Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Old Kind of Nostalgia

I think it must be Autumn, with it's chills and mists and darkening skies, that creates the conditions for nostalgia in me. Most of the time I look forward, and this keeps me pretty much anchored to the present, as I try to harness it as a rudder to steer towards the future I want to create and inhabit; but the season of decay and soggy leaves and the new academic year seems always to inspire a melancholy and retrospective mood in me whether I am basically happy, sad or indifferent.

Adult life has sublimated the seasonal whimsy so that I am generally more productive, but the situation is somehow the same - I am driven to make a response to the dreadful finality of winter this far up the Northern hemisphere. Lest we forget, Edinburgh (only 600 miles North of here) is on the same latitude as Moscow. In Britain, we pay for our long summer evenings where daylight lasts until 10.30pm and dawn is at 3.30am with the rapid closing of the jaws of night shortly after mid-September.

I respond quite differently year by year. When I was younger the onset of the season produced in me a spate of earnestly wistful poems, none of which are repeatable, and endless the playing of the same 3 or 4 unresolved chords on piano or guitar. Now, it makes me want to rush around fixing the roof, stacking the larder with salted pork and parsnips, and buying new winter coats whether I need them or not. Then we hit December and the panic is exalted and exacerbated by Capitalism's annual spending-binge-fest - KWITHMUTH to give it it's proper name.

Actually, despite myself, I love Autumn, but I loathe and detest KWITHMUTH. My happiest ever KWITHMUTH was spent entirely alone with all the food I could possibly require, the TV, the internet, and the phone. Oh and a bottle of port and sundry other mood-enhancers. I was in heaven. No social obligations, no work, and crap on the box from dawn (around 8am) till dusk (4.45pm). Consequently, I watched My Fair Lady for the first time and absolutely loved it, listening to cockney accents which surely can never have existed.

That KWITHMUTH at least, I allowed myself to indulge in that inebriate post-war nostalgia that everyone else seems to jump at the chance to enjoy, that sort of mythical hallowed golden yesteryear nazi past where things was things, and people knew their aprons from their sausages, and the barrow boy whistled a cheeky melody before dying young of TB like his old Dad had done before him, luv 'im.

It's Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, tap dancing Chim-Chimernee Sweeps, breathing pea-soupers when gor blimey London air was predictably dangerous and no fish at all lived in the Thames- not like nowadays when they swim freely up and down central London without so much as a by-your-leave and can suddenly be all killed by the sewers overflowing in flash floods - fish knew their place, then, see... it was on a plate, with chips and a pickled onion, wrapped in newspaper... It's Pete Seeger's Little Boxes, it's Tommy Steele's Little White Bull, it's dreary black and white Euston films with screeching children, Norman Wisdom's unfunny capers, it's demob, it's kitchen-sink drama, cars with running boards and moving indicators, it's those faded mid-50s illustrations on Nan's printed metal coasters of Berkeley Square and St James' Park - pre-Profumo, pre-Suez, pre-Beatles, pre-Feminist, pre-Pill, pre-fabricated houses and just about post-rationing.

I hate that world, I find it threatening, morbid, depressing, a brutal, awful, smug period, where having won the war we somehow lost the peace. The Cold War was upon us; the establishment was still glued to the nation like a big fat leech; homosexuality was still a crime; racism a daily reality; born out of wedlock you were a bastard, a good clip raand the ear was what you needed as a nipper, the clitoris didn't exist, and if you hadn't come from Oxbridge you hadn't a chance - unless you were a musician or a comedian. No coincidence then that my 2 heros are Spike Milligan and Ian Dury. Truly they excelled. Never did they sell out.

And while I sometimes suffer it like the sickness it is, I wholeheartedly detest nostalgia, I am suspicious of it, it reeks of rotting flesh and buzzes like a slaughterhouse. The Autumn blues which creates it in me, I curse and suffer ungraciously, even as it produces an outpouring of prophylactic Winter energy. I am ashamed of Rex Harrison and his disgusting misogny. Thank God for the 60s, for peace and love and long hair and contraception.

I would rather watch Star Trek. At least then I can be nostalgic about events set in a fabulous future I once dreamed was possible.

Beam me up, Spring 2005.

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At 12:13 AM, Blogger vbspurs quoth...

I came here after having Googled for nostalgia and blog together, being the topic of my blog today. And I was met with this blogpost.

Howd'ja do? I said. It snarled back, waving me away.

Funny what effect nostalgia can have on a person.

Nostalgia to me is about ice-skating parties, seeing my father cry for the first time, and watching my granddad (bemedalled and dinner jacketed) stir the plum pudding.

Yours seems to have channeled Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

Ah well. Such is life.



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