My father used to cycle five miles through the busy London streets every day to work, and during the forty years he made this journey he was never able to pass an object without stopping and picking it up in case it came in handy one day. It could be a nut or bolt, a piece of rope or even just a piece of twisted metal. When we were young, my brother and I used to laugh and call him “the squirrel,” but during the never-ending battle to keep my first car on the road, there were countless occasions when I was desperate for something to help with the job, and I always found it in what my father called his “magic cellar.” Decades later, while I was doing repairs in my parent’s house, his magic cellar often got me out of trouble when I needed a short piece of pipe, an outdated bolt or, as happened recently, the metal frame from an old rucksack hanging unused on a wall for the last thirty years.

It occurs to me that life is a process of us picking up bits and pieces as we go along and calling on the most obscure experience to get us out of trouble. The only problem is when we collect so much that we forgot what we have and so often miss the opportunity to solve a problem, unaware that the part we so desperately need is there waiting to be used.

What surprises me most is how sometimes things happen to us which at the time appear to be disastrous or insignificant but later become invaluable. Never was this more clear to me recently when having been advised that the best thing to promote myself and my new book was with Youtube videos. The problem was, despite working for thirty the music business, I didn’t have a single video of me playing live.

In 1992 I had just released my first album, Touch The Moon, with my record company assuring me they would back it with “full promotion.” Because of my past connection to the city of Derby, the local radio station asked me to do a radio interview, and so a concert was organised on the back of it. The interview was cancelled at the last minute and the “full promotion” turned out to be one poster at the entrance of the concert hall. The result was that in a hall that seated around 350 people, I managed to draw an audience of seven, five of whom were friends and family.

My brother David and his wife were in the audience, and as always, they were very supportive and made the two-hour drive after work not only to watch the concert but to make a video recording of it. Despite the lack of an audience, I played my heart out and finished to the kind of rapturous applause only an audience of seven can give. It was difficult to see how such a disastrous event could ever have a positive effect on my life, and so when David sent me the video, I took a quick look at it but found it too depressing to watch and so threw it into a box and forgot about it.
Twenty many years later, I published my autobiography and updated my website, but I was still no nearer to a presence on Youtube. I cursed myself for not having made videos of me playing my songs and, in particular, my acoustic guitar solos, which are a unique blend of ragtime and classical guitar and not having picked up a guitar in ten years, there was no chance of me playing them without months of practice. The only video I could think of was the one David made in Derby, but apart from having no idea where it was, I assumed that being recorded on a domestic camcorder. the video would be worthless. After searching every inch of our large house and giving up three times, I eventually found the video in a box full of old tools. I suppose you could say it was my own magic cellar. I was surprised to find that the quality of the recording was just about acceptable, so I split it into songs and uploaded them to Youtube. The response and positive comments on my youtube channel were overwhelming, and one video production company liked my song The Poet so much they produced a video of it.

So maybe Voltaire was right after all: everything does happen for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and every object and experience has its own place in that world.