It’s not every year you get a chance to blog on 29 February, so it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity.
However, I did. So here I am, on 1 March instead. The 29th passed off peacefully, with no proposals needing deflected. Nasty Jen had hatched a proposal scheme which involved the payment of a large fine should the poor unfortunate have the temerity to reject her offer. The amount was reputed to be in the region of £10,000. Frankly, as escapes from captivity go, it seemed cheap. I haven’t heard yet if anyone was significantly lighter in pocket this morning.
Jones will be dismayed to discover that my turntable count has risen to two this week. I had been becoming more aware of the limitations of mp3s, having discovered that when played at higher volumes, the distortion is irritatingly noticeable. So when an old friend’s dad called to say he was jettisoning his Rega Planar 3, I resolved to dust off my vinyl collection, and begin enjoying analogue music again. Having already in my possession a Planar 2, bought second hand years ago from some guy in Albion Road, the arrival of a second deck might finally herald the birth of my DJ career. Or perhaps not.
The turntable, I was informed, needed a new stylus. No problem, I thought. Until I really did think. Where on earth do you buy a needle for your record player these days? I searched online, but only succeeded in bewildering myself with the types of stylus that were available, having no idea if they were suitable for the cartridge. And then the Admin Supremo’s Apprentice stepped in. His dad, he explained, used to “mess around with” turntables. So, on the recommendation of the Admin Supremo’s Apprentice’s dad, I found myself descending into a basement emporium on Leith Walk, a room lined with speakers, valve amplifiers, turntables, and even, gosh, the odd CD player. Four days later I had my P3 back in residence and was listening to the unadulterated purity of analogue sound – no jitter, no quantisation errors.
Digital sound has its uses. iPods rule when convenience takes precedence over sound quality. I have been putting some of my dad’s favourite old tunes onto my iPod the last few days, and playing them to him. He’s been in a coma for over a week now, since suffering a brainstem stroke following a fall, and I have no idea if he hears the music or not. But I hope he does, and it brings him some comfort. Alison and Maggie were scrambled from London within hours of the accident, and Maggie’s presence has been a joy in a difficult week. I have been fine-tuning my role as the mischief-making uncle, winding her up to levels of excitement at all the wrong times. Just before bed-time is ideal for chasing tennis balls down the hallway, I find.
My dad has had a difficult few years lately – having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease just over ten years ago. It has played havoc with his mobility, sleeping, stomach, speech, his dignity, and more. At times his frustration has been obvious, but mostly he has remained gracious and a model of Christian love.
On one occasion we were on holiday at Rossnowlagh in Donegal. I was about 7 years old, and made some dismissive comment about dad’s age (he would have been 57 at the time) and his running ability. Whereupon he pointed to a nearby sand dune and offered to race me. I remember being stunned at how such an old man, in my eyes, could outpace me so easily. Twenty-six years on, I was staring at his feet one evening while I was visiting him in a nursing home, where he was staying while mum was in London. They were swollen and misshapen through heart valve malfunction. I recalled the Rossnowlagh race, and silently grieved over his loss of mobility. Age takes its toll on everybody, but Parkinson’s steals so much more.
I have often cried out my frustration to God that Dad has had to go through this. Never more so than recently, as he lies in a hospital bed, awaiting the end. Why? I know not.