GOLD DIGGER: MATTHEW AND SON

By Mark O'Shaughnessy

Two men came into my shop one quiet Wednesday afternoon in early September last year. What's so interesting about that, I hear you cry? One of them was elderly and wheelchair-bound and the other was his son...read on..... I've always insisted on real, tangible wheelchair access in my shops (not just some makeshift wooden ramp!) and I can honestly say that we have have purposely set our store's internal geography out so that everybody can comfortably browse the stock - something I remain very proud of. The older gentleman had recently undergone an absolutely beastly and highly-intrusive operation. Bone from his hip appeared to have been grafted into his jaw and he was obviously struggling badly with the after-effects of this hellish proceedure...clearly in constant pain - visibly wincing, face contorted in continual discomfort - barely able to shift his weight in his wheelchair. Here was an active mind trapped inside a failing body - a common occurence but still always a real human tragedy. His face appeared disjointed and twisted, these seismic bone grafts must have been punitive - yet - here he was, sitting in my record shop, head-nodding, listening intently to some of the music that he loved. I kept the tunes coming for well over and hour and was proud to even be able to turn Matthew onto some music that he'd never heard before (Nerd? Me? Nah..) and he bought each and every single item that I played for him - even delving into some brand new releases like the (new) New Mastersounds LP on One Note records; and he absolutely loved the also then newly-released Lewis Express 'Clap Your Hands' LP on ATA records which he motioned me over to tell me sounded like peak-time Ramsey Lewis on Cadet - how right he was - both LPs instantly added to the growing pile....this guy had class by the bucketload, people... I'm guessing his prognosis was now for palliative care. His son had parked him over by the sofa (which he was clearly never going to be able to use) near one of my big instore wall-mounted speakers - so with his son's permission, I wheeled him over next to the DJ booth and sat him facing me, within earshot so that we could have a proper 'old gits' natter...he said he loved Northern Soul so I played him a little stack of UK originals (he preferred to buy British stuff, he said). I also showed him my 'Keep The Faith' tattoo so that he knew my Soul credentials were in good order. He then went on to tell me that he was originally from Manchester and had gone to the famed Twisted Wheel all-nighters in that black music-loving city back in the day! Wow - this guy clearly knew and loved his music! He bought each and every one of those 7"s that I played him - no hesitation - and - there were a few pricey ones in there too, believe me...! It was quite difficult to make out what Matthew was saying most of the time because his jaw grafts made speech difficult, plus he constantly mopped up saliva with his handkerchief, but I could just see from the look in his eye and the way that he motioned his head up and down to my steady stream of Etta James / Wilson Pickett / Otis Redding / Aretha Franklin / Marvin Gaye / Ray Charles (his most favourite artist of all time - luckily I had very recently taken in a huge Daddy Ray collection - 200 items) that he was clearly enjoying himself. Matthew was spoiled for choice but chose one of Ray's best - 'Genius + Soul = Jazz' - whattanalbum....added to the pile...immaculate choice, sir.... We talked and talked about Northern Soul / Tamls Motown / Doo-Wop / R&B / Jazz - Matthew was a huge fan of all of these genres - he ended up spending several hundred pounds on records - but - it wasn't the nice sale that made my day - it was the interaction between father and son that kept a constant smile on my face - they had this lovely, warm bond which was clear for all to see - spoke nicely and politely to one another at all times, endless patience from the son - constantly ensuring that his dad was okay but not suffocating him either - this is what true affection and family love should be like I genuinely blinked back the tears several times during this unforgettable hour and had to go out into the back room a coupla times to compose myself - just to observe the mutual warmth and unconditional love between a father and his son (and real humanity) on show here felt like a privilege - I am filling up right now just thinking about it again...(me too - ed.) I couldn't help but grab Matthew's son's hand (I never caught his name) to shake it and felt the need to tell him that he was to be commended for the way he was looking after his dad. I secretly thought to myself that I hoped my 3 sons would hold me in this same high regard and level of care when I reached Matthew's age, it was a deeply impressive and extremely moving moment It was then that I realised exactly why I love my job so much - experiences like this. If they had left without spending even so much as a quid, it would have been no problem, honestly, because what they gave me that day was worth more than money can ever be... What was it that Bob Marley said? "Some people are so poor all they have is money". I've chewed this statement over and over in my mind down the years and it took absolutely ages to make real sense of it - but - I eventually realised what Tuff Gong meant - money means absolutely nothing - and this experience instore with Matthew and his son totally clarified that statement for me. I hope and pray that they will one day come in again and spend another hour with me listening to music - but - I fear that that may not happen...thank you to both of them for one of THE most memorable and enjoyable afternoons in all of my years working with music! Thank you! (names and dates changed)


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