My Dad and I had a difficult relationship. He was a man of fixed and immoderate views, intolerant, and with a quick – often violent – temper. Mum got the worst of it, both mentally and physically – but we all suffered, myself and my two sisters. It’s the psychologial scars that cut deepest and are least likely to heal over. … Though we shared many characteristics – both physically and in personality – Dad and I were very different where it mattered most – in values and aspirations. Dad’s expectations of us were measured in terms of income and authority – ie one’s job: he seemed unable to comprehend, let alone understand and respect – a life framed by other goals, other definitions of ‘success’ or what constitutes a life well lived. After Mum died a few years ago, I found it easier to limit our increasingly irregular phone conversations to safe subjects ; and chief amongst these would be exploring the many and varied districts of Britain, whether camping, or with a motorhome, or (as we did for many years) by canal and river, and more recently, by Google Earth and Wikipedia. For if there is one thread that runs through the whole of my life, from my earliest recollections to my still-lingering hopes for the future, a thread that starts with my Dad and continues with my own two daughters, Rebecca and Catherine, it is that thread that runs up mountain tracks, along old Roman Roads, over styles, through tunnels, into old industrial wastlands … until, whether carried by tide or temptation, we have explored every hidden corner and far-flung place that is or might possibly be. For that spirit of adventure we share: Thanks, Dad.