Thursday, January 28, 2016


If nostalgia is considered to be the pain of an old wound, I contend there are no old wounds, or at least no old pains. Pain is always immediate. If it were not, it would be the memory of pain, and if that memory causes pain, then we are again in the present.

Nostalgia comes from the French word nostalgie. Doctors during the Napoleonic wars noted that conscripted peasants died of it. Slight injuries killed them. They would pine and die. Separation from the land killed them. Well, maybe stress and fear and hunger and cold and disease killed them, but the French doctors thought they pined for their land. 

It's a powerful concept. In this state of end stage capitalism we are mobile and casualised and atomised, and relentlessly forward looking. And so we long for simpler forms, and this feeds into our love of all sorts of things from Game of Thrones to the slow food movement. I am not disparaging it. I think it is a genuine need.

What happens when we long for our own past? After some quite extreme life changes, which have left me on my own and in a dire financial situation, I moved back to my home town. And slap bang into the terrible poignancy of running into my own past. I moved here six months ago, but even now the sight of a bus can reduce me briefly to tears, because I used to travel by bus to and from work and I enjoyed it. I liked the down time, waiting for the bus listening to Godflesh on headphones in the freezing morning, after a night shift, and I liked the slight unpredictability, and walking from bus stops, and being among strangers. I wish I took buses. I could make an excuse to take a bus, but it wouldn't be the same. Nothing, actually, is the same. I am left with the nostalgia, in a place that is not gone and not strange, but still present enough to cause me pain.