55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my life...so far.
By the time my record shop closed in March 2000, I was in considerable debt. When asked, I always say that I had 10 really good years and 4 of increasingly swift decline. I should have pulled the plug around 1997, but when you're in the middle of it, you can't see the wood for the trees. And you always think it's going to get better.
In the Summer of 2000 I managed to secure employment in a newly opening branch of a modest sized national coffee shop chain. (15 years later, the same company is now a massive global brand.) As some regular readers might be aware, I am something of a coffee nerd and while my new employer's particular blend is nothing to write home about, I was really looking forward to working as a regular team member, able to leave work at the end of every day with no stress or worries. It lasted three days. The store's Manager walked out mid-shift, never to return and, purely because of my age, I was asked to take responsibility for the store (and ten staff) until a replacement could be found. I knew nothing about the company, ordering procedures, rotas or budgetary constraints. I'd barely even learned how to make a cup of coffee, but somehow I struggled through for a few weeks until a new Manager was recruited.
New York, October 2001.
After the uncertainties of the latter years of my business, it was a joy to receive a weekly pay packet and have a regular holiday allowance. I had debts to repay, but, with careful budgeting, I planned a trip to see my cousin and her family in Manhattan at the end of October, coinciding with a couple of Bob Dylan gigs. One morning, on the way to work, I stopped off in our local Lunn Poly travel agents to book the ticket for my flight to New York. The date was September 10th 2001.