Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

Following yesterday's musings on the fact that my treasured glass beer-mug is now, apparently, 'retro-cool', I've been thinking about nostalgia.

I'm not the only one; A K Haart today waxes lyrical on the effects of the passage of time. He's right, there is something quite disconcerting about the realisation that part of your life has now technically become history.

Teaching brings that into sharp relief; you are constantly confronted with fresh-faced adolescents to whom the pre-internet past is not so much another country as a different planet. In years to come, the spread of the internet will doubtless seem as socially significant as the Industrial Revolution.

The Tavern provides an interesting measure of social attitudes to the past; the current refurbishments have involved removing the ceiling tiles, textured wallpaper and sliding doors installed by a disciple of the 1950s TV home decorating guru Barry Bucknell, the man who turned a thousand charming Victorian homes into feature-free modernist boxes.

With an impressive irony, replacing the lost features has proved easier than Bucknell could ever have imagined; today every DIY store has an abundance of Victorian-style accessories and designs. Those of us born at the height of his fame are actively embracing technology beyond his wildest dreams while surrounding ourselves with the trappings of the past.

Meanwhile, the post-internet generation seems to cherish much the same fondness for a more recent era; led by the marketing machinery of the modern media, the fashion, music and culture of recent decades are reappearing at a startling rate, fed by the breakneck speed of communication and need for constant innovation.

All of which leads me to one of my all-time favourite articles from The Onion which says it all better than I could ever do myself.


  1. Or a ZX81?

    We're entering an age of obsolescence far beyond that foreseen by Vance Packard. As a family, we tend to use things until they stop working or fall apart; our computers and phones seem to have the life expectancy of mayflies compared to the venerable appliances of yesteryear.

  2. Thanks for the link. Only this week I was talking to a guy with a 1920s house. He’s just removed all the hardboard panels that we had a habit of tacking to original wooden doors in the Barry Bucknell era.

    Now he has a very attractive set of 1920s doors with little panel pin puncture marks all around the edges.

  3. My brother's old Sinclair Spectrum is somewhere in the loft... ;)

  4. "As a family, we tend to use things until they stop working or fall apart..."

    Remember getting shoes mended? Not any more - they are now mostly thrown away.

  5. AKH, we've got those pin-marks too - a dead giveaway. The Bucknellists boarded over most of the doors but put flimsy, plastic-glazed sliding ones on the kitchen and the bathroom, just where you most want a sturdy barrier. Incomprehensible!

    Julia, I tried to have a much-loved pair of boots resoled recently; re-soling? £35. A new pair in the Clarks sale? £40.

    The impact of far-eastern imports on the economy extends far beyond the simple business of manufacturing.