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Stray thoughts: Remembering times past

  • 20 September 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  nostalgianounA sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past. 

Admitting to feeling nostalgic is sometimes fraught. It can open one up to ridicule and accusations of ‘living in the past’, ‘wearing rose-tinted glasses’, or not appreciating the past you’re remembering so fondly was for others a time of pain, oppression, or both.

However, the past came calling so loudly this week, and in such an unexpected way, that I’m advocating a little nostalgia as no bad thing. It gives you a chance to revisit decisions, forgive (your and others’) past mistakes, make amends where needed (if possible), and reach out to those you may have lost along the way.

As with many people, the death of Queen Elizabeth II this week had already caused me to reflect on the past. I never met Her Majesty or any of the royal family (though I did spend one afternoon in close physical proximity to Charles and Diana), and this is not some weird monarchist fan fiction where I write about dropping into Windsor Castle for tea and marmalade sandwiches. Rather, it’s the fact that I’ve never known any other British monarch and Her Majesty’s death was akin to waking one morning and learning the Great Pyramid or Vatican City were no longer there. 

The existence, or not, of these things has no tangible effect on my life – I’m neither richer nor poorer, happier nor sadder – but with them gone I would be conscious of loss. Where there was something, now there’s nothing but memory.

Already in a reflective mood, out of the blue on Sunday I was sent a photograph that is nearly 40 years old. It was a picture of a group of travellers – mainly Australian and New Zealanders – at a hotel in Delhi. 

Why did this photograph trigger a wave of nostalgia? Well yes, there I was kneeling in the front row, looking happy and relaxed. I was never into photography, and it was long before iPhones and selfies, so consequently I have few pictures from the trip. The photo then was a precious gift, even more so because it was so unexpected.

Did this bout of nostalgia about an overland bus trip from Kathmandu to London make me want to return to ‘live in the past’? No. That sort of travelling is not real