An entry from A Writer’s Diary by Toby Litt, published by Galley Beggar Press on 1 January 2023
Other things are happening or being done which I’m not always mentioning. I travel around the city in which I live on public transport, usually the top deck of a bus or the available seats on a train. I go from the suburbs to one of the centres. I meet people and drink coffee or wine or beer with them, and sometimes – later in the day – eat an entire meal cooked by a team of chefs and sous chefs. Earlier in the day, I enter shops selling books or comics or both. Here, I become depressed that other writers have written what I wasn’t able to write. I open books and stand there reading beginnings and random later pages. Frequently, I don’t buy anything because I can’t justify bringing another book home. Years ago, I would browse in small record shops or many-floored emporia that sold compact discs. I used to drift from Rock and Pop to Jazz and then Classical. Within Classical, I visited Budget, Opera, Contemporary and Early. Sometimes I went from Tower Records to HMV and back to Tower Records, because I’d changed my mind about not buying a box-set. If I ever had a favourite kind of shopping, this was it – Selectadisc, Sister Ray, Reckless Records, Records and Tapes Exchange, all on the one street. Also, elsewhere, Phonica, Ray’s Jazz, Rough Trade. And all of them coming out of me flicking through the racks at Andy’s Records on the Broadway. Me not buying Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine or Abraxas, because I couldn’t afford double or triple albums. Instead, I went to the basement of WH Smiths and got a £1.99 Billie Holiday cassette or asked if Prefab Sprout’s Protest Songs had come in for me yet. It hadn’t. It never did. When the big London record shops closed, I lost my afternoons – they were my arcades, my non-project. I went there after mornings of writing Beatniks and Corpsing. I have tried to replace them with galleries and museums, parks and other recreations. But I don’t believe a painting will alter my sensibility, and so change my existence, not like a record could. (This band could be your life.) This must be me being nostalgic. I’m not used to it – I don’t usually allow it to go this far. I don’t like to feel so fondly about shops.