THE sound of nostalgia is the epiglottal gurgling of a VCR, not so much playing a tape as digesting it. It can look forward to many more such hearty meals – over Christmas, my father passed on a sorry-looking sack that had been keeping his boiler company for the past decade.
It contained a presidential library of home videos: a private, disjointed family biography, each tape a smoking gun of hairstyles befitting Crufts and fashions boasting the lifespan and aesthetic appeal of midge larvae.
Rewatching the tapes over recent evenings, these were the treasures I thought I would savour – slipping undetected into a generation past to spy upon loved ones innocently conducting their lives, oblivious to how the vicissitudes of time garner embarrassment like a squirrel would nuts.
Aside from a sudden glimpse of my grandmother's gusset during a particularly raucous game of charades, the tapes held few such shocks or humiliations. Instead, what struck me were the motivations behind the recordings. My father purchased the unwieldy Ferguson camcorder with the annual bonus from his position with a multinational computer firm. It was a prize for diligence and graft, and accordingly, employed with little discretion.
The begonias that lit up the front garden consume reels of tape alone. Never quite in focus, the viewfinder lingers over the smudges of a distant summer, colour sprouting from stone wishing wells and hanging baskets, or creeping up on an unsuspecting gnome lazily surveying his kingdom of conifers and cat urine.
Then there was the coronation of the Nissan Sunny, footage directed by my mother of my father proudly inching his new charge into the driveway and applying the handbrake, followed by his documenting my mother performing the same steady manoeuvre.
Most scenes boasted curt, affirmative narratives. Whenever "that's nice" was deemed an insufficient exposition, "that's lovely" upped the ante.
It does not sound like riveting viewing, and the comfort offered by personal memories doubtless clouds my judgement. But the footage revealed something I never realised – or at least, acknowledged – while living under my parents' roof.
No matter how mundane its manifestations, the simple, aspirant pride of a family cannot be scoffed at.
The sack of tapes now occupies the boiler cupboard in my tenement flat. Bereft of a driveway, let alone a lawn, I am in no rush to emulate my parents' quiet acts of gratification. However, the appeal of a window box spilling over with begonias is starting to take root.
Hustler publisher looks for a little economic fluffing
FIRST, it was M&S, now it is the turn of S&M.
There has been no gentle introduction to 2009 for a host of businesses: Marks & Spencer has announced a raft of job cuts and store closures; the bull of recession crashed through the British institution™ of Wedgwood; and Woolworths took its last, drawn-out breath.
The latest victims of the ongoing financial crisis, however, are of less homely stock. Not even Viagra can stiffen the share prices of pornography barons. The squeeze on sleaze has heralded falling sales of adult DVDs, and Larry Flynt, the Hustler visionary, believes penury is rendering the world's populace into a grey, sexless, pulp.
Flynt is reportedly demanding the US Congress "rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America" with a $5 billion (3.28 billion) bailout.
If the world's oldest profession must look outside itself for stimulus, we are in dire straits indeed.
• THE 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns will witness many fine celebrations, but a slew of cynical associations also await.
The range of special edition cartons being launched by Robert Wiseman Dairies, each emblazoned with illustrations of his works, is a jarring tribute. The milk firm talks of "Burns's connections to the milk industry". History shows the poet spent a little over two years on a Dumfries dairy farm. Finding the soil exhausted, Burns declared it a "ruinous business".
We should celebrate the power of his poetry; juggling details of his brief life to bolster sales leaves a sour taste.