Writer and broadcaster Robert Elms on Crombies, cool tunes and the photo that pulls on his ‘brash boy’ heartstrings.
My parents, Eileen and Albert, met dancing at the Hammersmith Palais as teenagers. My father died when I was six, and my mum a few years ago. It sounds mawkish, but I miss them every day. I keep this photo on my desk, so they’re still watching me.
My 200-strong collection of reggae ‘sevens’ [seven-inch singles] was mostly handed down to me by my elder brothers Reggie and Barry, who were very cool. We grew up in Notting Hill in the 1970s, where there was a large Afro-Caribbean community.
I’ve always loved bikes and have quite a collection of them. This one by Tom Donhou is totally bespoke and I use it every day. I’ve never owned a car. I’ve always thought you only need two machines in life: a bicycle and a radio.
I started out as a music journalist; The Face was the first publication I worked for. I wrote the feature ‘Hard Times’ in 1982 – it launched my career and still gets quoted as an influential piece of pop-culture writing. This reminds me of being that brash boy about town.
My wife and I bought this bowl in Colombia on our honeymoon 24 years ago. It is at least 500 years old, from Mayan times – a museum-quality piece of pre-Columbian art. It’s beautiful without being flash and reminds me of that fantastic time.
I’m a lifelong supporter of Queen’s Park Rangers. My dad took me to my first match when I was five, and then died later that season, in 1966. I’ve kept going religiously and now I take my son. This plaque has no monetary value, but it’s very sentimental to me.
When I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than a velvet-collared Crombie coat, but I couldn’t afford one. So when I first made some money from my writing, I went straight to the Crombie shop and got this. It was the most expensive thing I ever bought.
I used to read this book endlessly to my children [Alice, now 28, Alfie, 22, and Maude, 19]. I can recite every word. It takes me back to that idyllic, exhausting time of having young children. I wasn’t ever sure if I’d have them, but it’s the best thing I’ve done.
Interview by Charlotte Pearson Methven
Robert’s new book London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City is published in hardback by Canongate, price £16.99. To order a copy for £13.52 until 21 April, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £1