Last Saturday, for my 50th birthday, I received a wireless – an RPD 112.
‘Wireless’ does not refer to digital technology, it refers to a wooden box with valves that has an illuminated display and knobs to tuene into stations such as Hilversum and the BBC Home Service. It sits in the room diagonally opposite the Dansette record player I bought from eBay a few years ago.
The Dansette was a piece of eccentricity in an age of iPods and MP3s and CDs and DVDs and everything imaginable in digital form. I did not need to spend more than I should have done on a 1960s piece of technology. I remember even being precise about the sort of Dansette I wanted. It had to be red and cream and it had to have the facility to stack up 7″ singles, so that they would play one after the other. I knew exactly why I wanted that particular record player on which to play the vinyl records that have survived the years.
There are records that come from 1979 and 1980, a particularly bleak time in my life, a time when I went under with black depression and dropped out of university. Probably as a diversion, I bought a whole string of records during the dark months. Sorting through them now, I can still recall particular moments. The Dansette reminds me of earlier days. My favourite aunt, of whom I am still very fond, had a red Dansette. Occasions on which she played her Dansette were family occasions, they were special moments; they were secure times. Now I play Don McLean and Diana Ross and remember those moments.
Last Saturday’s wireless is a step further backwards. A wireless sat on a shelf of its own in the corner of my grandparents’ farmhouse kitchen; it brought stern BBC news and tales from ‘The Archers’ to those gathered around the table at mealtimes.
There is a biblical tradition of symbolic action. The prophet Jeremiah bought a field as his country was being invaded as an expression of confidence that his people would once again live in the land. The Lord promises his people in the prophet Joel, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten”. For no-one other than myself, an old record player, as a symbol of a secure and happy past, reclaims the times I lost to my own locusts and the wireless evokes a time of peace and security.