Ian Clayton reading from Bringing It All Back Home for Songs From the Shed. Ian reads the story of Johnny Hope, and old neighbour who ‘likes to sit on the stool outside of our back door and make up stories about his life.’
The house is filled with potted plants, newspapers, ornaments, pictures, empty milk bottles and dog food tins. There is an old chocolate tin and on its lid is a lady, leaping through the air with a flowing scarf. Johnny tells me that the picture on the tin is his wife Emily. I visualise her as Isadora Duncan, she is dancing with Johnny when they are young to music coming out of the tin horn on his wind-up gramophone.
‘Will you play your gramophone for me one day please?’
‘I can’t lad. It wants a nail.’
‘What does it want a nail for?’
‘To play the records with. You need a nail or a thorn.’
‘They call it a stylus now, Mr Hope.’
‘Aye. Well that one wants a nail, lad.’ He spits great gobstoppers of phlegm into his crackling fire.
‘What do you want to hear that for anyroad? It’s no good now.’
‘My Auntie Alice says that you can play music on them old gramophones by putting the corner of a photograph into the
‘Well thy can tell thi Auntie Alice from me that mine wants a nail.’
I don’t think I ever got to hear Mr Hope’s wind-up gramophone. I can’t even picture it now, though I can picture his sideboard, his chair by the fire, his hearth full of ashes, his half-empty milk bottles. Yet it symbolises something special. A relationship between two neighbours eighty years apart. A love of storytelling, of things. I think of all the ghosts that might have been unleashed had I persuaded him to let me play a record with the edge of an old photograph.
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