It is hard to write about all this now. The world has changed so drastically that most of the places and details are almost impossible to revisit. I expect the authors of old did not experience this same problem. The inn where the pirate protagonists first met would certainly have still been there in a hundred years time. The scenes of one’s youth would hardly have changed should the writer return for inspiration. The playground which saw your first, tentative kiss or those first games of strip chase would not be later converted into a block of flats. Yes, we were quite precocious eight-year-olds. Things change too quickly now. Nothing stays the same for long. Perhaps there should be a name for that feeling that the world you experienced as a child is being systematically removed or altered beyond recognition. Is the destruction that follows in your wake some kind of personal persecution by the universe? It feels like you are cursed and that everything you have ever touched is surely doomed. We are not all solipsists. Perhaps everyone feels this way nowadays.
I am just a victim of that disease of middle age called nostalgia. The reality is that I have always hoarded things away and have long since been the enemy of change. It worries me that my children might never understand or remember the prose, poetry, songs and nursery rhymes that entertained me. Why do they seem so important to me? Do these things define me as a man? Is it just that they are a symbol of my own mortality? The World has moved on and left me on a proverbial museum shelf. Once a year some diligent member of staff will carefully remove the curmudgeonly newspaper shroud, dust and inspect me for cracks, then return me to the shelf along with my contemporaries.
It is strange how the memory holds time in slices or snapshots. When you think of people you haven’t seen for 20 years or so, you can only imagine them as they were. If you were to see them again, you would expect them to look the same. On meeting again, the brain is somewhat shocked by the difference of the reality compared to the expectation. A new snapshot has to be created. This time, there are more lines on the face and a bigger paunch. They might be pushing a pushchair or surrounded by demanding toddlers. They are essentially the same person you remember except that their hopes and dreams are replaced by routines, bills and family. It is not all bad. The arrogance of youth may have subsided. Overall though, you are likely to be disappointed with the new person. They no longer have time to write poetry or play in the bands like they used to. They’d love to join you for a beer, like in the old days, but tomorrow night they are busy because the wife’s mother is visiting or little Oisten is appearing in a play or some such excuse. I am really starting to sound bitter now. The more career focussed will tell you they have to prepare some important paper for their law exam or whatever.
People sometimes describe songs, prose or poems as friends. If you compare them, the literary companion is, the less deceitful. I remember, back in the day, sitting around a table in our local inn and swearing childish oaths of eternal allegiance. Where are those so-called friends now? The books we read at the time, the songs we listened to are all still around. They sit quietly awaiting our attention as if in a personal library specific to each one of us. Youth’s ignorance once had me balk at the claims that an artist’s music might get you through a tough time. As life goes on and sees me wander deeper into realms of shadows and disquiet, I come to appreciate, even empathise, with these ideas.