I’m Learning to Fight My Demons: One Man’s Struggle with Depression

Some years ago, I went to see an acupuncturist. I told him my woes, of which, as usual, there were many, and he was quite aghast at what he heard.

‘It’s not acupuncture you need,’ he said with impressive honesty. ‘It’s therapy. You strike me as someone who has everything going for him. You have a nice home, a happy marriage, you love your children, you enjoy your work, yet all you seem to want to do is wallow in a swamp of misery and imagine you’re a failure.’

‘OK, I’ll try therapy,’ I said. But I had no intention of doing so. I had tried therapy once before when I was in my 20s and found it to be the most tremendous waste of time and money. Sure, it was pleasant sitting with a sympathetic woman and talking about nothing but myself for a whole glorious hour. What I loathed, though, was the notion that the solution might involve changing my personality in some way.

However, what I did learn from those therapy sessions is that I am a depressive – a manic depressive, actually, because I go way, way up as well as way, way down. Not that I hadn’t guessed as much already, for it runs in the family. My paternal grandfather was perpetually miserable, and my father used to get depression so badly that he had to take lithium to control it.

As a child you scarcely notice these things. I certainly don’t remember, for example, the family holiday during which my maternal grandfather sat outside my father’s bedroom just to make sure he didn’t commit suicide. But now that I’ve reached the age my father was when his depression was at its worst, the odd detail has started to come back, such as the funny little sucking noises my father made when he was lost in thought. I now realise that these meant his mind was in a dark place and he was wrestling with demons. I know it because I sometimes make similar noises when I’m battling mine.

True happiness, I’d always imagined, was something for other people, not me. But I’m told that it is a simple question of practice

Though I’ve never been quite so down that I’ve seriously contemplated suicide – let alone attempted it – there have been plenty of moments when the thought of a quick, easeful death has seemed an attractive prospect. The most recent of these was last year, when I experienced my longest bout of depression ever. It started after I’d suffered a viral infection – for some reason most of my downers do – and went on for about nine months. I began to fear it would never end.

Then, just when I thought it was beginning to lift, something worse happened. I became convinced – to the point of near paralysis – that I had fallen victim to some terrible wasting disease, perhaps early-onset Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis. This bout of extreme hypochondria terrified my family, cost me hundreds of pounds in medical bills and rendered me incapable of work for a month. Clearly this wasn’t a healthy state of affairs for a self-employed father of three. If I didn’t get myself sorted out soon, my wife said, she feared for the future of our marriage.

But how do you deal with depression when you don’t believe in therapy or medication? I have depressive friends who swear by Prozac, or the new generation of serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs. ‘Life has become so much easier since I realised it’s just a question of chemistry,’ says one. But my worry about medication is not dissimilar to my worry about therapy: what if it transforms me, however subtly, into a person I don’t want to be?

You’ll find this quite a lot with manic depressives. Our condition may be ghastly, sometimes to the point of complete life ruination, but on another level we consider it a gift. We recognise how fantastically creative and powerful our minds become when we are on an up.  Against those benefits, though, you have to set the damage it does to you and your loved ones. I’ve never come close to topping myself, but Jesus, the misery when you’re on a downer! It’s worse than sadness. It’s a complete absence of feeling. Besides becoming generally listless, uncommunicative and reluctant to socialise, I find it impossible to see any part of my life in a positive light. Often, I’ll swear out loud as each new image of despair comes into my head – every other minute, say – and my children will say, ‘Daddy, why did you use the f-word?’ And if sounding like a Tourette syndrome victim isn’t bad enough, I’ve also got an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which compels me to touch walls when I’m walking down corridors (using the exact same pressure with each hand), and to arrange cups and cutlery on gingham tablecloths so that they’re exactly symmetrical.

It drives my wife mad. ‘Doctor Johnson had OCD too!’ I protest. She’s not convinced. She thinks I need help. And now I’ve decided to seek it.

*  *  *  *  *

It’s the most beautiful summer day there has ever been – blue sky, little fluffy clouds, cooling breeze – and the hills above Builth Wells in the glorious Wye Valley have never looked more green and lush. My wife and children are happy, healthy and smiling. They adore me and I adore them. Life’s good, really good. Back at the farmhouse I’ve got the car I always wanted – black Range Rover Sport with tinted windows; the kids are at private school and I can easily afford the fees because I’ve so much more money now; more than I know what to do with…

Welcome to my dream. Only a tiny part of it has come true so far, but just so long as I can keep my mind fixed firmly on the prize, the rest will surely follow. How do I know this? Because my therapist Steve Wichett tells me so. Steve is a specialist in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). He likes nothing better than curing depressives of their mental illness. But can he really cure a basket case like me?

James Delingpole feature

The imagining-your-perfect-future game is one of the first tricks he teaches me. First you create the mental picture – sights, sounds, smells, the more detail the better; then when you’re happy with this biographical movie you’ve created, you insert yourself into the body of this brighter, happier, more successful, future alter ego of yours, and bathe in contentment, fulfilment and security. Keep practising and, hey presto, fantasy will become reality.

All that’s stopping you is that your brain has not yet been correctly programmed. Once that has been done – and it’s easy enough to arrange once someone like Steve has given you the right software – you’re ready to go. Your potential is limitless.

You won’t be surprised to hear that NLP – a technique developed in the 1970s by ex-Hell’s Angel Richard Bandler and linguistics expert John Grinder – has had a massive influence on management training, life-coaching and the self-help industry. Psychiatrists are less convinced. They are understandably resentful at NLP’s claims to be able to cure in a matter of weeks – or sometimes even in one session – phobias, traumas and other mental problems which conventional therapy would take months or years to alleviate.

Steve Wichett claims to have resolved cases far tougher than mine: multiple-rape victims, soldiers with post-traumatic stress, even a gangland torture victim. Client confidentiality means I’ve no way of checking up on this. But something in his manner – warm on the outside, firm-but-fair toughness within – tells me Steve is not a man to bullshit.

My wife, a far better judge of character than me, feels the same way. At Steve’s invitation she comes to our sessions because, after all, my depression is as much her problem as it is mine. Her presence is useful because she understands things that come as news to me, starting with the idea that the purpose of my life on this earth might be to learn how to be happy.

‘What?’ I go in absolute astonishment when she – with Steve’s help – formulates this bizarre proposition. I can honestly say the thought had never occurred to me. True happiness, I’d always imagined, was something for other people, not me.

When I find my thoughts drifting into dark places, I now possess the mental tools to go, ‘Wait a second. What do you think you’re up to?’

This is what NLP does: it helps shut down all those negative thought patterns in our brains that have been reinforced by years of bad habit. Think of these patterns as neural pathways. Each time we re-tread them they get worn into an ever-deeper groove, which is why we so often find ourselves getting stuck in the same old rut. In this way unhappiness becomes an addiction. To kick it, we need to forge new neural pathways, this time leading to positive thoughts instead of negative ones. Happiness, in other words, is a simple question of practice.

Naturally I have my doubts about this. What use is it telling the mind to be happy when the outside world is so abundant with misery and woe? Steve has answers for this, as he has answers for everything. He hands me a list of the top 30 objections most commonly advanced by his clients as to why NLP isn’t going to work for them, together with a persuasive rationale as to why it will. The bottom line is: it’s your choice. If you decide that NLP isn’t going to work for you, then it most likely won’t.

It sounds harsh, this idea that if the treatment doesn’t work it’s all your fault. But then the essence of NLP is taking personal responsibility for your life. NLP has nothing to do with blaming your parents or trying to unearth the experience that lies at the heart of all your troubles. If anything, it’s about the exact opposite: not dwelling on the past but escaping it altogether.

‘What I find with my depressive clients is that they’re brilliant at describing the hole they’re in,’ says Steve. ‘They can tell me how dark it is and how grim. But what I want them to tell me is what it’s like outside the hole, where it’s open and warm and the sun’s shining.’

This is why, in every one of our sessions, Steve encourages me to play mental games which will help me get out of that hole. We do hypnosis-induced meditation sessions where I imagine my body filling with the colours of the rainbow; we practise tricks to deal with the siren voices in my head whenever they try luring me to the dark side; we revisit the happy future-me on the Welsh hillside, knowing that one day we will merge.

You’ll be dying to know whether NLP has cured my depression. My honest answer is: how can I possibly say at this stage? What I can tell you is that the effects so far have been near miraculous. I’ve experienced more moments of prolonged happiness (which I enjoy and notice much more when I’m having them); I’ve stopped having sleep problems; I’m no longer shackled by the obsessive-compulsive urge to touch walls in order to ward off the attentions of malign gods, and when I find my thoughts drifting into dark places, I now possess the mental tools to go, ‘Now wait just a second. What do you think you’re up to?’

Sometimes I find it risibly easy; sometimes I find it so hard – it really is tough taking responsibility for your own mind – I feel like giving up. But I’ve had enough positive experiences now to know NLP really does work for me. It has made me better; it has made me happier. Perfection may have to wait.

(to read more, click here)

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14 thoughts on “I’m learning to fight my demons: One man’s struggle with depression”

  1. brian says:29th July 2010 at 4:20 pmIf you’re not depressed you don’t understand what’s going on.
  2. John of Kent says:30th July 2010 at 8:52 amYou do realise that Warmists are going to sieze on this and proclaim:- “aha, only the mentally ill are sceptical about man- made climate change” and give one James Dellingpole as an example! Where the truth is, when presented with the true facts about climate, one has to be mad, deluded or making money out of it to believe in CAGW.But seriously, self help is the way forward here. I have known some friends benefit from CBT, look it up, try it! Better than medication.
  3. John of Kent says:30th July 2010 at 9:31 amAha, having read the rest, I see you have discovered NLP. Good one.
  4. Simulated Torso says:30th July 2010 at 3:05 pmThere’s something quite hokey about NLP which leads me to believe the whole ‘movement’ is a load of trendy pop-psychology nollocks. I read a book back in 1980 called, Psycho-Cybernetics, which, essentially say the same things as NLP. Good luck.
  5. JLK says:30th July 2010 at 7:08 pmFirst of all thank you for having the courage to discuss your “personal hell” I have suffered from what’s called “Double Depression” a fairly rare disorder, most of my life. It consists of a constant “flat line” depression along with periodic major Depressive Episodes.My disorder came from a near fatal encounter with Hospital Staph infection (of the flesh eating variety) in 1958, when I was 11. Unfortunately in those days there were no effective antibiotics so I spent 3 months hovering between life and death.
    The damage done to my Amygdalae and Hypothalmus brain centers by an out-of-control immune system gave me a life sentence of the periodic “Black Dog” as your most famous PM used to call it.

    I do wonder about your avoidance of medications. If you do have Bi Polar disorder it is very difficult to control the mood swings without them. Of course the problem for sufferers, as you have already stated, is that standard meds “flatline” your mood so you miss those great “up” periods. But I really can’t see how you can use the method you are touting when a Major Depressive Episode kicks in. In my experience fluffy clouds and great plans for the future would be crushed under the weight of the black cloud that descends over your mind.

    I am a firm believer in meds, at least for my problem, which is actually physical. The many Freud- following Psychiatrists I have seen over the years did absolutely NOTHING for me with the exception of lightening my pocketbook. Recently I found a physician who specializes in brain chemistry and medical treatment of these disorders. He was a literal life saver as I could be a suicide candidate at some point.

    Lastly I don’t understand why you would even consider SSRI’s such as Prozac ( a real stone age version of the medication group) anyway. Here in the States they would rarely if ever be used for Bi Polar disorder. Possibly for OCD (Obssesive Compulsive Disorder) in some cases. Your OCD is probably an offshoot of BPD anyway. I have some of it myself. I actually own 7 vacuums! But I don’t worry about that, I just sweat out the next depressive “episode”.
    JLK

  6. Michael St George says:31st July 2010 at 2:44 pmJamesFirstly, can I echo the praise rightly given by previous commenters for your courage and integrity in discussing this openly.

    Can I recommend you get hold of a book called “Overcoming Depression” by Paul Gilbert. It was recommended to me about 12 years ago by a psychiatrist (but as a friend, not as a medical practioner) when I was going through a prolonged period of anxiety & low self-esteem probably verging on clinical depression, following the rather brutal break-up of a relationship in which I’d invested a lot of emotional capital. I found it a great guide to the self-application of the basic techniques of cognitive behavioural therapy, and it was a huge help at the time.

    It may be out of print, but if you would like to read it but can’t get hold of a copy, please, please e-mail me and I’d be delighted to pass mine on to you. It’s the very least I could do as a contribution towards ensuring that the multiple and manifest inanities of ManBearPig continue to get the excoriation they so thoroughly deserve.

  7. Mike Paterson says:1st August 2010 at 10:34 amJames, it’s hard for us “normal” people to get their heads round this condition, but the litany of successful, popular and talented people who suffer from it demonstrate that it’s a real and nasty problem. Can’t help, I’m afraid, and at a loss as to what to suggest, except maybe listen to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, which always gives me a lift. With Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy as backup!In the knowledge that you and your work are highly appreciated by thousands of perfect strangers, good luck.

    Mike

  8. Pete Mc says:2nd August 2010 at 6:36 amGood on ya James. Get well soon.
  9. John of Kent says:4th August 2010 at 2:13 pm“Simulated Torso says:
    July 30, 2010 at 3:05 pmThere’s something quite hokey about NLP which leads me to believe the whole ‘movement’ is a load of trendy pop-psychology nollocks. -snip- ”

    Yes, it might seem like that to you and me and others who are mentally healthy- because we don’t need NLP or CBT etc. But to someone that needs help with “matters upstairs” it can be a huge help- gives them the tools they need to regain control of their own thoughts.

  10. James W says:5th August 2010 at 2:17 pmJames – take heart, your prolonged depression should be lifting soon…………after all, 13yrs of Labour tyranny ended 3 months ago.Be patient, life will be infinitely better without the likes of Brown, Smith, Harman, Balls, Straw and others in it.
  11. crownarmourer says:6th August 2010 at 4:21 amHaving been a long time sufferer of depression and OCD you have my sympathy, I have tried medication and it sucks even Lithium which makes you lethargic and gives you I don’t give a sh*t attitude, tried another which had the effect of turning me into a raging maniac. I decided enough was enough and quit cold turkey. I tried therapy and some therapists have some weird belief systems and generally don’t work.
    Eventually with some thought I changed my diet more fresh food prepared from scratch and I feel a lot better these days and one thing that brings me great peace is going for a walk in the countryside with a dog, being further south latitude wise helps as the sunshine levels are better and so no winter blues.
    As for the OCD that took great effort on my part to stop but by force of will I have stopped most of the worst effects.
  12. Don Stuart says:6th August 2010 at 9:06 amOn the theme of diet in the posting above, I seem to remember a few years back seeing on TV a programme where a woman depressive (herself a doctor I think) tried fish oil, or possibly just oily fish, and her depression disappeared.Just tried googling it and several things come up. Here’s an example:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article1006477.ece

  13. Amanda B says:7th August 2010 at 12:36 amJames:Perfection *always* has to wait.

    I’m touched by your predicament. Any medical aspect, of course I can’t and wouldn’t comment on. But otherwise: would you mind if I gave my advice as a ‘friend’ (it’s a sympathy/empathy/mind thing, I don’t have to be someone you dine with)? Forgive me if it is surplus to requirements and/or what you already know.

    My immediate thought was: Try to think about yourself as someone interested in the truth of things. And be that person — as of course you really are. That does not mean confronting all evils. In fact, the truth may well be that an evil would be bad for you to look straight into — like a sensitive person seeing a film about torture, for instance. So it’s not just ‘confronting reality’ — whose reality? what reality? for what purpose? — it’s about being truthful with yourself about what you can know, who you are, what is the best step to take, and so on. Sometimes the answer is contrary to ‘the obvious’. The important thing is to retain your confidence even when you have discovered something contrary to ‘the obvious’, the conventional, the commonly accepted, etc.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like awful waffle — it’s not meant to be — I’m completely sincere and I’m describing how I orient myself; it means accepting some limitations you may have, right now or always, as truth rather than as something merely bad. Because the love of wisdom — self-understanding and the capacity to understand others as well — that is the greatest virtue. And I think that virtue — the striving after and grasping of real virtue — is important to happiness. It’s essential, in fact. It is the foundation of any philosophy — philosophia, you know what that means — worth the name. (There is much ‘philosophy’ not worth the name.)

    Anyway it sounds as if I’m getting abstract but there is nothing abstract about this. To have integrity regarding the truth — which might *involve* a kind of courage but is not the same as courage, and might *involve* justice but is not identical with being just as most people think of it — this is what I would think about and aim for. In fact the virtue most closely allied with the truth-seeking I’m speaking of is prudence. But it’s not a cold, merely calculating, unerotic prudence. It’s a prudent truth-seeking that wants the best for everyone, including yourself. It’s a yearning for the good and even the beautiful in truth, a reaching-out for truth that you can use. I wish you well, truly. Amanda [Bernsen — surname confidential please]

  14. tiggy says:11th August 2010 at 11:42 amA sure sign you are very intelligent, those way ups and downs.

Comments are closed.

When Lego Lost Its Head – and How This Toy Story Got Its’ Happy Ending

Five years before we edged to financial catastrophe, an unlikely rehearsal was played out by toy giant Lego. In as long as it takes to develop a new model Star Wars range, it went from massive profit to near-fatal loss. The question is, how did it happen? And more to the point, how did this toy story get a happy ending?

Lego

Minifigure heads on the Lego production line in Billund, Denmark, where two million Lego pieces are made every hour. This machine, one of several similar ones in the factory, can paint different expressions on each side of the heads

Beneath the Lego museum at the Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, is a locked, secret room whose contents have been known to make grown men cry. I ask my guide Jette Orduna, head of Lego’s archive, what’s in there, but she won’t say. Instead she asks me the year I was born. 1965, I say.

She leads me into a basement room, mostly comprising a floor-to-ceiling, gunmetal grey filing system. She slides back one of the cabinet walls, each of which has shelves piled high with old Lego boxes in mint condition. The label on the shelf reads 1972, when I would have been seven years old. I don’t burst into tears – as more than one adult visitor has done – but I definitely feel a catch in my throat and a moistness in my eyes as I see, arrayed before me, my early childhood: the ambulance set, the police car set, the Shell garage set, all exactly as I remember them from more than 35 years ago.

Such is the power of Lego. Since its first interlocking brick was launched in 1949 it has become more popular than any toy in history. Every second, seven new boxes of Lego are sold; for every person in the world, there are 62 Lego pieces; Lego people – mini-figures, as they’re known – outnumber real people. You’d think it would be impossible to to go wrong with a brand as beloved as that. Yet five years ago, the impossible happened.

(to read more, click here)

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It’s YOUR Fault the Kittens and Puppies Will Drown, Daddy!

When my 11-year-old son confessed the other day that he’d blurted out to his teacher in a typically eco-minded geography class ‘My dad says –manmade global warming is rubbish!’, I couldn’t have been more proud.

In my schooldays, geography used to be about unarguable facts such as the shape of an Oxbow lake or the capital of Australia. Now the subject has been so corrupted by the pious sermons of the green lobby that it ought really to be rechristened ‘The-planet-is-doomed-and-it’s-all-our-fault’ studies.

The Bedtime Story

Vivid: The Bedtime Story ad depicts a puppy and kitten drowning as waters rise

Imagine my dismay a few weeks ago when I had an email from one of Ivo’s teachers.

‘I want to tell you how pleased I am with your son,’ it read.

‘Ivo has just taken part in an interschools Eco Conference in Oxford, and performed brilliantly. At the end, unexpectedly, the boys were asked to make speeches and field questions from the floor, and though some boys chickened out, your son rose to the occasion and spoke fluently and confidently.’

Well, what could I do? Cancel his pocket money? Confiscate his iPod? Of course, I’m joking  –  well, half-joking. Part of me felt a huge surge of paternal pride. But another part was absolutely horrified.

Who had got to my boy? How had he been turned? It reminded me of that awful moment in The Stepford Wives when you discover that even free-thinking Katharine Ross has been transformed into a supine robot creature parroting the same predictable lines.

I’m not the only parent to feel this way. All over Britain, mums and dads are asking themselves the same thing: ‘Since when did my children turn into such rabid eco-fascists?’

In the old days, children were content to satisfy their inner bossy prig by simply pinching your cigarettes and chucking them in the bin ‘for your own good’. Now, they seem determined to police every aspect of our lives.

Our homes have been transformed into mini police states where our children monitor our eco correctness like tinpot Al Gores.

‘Dad,’ says Ivo, surveying my Ford Mondeo, ‘why can’t we have an electric car like the Bielies?’ (Our insanely eco German friends.)

Or my daughter Poppy will turn to her mother and say: ‘Mum, why are you buying Fairy Liquid, not Ecover?’

Then there are the lectures we get from our children on the size of our carbon footprint. And our home is now perpetually suffused in a morguelike gloom as our young ones keep busily turning off any light we’re not actually using.

They won’t even let us leave the TV on standby (‘Dad, if everyone turned their TV off we’d save an annual 480,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions’).

But should we be surprised when they’re fed such a concentrated diet of green propaganda?

(to read more, click here)

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Paternity Leave? Any Man Who Says He Wants It Is Really a Liar…

Nearly half of all new fathers are refusing to take their paternity leave entitlement because they’d rather be at work, a survey has found. Well, quelle surprise.

I could have told you that. In fact, it was a point I was arguing a month ago on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour when I told Jenni Murray that men aren’t nearly as well designed for childcare as women; that, frankly, we’d rather be in the office than at home with the children.

My goodness, you should have heard the foaming outrage! Many women listeners said I was a Neanderthal sexist pig, completely out of touch with the modern world.

Man leaving home for work

Controversial: James landed himself in hot water on Woman’s Hour for suggesting men are not as well designed for childcare as women

What really took me aback, though, was the male response. I was amazed by how cross some of my fellow men got.

One of them  –  describing himself as a rugby-playing type who was, nevertheless, fully comfortable with the joys of parenting  –  warned that if ever I came his way, he’d throttle me.

But the reason I was amazed was because I’d never before realised quite what a lying, sneaky bunch of cowardly hypocrites so many of my sex are.

Afterwards, I had lots of secret calls from male friends congratulating me for ‘telling it like it really is’. But they all admitted they would never dare say as much in front of their wives.

And this, I fear, is very much the problem we chaps face in these supposedly enlightened, post-feminist times.

We feel the same way about childcare as our grunting, hairy, mammoth-hunting ancestors did. The difference is that thanks to decades of re-education by the likes of and Germaine Greer, we are required  –  on pain of death  –  to lie about it.

(to read more, click here)

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Why I’m Richer for Being Poorer

The joy of making do.

Who’d have thought that scrimping and saving and eating leftovers could be rewarding? James Delingpole explains why he doesn’t miss his old, affluent lifestyle as much as he thought he would.

James Delingpole graphic

The best fishcakes I’ve ever eaten were the ones I had the other night. This had less to do with their culinary sophistication – just a bit of leftover cod, some mash, a little parsley from the garden, a sprinkling of flour and some salt and black pepper – than with how they made me feel. With each mouthful, I thought, ‘This is nice. This reminds me of when I was a child in the 70s.’ More importantly, it made me think, ‘Gosh. Aren’t I brilliant? I wonder how much money I’ve just saved?’

How different things are from two or three years ago. Back then, it would never have occurred to me to use up that paltry half dish of sorry-looking leftover fish. I would have said, ‘There’s barely enough to feed one there, let alone two,’ and slung it in the bin. And why not? Back in those days there was money to spare…

No, don’t worry. This isn’t another of those pieces arguing how wonderful it is, how chastening and good for the soul that we’re currently in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Speaking for myself – and I’m sure for most of you too – I’m finding the new austerity pretty grim. The daily gnawing anxiety; the cheeseparing; the constant ‘no you can’t have that’ to the uncomprehending children; the rows; the lack of holidays. This is not the life I spent the past 25 years working so hard for.

But this is not going to be a wallowing-in-misery piece either. If there’s one thing I have learnt amid all the teeth-grinding worry, it’s how remarkably adaptable the human spirit is. Sure, I’m not totally happy, but I don’t think I’m any less happy than I was when I had more money. Life hasn’t got significantly worse; it’s just different. Instead of enjoying the ‘lifestyle’ of a 90s professional, I’ve now gone back in time to experience the scrimp-and-save world of my grandparents.

(to read more, click here)

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The Return of the Vinyl? How Britain Got Its Groove Back

On top of a brown Formica cabinet in a Portakabin office in an anonymous warehouse on the outskirts of London sits the most privileged record player in pop-music history.

The Garrard direct-drive turntable was the first outside a recording studio ever to play the Beatles’ Revolver and Sgt Pepper; the first to experience Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon; it was the first to be challenged by the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen; it was there at the birth of dance music; and it’s still going strong in the age of Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective and Lily Allen.

Remember all that talk in the Eighties when shiny, allegedly indestructible CDs came out, about how the days of the LP were numbered? Well, just recently exactly the opposite has started to happen: it’s the CD, the experts are now saying, that will soon be obsolete. It’s vinyl that’s here to stay.

The Vinyl FactoryBack in business: The Vinyl factory company logo (left) logo and coloured petals of PVC

Back in business: The Vinyl factory company logo (left) logo and coloured petals of PVC

‘I’m surprised a vinyl industry still exists, but the fact that it does is tremendous,’ says Roy Matthews, 73, who has been working on and off at this vinyl factory since 1956 and is now its general manager. When he started it belonged to EMI.

Then in 2000 the EMI manufacturing complex was being sold and the plant was scheduled to close. It was bought by a pair of entrepreneurs, Mark Wadhwa and former Olympic sailor Tim Robinson, and now operates as The Vinyl Factory, manufacturing about 2.5 million records every year.

It’s the last of its kind, as the only major vinyl manufacturing plant left in the UK. The equipment and methods are unchanged, from the revered Garrard turntable on which the ‘positives’ (from which records are made) are checked for defects, to the sacks of black (or coloured) PVC pellets on the factory floor.

The pressing machine that today squashes out special collectors’ LP editions of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey and the recent Pet Shop Boys album Yes is exactly the same one that pressed the original editions of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells and Queen’s a Night at the Opera now gathering dust on your shelves.

For audiophiles and musicians this is a happy vindication of something they’ve been saying for years: the sound you get from vinyl recording is so much better than what you get from a CD.

(to read more, click here)

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