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Music's magic, but nothing beats my little girl's giggle

"SMELL that," I tell our 14-year-old, shoving a copy of Zombie Apocalypse under his nose.

"Ink," I rant. "Smell it while you can, because thanks to e-books," I say, making a sweeping gesture over the first floor of Chapters on Parnell Street where our lot are supposed to be choosing books to buy with tokens they got for Christmas, "all this," I gnash, "could someday be gone. Just like vinyl."

"What's vinyl?" says our little girl, Jessica.

I look at her like an exhibit. "You realise," I mutter, "we're witnessing the death of culture."

"Can I get a DVD instead?" she asks.

"No, you may not," I scold. "This is all part of a family New Year's resolution. Fewer screens. More books."

"I don't really see anything I want," mumbles our teenager. "Me neither," says his younger brother.

"This," I say, not meaning to sound like the irritated Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons but nailing it anyway, "is the best bookshop in the city. You have 40 minutes. I will be in the cult section."


We meet at the checkout, the boys clutching zombie and horror anthologies which I duly inspect and cannot fault. Jessica has a couple of Asterix books I've foisted on her after being amazed to learn she's never heard of them. And a DVD: "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," she announces.

"Go on then," I relent. "At least it's Jules Verne."

"No," she says, squinting at the cover, "it's Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson." We meet my wife and cross the road for burgers. "After this," I muffle through a stuffed mouth shortly after, "we start eating healthy for the New Year."

As we're leaving, I see a kid at the next table carefully sliding a record into its sleeve, which, I notice, is Joy Division's brilliant Unknown Pleasures.

I can hardly contain myself. "Where do you get your vinyl?" I ask.

"I shop around," he obliges. "Markets, mostly."

"Joy Division," I say, making a circle with my thumb and forefinger and tipping him a wink.

"Wow," mutters one of our teens as we hit the street, "that wasn't creepy at all."

"Yeah," says his brother sarcastically: "Hey man, I love vinyl. Why don't we go back to your place and listen to some records."

"Yeah," chimes in the other, "I might have some vinyl in the back of my weird van, wanna see?"

"I hate you all," I sniff.

"What's vinyl?" says Jessica again, skipping to catch up.

We head around to Waltons where one of the boys is looking to buy an acoustic guitar with money he saved and, after I personally test three, we settle on a moderately priced Epiphone.

"He's really getting quite good," I tell the shop assistant's dreadlocks as he punches in the transaction. "We have another guy on piano and one doing drums," I add proudly. "Cool," he says.

I feel a tug at my sleeve. "Do you have a euro?" says Jessica, pointing to a kazoo.

"Here," I sigh, digging in my pocket.

We trudge back across town to the car, the boys laden with booty, Jessica lagging behind with my wife. "Come on, keep up," I say. It's been a good day. Everyone got things this dad approves of.

"Jessica says we haven't been to any clothes shops," calls my wife.

"Urgh," I mutter over my shoulder. "Let's make it quick."

It's our last day at the cousins' before packing up to return to our own house after Christmas. "We're going on a walk first," I say when we get back, a suggestion met with unanimous groans.

"Hey," I tell them. "We'll be doing plenty of walking soon. Part of a new regime for the New Year."

We end up hiking miles and Jessica gets cold because she didn't wear enough over the new top she wanted to show off. "Can we get hot chocolate?" she says as a cafe looms ahead. "Maybe," I say, fumbling for the last of my change. "Yay," she says, suddenly brightening.


The kids' hot chocolates clean me out when I go to pay. I hand them around and Jessica's cup promptly explodes, showering the muddy ground outside with tiny marshmallows. "Oh, for God's sake," I grumble, as she looks forlornly at her stained top.

It's only as I'm dragging suitcases out to the car a while later that I notice her head hanging low. "What's wrong?" I say, crouching down to see.

"It's just," she says, a tear popping out and staying there, "things aren't really going right for me today."

She looks tired and sad and terribly beautiful and in a single horrible rush of guilty clarity, I recall our shopping trip -- Jessica skipping along to keep up and falling behind, tugging my sleeve for attention or cheerfully trying to please me as I blustered around embarrassing everyone.

"Well," I tell her, "why don't we just get you home where I can do what dads are supposed to do and start making things go right again."

After the long drive, the boys scatter, but Jessica plonks herself on the couch between my wife and I, and we watch back-to-back episodes of the US version of The Office and order pizza.

"It's part of a new regime," mocks my wife.

"Yes," I say, curling an arm around Jessica. "A family New Year's resolution -- more TV, less exercise."

My wife thumps me and Jessica giggles, a sound better than any music this ageing, deluded anorak has heard, vinyl or otherwise.

Even, dare I say it, Joy Division.