Further evidence of the decline of civilisation arrived in three cheery chunks this week. You have to understand that it’s only a decline in my male, blinkered, ageing, slightly pessimistic terms, but I’m extrapolating that out to many other male, blinkered, ageing and slightly pessimistic people who are likely to view such dim news with equal dismay.
Firstly, the enormous palace of joy that was 150 Oxford Street has closed down. There was once a time back – as people of my age refer – ‘in the day’ when a long trip from the provinces to the capital of the country was made even more worthwhile by the possibility of a few precious minutes in the worlds biggest record store. I refer, of course, to HMV. The sprawling wonder of three floors of imports, rarities, racks of records by exotic sounding bands, live performances, guest signings, staff recommendations and the head-thumping confusion brought on by not remembering in its entirety the list of stuff you were going to look for is no more. Some will point to the new HMV at 363 Oxford Street but I’ve been there and it’s an embarrassment in comparison. I’ve written about HMV and it’s place in my psyche before, so I shalln’t moan about it again here (and I’m forgetting that young people don’t make day trips to London from the provinces any more, as they usually have to stay as it’s the only place where work exists).
Secondly, and in related news, I had a lovely day off work on Tuesday for various reasons but found myself on Tottenham Court Road with time to kill. Whilst my wife wandered off to Liberty, I said I’d go and browse in Fopp on Gower Street. I know that Fopp is essentially HMV with a different badge but it has become a reliable little place to go where music is prioritised, classic albums are sold at a reasonable price and new stuff – and not just Top 40 fodder – is readily available for sale. They take time and effort to provide recommendations and the stores are generally cosy and well frequented. Of course, in this cynical world, I arrived to find the branch had closed 11 days ago (albeit because host store Waterstones wanted its space back, but all the same a light has gone out).
Third, and still on the subject of music and its importance to me (hey, it’s my blog, and I can be selfish and pretend the world revolves around me), the BBC website today speculated on the demise of the iPod. As it happens, I’m in the market for a new iPod as – in a Christmas washing up related incident – I shorted mine out . For me, an iPod is pretty essential. It has a reliable battery, plenty of storage space to allow me to have whatever music I want at my fingertips without being reliant on a download or a wifi connection and space for podcasts. In looking for a replacement, I’ve examined other models – the nano, the shuffle and the iTouch, but all have too little memory thus allowing too little choice, the touch is basically an iPhone without call making capacity, the shuffle allows no control at all and the iPhone carries so many apps and photos that anything else is sidelined. It has to be an iPod Classic (and they used to do a handy 80GB model, but now only a 160MB model, so having a big gap in memory capabilities in Apple models). But sadly, I’m in the minority again and it seems even when it comes to recent technology I’m a Luddite.
I do wonder where it’s all going. With the demise of the high street – which I also seem to be on my own about – and the loss of all the things I actually enjoy from modern life, I wonder where everyone else gets their entertainment from. I’m sure it can’t be the god-awful selection of TV we have (something else that’s deteriorated with the advent of choice) and it seems people don’t want to read, or listen to music or go out and shop or play in the street, or send a card or give their kids a day out beyond the interior of a McDonalds or Starbucks.
Well I did get some insight from Stylist magazine on the journey home this evening – a magazine so vital that people can’t be arsed to carry it off a train; a magazine so absolutely essential it has to tell women what to wear with hiking boots (it demands ‘key wardrobe decisions’, fact fans). This, according to Stylist, is what we’re all doing. This is what we fought for; this is what all those time saving devices that gave us all that free time have lead us to. This is why the things I enjoy are being sacrificed. Welcome to the future. Goodbye World.