Monday, 27 February 2012

Ramblings: The Good Old Days

I hate nostalgia. The literal translation of the word nostalgia is a painful homecoming. I think of it as a sad yearning for the past but the problem is that people often yearn for a time which didn’t exist. They hanker for quaint old fashioned days when people were happy and jolly and everyone respected everyone else. They imagine times when children could play out in the streets (maybe before Rebekah Brooks invented the predatory paedophile). They long for innocence. Hell, they even think the eighties were cool and dream of the halcyon days of good fashion and superb music. They seem to have forgotten that skinny jeans looked bad the first time, that Wham existed and that legwarmers were required dress.

All this is nonsense of course. There was always danger, people have always been people, sometimes good, sometimes bad but mostly both and although some things may have been better one hundred years ago, the majority of things weren’t. We died young of terrible diseases, had little knowledge of the dangers inherent in many things and oppressed each other in numerous ingenious ways.  Hardly something to long for. That dreamy pre-war picnic you imagine was actually shrouded in cigarette smoke and pollution and you would have been fostering a burgeoning melanoma from lack of knowledge of sun screen.

Saying that, I do have a ridiculous affection for vintage items. My house is strewn with unwanted items from other people’s pasts. I have an Art Deco bathing figurine, a garish fifties coffee set and numerous items of china from the 40s and 50s. My wallpaper is repro from the 50s, my prints are 60s Pop Art and my phone is from 1958. I have ancient typewriters, a walnut radio and a Betty Page style vanity case. I dress in a 1960s three piece classic suit, rayon scarves and tailored blazers. I’m often to be found listening to old songs from pre-1960 or enjoying the ticking of my temperamental clocks and I love redundant words like “Cripes” or “Gosh”.

Anyone would think I was nostalgic. I’m not. I just like certain old styles. I might have kitted my lounge out in Art Deco style but I’m not advocating a return to those times. I don’t want it to be illegal to be gay and there to be no cure for tuberculosis except a spell in some fresh cool air. I quite like my mobile phone, my stereo and DVD recorder. I’d like to hang on to them too. Just don’t mind me as I nibble a macaroon off my lovely 50s plates. I’m almost tempted to say that they don’t make things like they used to, but I won’t. It isn’t true. They make lots of good things now too.

There are lots of things to recall from the past, just maybe not my own past. That’s best pondered on rare occasions. There are no pictures in my house of my past or anyone in the family’s past. I prefer other people’s detritus, far more fascinating. Nostalgia is fun as long as you don’t actually believe the crap that comes out of people’s mouths when they tell you life was better before.

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