A collection is not just for life

Doctors who receive a rush of middle-aged men presenting with breathing difficulties can trace the source to a full-page article in this morning’s Guardian, reporting that an Oxfam charity shop in rural Devon has been given a prime collection of 4,000 classical LPs.

The total value is tentatively reckoned at £25,000 ($49,000) and items go on sale today priced from £1.99 to £150.

A windfall for the starving masses in Sudan? Relief for the suffering Palestinians? Gimme a break. Give your old clothes and knick-knacks to Oxfam if you like. This is a man’s life being broken up, down in the knacker’s yard of Tavistock.

Some poor soul had built up this collection with care, balancing the familiar with the esoteric, Furtwaengler’s Beethoven with Stockhausen’s Stimmung, Mozart from Bruno Walter and Machaut from whoever recorded it first in the 1950’s or 1960s. This was a person of taste and discrimination whose aesthetic take on life is being scattered to the four corners of the earth.

For you can be sure that collectors will be on the 0915 out of Paddington and the 1130 from Berlin to scavenge what scraps they can in a vulture rush that is also a form of homage to the former owner. My late mate Richard Bebb used to hotfoot it off to Italy at the first rattle of a dying record collector, cheerfully spending £25,000 to preserve the integrity of the archive – which is to say, keeping the choice rarities for himself and selling on the rest at profit.

A collection, let’s be clear, is not just for life. To many men – forgive me, this is not a feminine thing – a collection is life itself.

And in Devon a life has been extinguished. The manager of the Oxfam store ‘had a phone call from a lady, after what I understand was a bereavement; she was ready to move on with her life…’

Widow or daughter, it hardly matters whom. Move on, dear, move on. C’est la vie. My condolences. I do understand (the hell I do…).

My wife, seeing me asphyxiate on a spoonful of muesli on reading this, dispensed sage advice. ‘Sell up while you’re alive, sweetie,’ she said. ‘I can’t be responsible what happens after.’

What time’s the next train to Tavistock?

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  • amen…..reminds me of Richard Burton (the explorer, linguist) and how his wife burned his priceless memoirs….

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