Spectator: nostalgia is a powerful force

Events have been conspiring over the past few days to make me reconsider my position on nostalgia. Although Zam has always complained that I appear to have the shallowest of roots, I wondered whether this was accurate last weekend. As past residents, we were invited to the fundraising Magic Night in aid of our former village church. I didn’t hestitate -I love the church and I love magicians.

The date clashed with a hastily scheduled school concert, so we tossed a coin for who would do what and, depending on how you look at it, I won. Walking in, I felt a tidal wave of nostalgia, for here were many of the faces and characters with whom I’d shared more than a decade of fêtes, carol services and cricket matches.

We’ve been living roughly seven miles from the village for about seven months, but I felt like a returning exile. I’d never given much thought to whether or not we were a tight community, yet it’s a community I realised I’d missed more than I expected. People were keen to find out about our new house, where it is, when we’ll move in and then, laughed one of my favourite former neighbours, ‘you’ll have to get to know another bunch of lunatics’.

We weren’t a tough crowd and the magician had us eating out of his hand as he joined hoops, multiplied balls, knotted handkerchiefs and did a very clever thing with ropes, a Flymo, a man in a jacket and a loo seat. Equally impressive was his spot-on reading of physiognomy as he hit the perfect tone with his gentle one-liners for each person he chose to help him: the effortlessly dapper, the confidently shabby, the tolerant, the jovial, the reluctant and the dour. He possibly misjudged the man who, when asked to see (telepathically) the colour on a playing card, answered ‘white’.

Judging by the expressions of the audience, I wasn’t the only one going back in time-we’d all taken on the look of entranced six year olds. I remembered the magician at one of my earliest birthday parties pulling a coin from behind my ear, the most exciting event in my life until that point.

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And then we went to an 18th-birthday party given by three of Will’s friends. It was a fantastic celebration of their lives so far, full of love from friends and godparents. Looking round the room, I couldn’t help but compare these teenagers with ourselves at the same age, the current crop being significantly more glamorous, self-assured and conversationally adept than we had been.

I know this isn’t a case of ‘policemen getting younger’, because I’ve also recently spent the evening with people from that period of my life, but who I haven’t seen for almost 30 years, when our common denominator went to live in America.

The hippies were still leaning that way. The charmers were still charming. The intense were a tad less intense. We were, of course, all fatter and greyer, but as we remembered, with huge affection, our shared past, glamour and self-assurance were not the words which sprang to mind. I wondered, at the 18th, how many of them would still be friends at 50. I think that means I’m now getting nostalgic about future nostalgia.

So, I’m as nostalgic for people as Zam is for places. And the children, who are far more nostalgic than either of us, like nothing better than reminiscing about events, especially-or perhaps solely-those that highlight the shortcomings of their parents.

‘Do you remember when you forgot me at school and I cried outside the art room for two hours?’ ‘Do you remember when you sent me in dressed as an Elizabethan when we were only meant to take a picture?’ ‘Do you remember when you put on a silly voice on the telephone because you thought it was Rebecca putting on a silly voice, but it was my teacher?’ Of course, I do-that was last week.

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