She’s sitting on my knee as we speak, chewing through a tape, slowly, carefully, with great precision and attention to detail. Every few minutes or so, she’ll cut off sound in the left headphone, so I’ll turn from my typing, flick her onto auto-reverse, shake her a bit, and then flick her back again when she decides to play nicely. I don’t mind.
Because I love her. I do.
I’ve loved her since I bought her; around this time last year, from Argos in Oban, if you’re interested, for a not unreasonable price, just before a 17 hour coach journey. It was a neccessary purchase, and I’ve never regretted it. I was in a hurry, so I bought an updated model of the personal stereo I used to have, which died after I poured half a can of coke over it – by mistake, you understand. The one before that had been terrible, its only redeeming feature being a rather natty pair of headphones, which were never the same after being caught in the car door and dragged along the M1 halfway to London. We arrived at a lay-by Happy Eater to discover I had a personal stereo with two frayed-wires sticking out of it.
But my present companion is still intact. On the outside at least. It seems more and more that she suffers from some form of electronic dementia. Although a two-way playing thing, she decided after a while that she was happier going only one, and that one was sometimes too much for her. She tires easily, bless her.
But you just have wean her back to health. Unless you listen to tapes constantly (who does? It would certainly be hard for me, she’s chewed up most of them in various spats and diva fits) she forgets how to play them at all, and once you’ve gone through c proceedure slowly, usually crimping several metres of tape in the process, she’s happy to sit and play for you as long as you don’t move, stop, or rewind. Much.
And then, having ground her way through most of one side, she’ll decide the effort is too much. and stop. Or flip the tape over and throttle it. So you have to catch her as soon as she gives up, make her stop, turn her over manually, rewind and play to the middle of the next side, every time you turn the tape over you’ll get slightly longer, and each new song, or even bit of song is a triumph. Eventually you’ll be working together in perfect harmony.
Until I put her down again for a couple of weeks, at which point she goes in a terrible mood and refuses to do anything at all for weeks. But I love her. I do. Why else would it be called a “personal” stereo? It’s a stereo only I know how to make work. And come what may, I WILL make it work.
It’s very, Very personal.
All this because I just bought some cheap albums on tape at HMV and the man looked at me like I was insane. It s not like I was asking for 8 tracks, is it? He just didn’t know my personal stereo. I couldn’t give her up, she’d probably kill me in the night. You’d wake to find me throttled by headphones, lynched by yards of crinkled audio—tape, choked by a clear plastic hinged box. I’m telling you.
Aeroplane in the morning.