If I’d been walking through a ploughed field with a metal detector that suddenly went berserk, I couldn’t be more thrilled. What I have actually found (while making a fairly feeble attempt at decumulating . . . something I shall undertake with more enthusiasm in future) was a small, dusty plastic box which contained a very old audio tape which was last accessed over 30 years ago.
I had completely forgotten that in 1977 I had decided to interview my family about their New Years Resolutions, highlights of the year just passed and hopes for the future. For the next 5 years I recorded the voices of my children and immediate family and in-laws and, most fortuitously, we spent one Christmas in Canada so, also on the tape, are my siblings, their spouses and offspring. Even our dog who arrived at Christmas 1977 has a ‘say’. What a priceless cornucopia!
Ironically, it was only a week or so ago I was saying to a friend that I couldn’t remember my mother’s voice . . . now I have it, with all its warmth and wit and the bonus of her being in conversation with my children.
In the same cache I also found a lengthy recording made by my father at Christmas 1970 – scarcely 18 months before his untimely death – sitting in the living room of the home in which I spent most of my youth, describing in minute detail the scene around him . . . the Christmas tree, the gifts (who gave what to whom), the dog and the comings and goings of my younger brothers. Later, when everyone, including old friends, were assembled for Christmas dinner, he let the tape run on so it is almost as if I were there sharing the argument about whether his spicy tomato juice and shrimp cocktail – with which we always started the festive meal and about which I had completely forgotten – was spicier than the one made by his friend.
Tape recorders sadly seem to be a thing of the past. We now record things on our phones and, I know, you can email the recordings and, I assume, keep them on your computer or ‘burn’ them onto a disk but would we do that in the same way that I used my ‘walkman’ sized recorder? I’m encouraging my children to start recording their children before it’s too late and those voices suddenly change into adults. Maybe we could provoke a resurrection of the humble audio-tape.