In the last month or so, Lady Devotea and I have once again introduced a device to our household that has been absent for a couple of decades: a record player.
That’s right, we are listening to vinyl again. We’ve busted out our collection, which consists of stuff we owned prior to meeting, plus stuff we bought together up until the day we got our CD player along with Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms”, The Housemartins’ “The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death” and Talking Heads’ “True Story”, to give you some time frames. This was about the time of the birth of our eldest, about thirty years ago.
And incidentally, we’re loving it.
Much of my taste from my teen years, however, is not pleasing to Lady Devotea’s ears, so I often take time when she is occupied elsewhere to listen to old favourites. In this case I was stripping a particularly aggravating wallpaper frieze, and listening to Gary Numan’s live offering “Living Ornaments ’79”.
I know some younger readers will wonder who the hell Gary Numan is, and that’s because you are sadly ignorant. He ‘invented electronica’ (some people give German outfit Kraftwerk some credit as well) by combining thinly disguised Bowie-esque pop and the ideas of author Philip K. Dick with new (at the time) technology and was basically the grandfather of what we see today as dance, trance, industrial, neo-hallelujah-chorus-bus-stop-bipolar-pop and any number of other scarcely credible music genres. He remains one of the most sampled musicians ever (Puff Daddy, Armand Van Helden, Havana Brown, Basement Jaxx et al), and has been extensively covered (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson et al).
So, I was listening to the track he remains best known for – Cars – and ruminating.
I remember as a young teen, very earnestly explaining to my contemporaries that Cars is a metaphor, and not a song about actual cars. Let’s take the first verse:
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live
I have always felt that this is demonstrably about living in society and putting walls up. Whereas my contemptible contemporaries were listening to Hall and Oates moaning about rich girls and other blather while ignoring me, I was eager to impress this idea upon their uncaring and pointless existences.
Mr Numan was – in fact is – one of the most unlikely music stars ever. Despite playing to packed halls and stadia after releasing his first few LPs, he remained an oddly childlike character. Not intellectually, but emotionally. Famously, his Mum used to tour with him so she wouldn’t worry.
My contention that Cars is wholly metaphorical was shattered by my belated reading of the first autobiography of the late, lamented James Freud (“I Am The Voice Left From Drinking”), who is another of my favourites around the turn of the 80s. Mr Freud visited the UK and turns up on Mr Numan’s “Telekon” LP (clapping his hands, to be exact) and was invited by Mr Numan to stay with him. Imaging a palatial residence for one of the UK’s hottest acts, Mr Freud was amazed to find Mr Numan lived in a caravan at the rear of his parents’ suburban London home.
The duo decide to go and get fish and chips, and Mr Numan produces an impressive American sports car. However, when they arrive, Mr Numan refuses to leave the car as he does not like the look of several passing locals, and locks himself in it whilst Mr Freud is dispatched to collect the comestibles. Hilarity ensues, but the story makes me wonder exactly how much of a stretch the metaphor is, or is it in fact just the literal truth?
It did get me thinking, though, of how the comfort of the familiar can be used to build these metaphorical walls, and that is therefore where the topic turns to tea.
As a tea drinker today, you are part of a subset of society. Even if you are a sadly misguided consumer of teab*gs, you are still in a category that, by definition, does not involve everyone.
So then, let’s assume you wisely only drink loose leaf tea. This places you in a further subset of tea drinkers, and indeed, when you are in that group, it’s often hard to know who you feel more different from: those who don’t drink tea (but might one day come to their senses) or those who drink bagged tea (and might one day come to their senses).
So in effect, are we putting walls up? The more refined our tea preferences, the more of a barrier we are hiding behind?
For example, I don’t drink Japanese tea as a rule. Is that a barrier, a way to create a little kingdom of ideas for me to defend? Or is it just that genmaicha tastes like crap, matcha could only appeal to a colour-blind goat with no taste buds and the rest of them are just blah*?
As tea drinkers, do we need to make sure that our tea walls are not preventing social engagement with the uninitiated? Or should we revel in hiding behind them, enjoying our individuality, our own company and the company of the like minded, and just pour another cup?
It’s a choice we have to make.
Although he continues to record and tour to this day, Gary Numan’s career as an international sensation foundered when he obtained his pilot’s licence and took time off to fly solo around the world. If you take the view that Cars is literal, how much more insular is locking yourself in a tiny plane and taking off across the globe?
So, to stretch the metaphor that I am using this (arguably) metaphorical song for, are we dedicated, serious tea drinkers in danger of cutting ourselves off? In essence, flying solo?
Not if we remember that tea is best enjoyed with company, in whatever form one chooses to imbibe.
*yes, it is exactly that