Famous Blue Raincoat

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Saturday June 25, 2005 The Guardian

Lisa noticed that one of the boxes of old records had been moved from the corner of the garage, leaving a square of light-coloured cement. She asked Ted if he had touched the records but he shrugged and said that he had forgotten the boxes were ever there.

When Luke came home from school she thought of asking him if he knew about the boxes, but he was difficult sometimes if he felt that he was being criticised or accused of something, so she did not mention it. She put the box back where it had been and then was busy for days in the dark room developing old negatives for the new scanner which had been set up for her in the spare room. Soon, she thought, this liquid and this old process would be obsolete, this dark and concentrated space would no longer be her domain, and she would have to live in brightness. She hoped to postpone that day for as long as she could.

She noticed, some time later, that records had been taken from one of the boxes and left to the side. It was then that Ted told her that Luke and a friend had begun to burn CDs, so perhaps they had taken some old records for their project. She smiled to herself at the parallel currents in the house, records being put on CD, negatives on disc. The idea would horrify Luke since he did nothing at anyone else's prompting and followed no one's example, least of all his mother's. Later, when she remembered the records, she went into the garage and examined the old boxes, flicking through the records which Luke had put aside, wondering for a second why he had removed so few, leaving old classics untouched. As she stood up, however, and realised what he had taken from the box and why, she shuddered and turned away.

When Luke had gone to bed, she told Ted that she had found three albums in his room, the first with her photograph and that of her sister on the cover, and a picture of the whole band on the other two. The years when she toured and sang with the band and made the three albums were seldom mentioned between them, so that even she herself had come to half-believe that she had only taken photographs during that time. Now her son was listening to the music she had made long before he was born.

The band, she thought, had one great season, and there was no recording of that; there might be photographs which could show how young and happy they were, and some memories of people who had been in the audience. The band, one reviewer had commented in the year when they arrived on the English scene, was better than Pentangle, as good as Steeleye Span and on the way to outreaching Fairport Convention. This came to be a mantra for them, something which made them laugh. Dinners, roadies and English towns all came to be graded in similar terms. They had played support for all of these groups, and Lisa remembered with fondness the time when one of their roadies had been her boyfriend.

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