It is so easy to indulge in bouts of nostalgia – remembrances of all things past. It is also easy to view the past through rose tinted spectacles! The summers always seem to have been long and hot. Children were allowed to roam around carefree and without adult supervision. Families sat down to meals together and actually had conversation and debate. In the evenings, instead of television, there would be games, even singing around the piano. The old films were full of charm and romance, without the violence and brutality of today’s offerings. There was far less choice of programmes on the television and so it became more selective and not constantly on. Christmas was a time that started in December and not in August. Presents were small, but treasured. Time was spent in singing carols and making mince-pies, the emphasis was on giving and not on demanding. There were no mobiles and their endless usage throughout the day and during mealtimes. You could sit in a theatre and watch a play without the distraction of the light from texting going on in front of you. And so on and so forth.
Was it really so much better in days gone by? There are obvious advantages to today’s life. Without mobiles I never knew where my children were, nor could they get hold of me in a crisis. There was no instant access to all things, no google, no internet, no emails and so on. Today you can organise a holiday, book the travel and hotel, all within minutes. Today you can find out what is going on in the world every moment of the day. There is instant information at the touch of a button. You can read books on a tablet. You can have your food delivery ordered in an instant. Perhaps best of all is the progress in medicine – and although the medical profession is still defeated by some diseases, these get less every year as the research goes on. Life should be a great deal easier, but is it? And is it more enjoyable? Is there a better quality to our lives now than there was 50 years ago? Was there less stress than now?
And there are some things that never change. Wars still go on all over the world. The suffering of millions of people is still there. I was reminded of this when I did a production of KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING at the Lichfield Garrick last week. This told, in words and music, the grim realities of WW1. It was not a good time to be young and yet a few years earlier there had been the Edwardian era which gave great cause for nostalgia. However, for many of the poor and working classes, life at the beginning of the last century was full of hardship and suffering. No nostalgia for them.
Perhaps the danger of nostalgia is that we lose a sense of realism. Only the happy areas are remembered, the bad forgotten. It is easy to have a selective memory. Probably in the end the advantages and disadvantages come out about even.