Jarvis Cocker is exhausted, but his new book made me think of my cellar – Gaby Soutar

I tried to book a ticket for Jarvis Cocker’s Glory Days talk on August 18, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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As usual, I’m too slow and it’s long since sold out.

Photo: Getty

When it comes to this particular arm of festival activity, people are ridiculously organised. These are the guys who write proper lists, and not just in Sharpie on their hand, because they couldn’t find a ballpoint pen.

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I won’t know more about his new book, Good Pop, Bad Pop, which he’ll be talking about at the event, though I assume there’s always the option to buy a copy and read it. In the synopsis, it looks like an inventory and review of the various tattoos Cocker found in his loft. Those disposable objects that create someone’s portrait.

This is a topic that interests me as a professional trash collector.

Photo by Jarvis Cocker: John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately. As I was trying to book tickets for this conference, NASA shared images from the James Webb Space Telescope. There were twinkling images of distant galaxies, Jupiter and its moon, Europa, and my imagination was catapulted into space and infinity.

But what goes up must come down. First there are the stars, then the gutter.

After traveling through the South Wheel Nebula and the Cosmic Cliffs, I kept wondering about my cave. It looks like the opposite of what’s up there, light years away, but it pulls gravitationally like a black hole.

When we moved into our ground floor apartment there was nothing but an old single box spring bed and a floor lamp.

I’ve watched enough documentaries and horror movies on Netflix to know that’s a very bad sign. We probably should have sold and left immediately.

However, that was nearly ten years ago, the nightmares have recently ceased, and no one has come up through the hole in the floor to slaughter us in our bed. I’m sure it’s okay. While Jamie Lee Curtis is still on the loose, Michael Myers has bigger fish to fry.

Those original pieces of furniture are still there, but are now invisible, because there’s a ton of stuff piled on top of them.

I work in the room above and can almost feel the jumble of objects, like an anchor for our whole building. It has become a place where mice and spiders practice their parkour.

The last time I came downstairs, which involves lifting a few floor slats as we never fitted a proper hatch, was to store winter coats. It was horribly revealing, although the ceiling is about five feet high, so you can’t do much exploring with your head pulled back like a turtle.

While above is my present, my past life is piled up there. It’s a giant memento mori. No wonder my feng shui is down.

In addition to the trash, there are all the Christmas decorations, including lengths of tinsel wrapped around each other like glamorous boa constrictors. Maybe we’ll have some baby garlands in time for the upcoming holiday season.

It’s been 20 years of yellowed newspapers since my time at Scotland on Sunday and The Scotsman.

Then there is my art school portfolio. I had managed to get away with storing this big object in my mother’s garage until relatively recently. She was thrilled to unload it, as the family’s solo minimalist. This black carrying case is topped with life drawings, all rolled into giant cylinders and sealed with tape. They consist of four years of charcoal-smeared buttocks and biceps, all rubbing together, fading and disappearing in hazy smoke. I never take them out and look at them properly. I’m too embarrassed. Have I ever been good at drawing? Maybe they’re just crude potato figures, with dots for eyes. Who knows, I haven’t picked up a pencil in 23 years. I guess when I die and they have to clear the house, my nephew and my nieces might laugh.

In addition to floppy disks and CDs, the old hi-fi system and record player are there.

They’re on top of a bag of tapes, including compilations of ex-boyfriends and friends I haven’t seen in decades.

I’m sure they include the Michael Jackson Bad album I got when I was about 12. I bet Cocker didn’t have that in his attic. Not a fan, so I heard. I should probably throw them all away, but I can’t bring myself to rip the plaster off.

There are also stacks of vinyl. I spent much of my youth scouring record stores. Then I would play them in my bedroom, but I was too lazy to put them back in the sleeves. They were scratched before but now they are deformed from the weight that was piled on them. Part of me thinks they might be worth something. Maybe there’s a slain record collector. Anyone who might want this copy of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers with its broken zipper.

A few years ago I took a few out to play them, but the nostalgia makes me sad. It’s a bit like the effect of whiskey on some people. I had a pinch of music, then I wanted to take a nap.

There’s not much there that I need, but I can’t pass up anything. So it would be much nicer to hear about someone else’s nice attic.

I need to set a reminder to purchase this book. I’ll write it on my hand with this Sharpie.

About Nicole Harmon

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