Water and Cassettes

Where do you keep all those cassettes you are thinking of transferring to CD, when you have the time, the energy, and the willpower to read and understand the instructions on the gizmo that does it? Why, in the shed, of course. No, if you don’t mind my reaching into my bag of adjectives for a large one, my shed is not so very shed-like: it’s commodious, and it’s about fifteen feet square. It is filled with the murk of ages, with books, with tables, with boxes, with bags – and with cassettes. It is some years since the executive decision went out about the cassettes: out they must go. Are you using them? Not a lot. Are they attractive? Not really. Have we space in the house? With all your vinyl and CDs? No, not at all. (When exactly is it that you find you are leading married life as if you were The Gambols, who presumably no longer appear daily in The Daily Express – I haven’t looked for a few decades – when does it happen?)

Anyway, the collected cassettes have been out there for a bit. But since the Volkswagen (see yesterday) made its appearance in the vicinity, with its retro entertainment, the cassette has been poised for a bit of a comeback, hereabouts.

Let me tell you something about rain. It falls in very peculiar ways. It does not fall evenly, but looks instead, in a predatory sort of way, for a convenient piece of roof through which it might worm its way. I have noticed that about rain. I have also noticed that the roof of ‘the shed’ is porous. And that beneath the place where it is porous? Yes: several rows of cassettes. Some of them, it has to be said, are from the dawn of cassette-hood, from about 1970, when you could unscrew a cassette, and fiddle with its interior. Some of them are rubbish, all right, maybe all of them are. Some of them were unlikely ever to be played again. One or two of them, regrettably, are of the sort that seem to be shifting for £50 on eBay (that really is ridiculous). Most of them are the fruit of countless hours in the jumble sales, charity shops and car boot sales of this life. But a lot of them are very, very wet.

It is hard to grieve for a cassette. But it has blighted two days of my life now. What happens in extreme cases is that the water absorbs itself into the paper cover, washes away any ink markings (i.e. if they weren’t pre-recorded), unsticks the sticky things they give you too many of when you buy a cassette (you still can, our post office has them), and then generally glues all of the above together, and creates papier-mache of sufficient weakness to coat the thin reel of recording tape. In some cases, the water gets right into the reel of tape, and starts work on creating something green and fungal. It is a calamity made worse by the fact that some are all right, and some are write-offs, but determining which is which is a process as long and complex as re-wiring a small mansion.

What am I going to do?

Find them again. I have a list. Obsessives don’t give up just because of rain. It will give me something to do in my retirement, or before it, if I am quick. I have fewer than nine years now to track the wrecked ones down.


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