Friday, 22 December 2017


Me on my family estate (he lied, shamelessly) around 1988 or '89

As we grow up and pass through the various, inevitable 'chapters' of our lives - like infancy, childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, etc., - we do so unselfcon-sciously, without realizing at the time that we're exiting one stage and entering another.  It's only when we look back, many years later, that we come to recognize that certain phases of our lives (depending on individual circumstances, naturally) each fall into their own separate and distinct 'compartments'.  (Or, at least, that's how it seems in retrospect.)

That's probably a bit vague and ambiguous, so let me attempt to clarify what I'm trying to convey.  One of my fondest childhood memories is sneaking downstairs with my brother in the wee, small hours of a Christmas morning to unwrap our presents, as our parents snored away in blissful ignorance of what we were up to.  Another is going out on Hallowe'en and chapping neighbourhood doors in the company of three or four others, and reciting a verse or three in exchange for monkey nuts, some apples and oranges.

Sliding down slippery slopes on sledges my father had built was another boyhood joy, with the spray from the snow splattering my face with its exhilarating tingle as I raced recklessly downhill with seemingly suicidal intent.  I christened my sledge 'Fireball XL5' and still had it right up 'til my early twenties, when it mysteriously disappeared ere I had a chance to protest.  My father probably used the wood for something, or it was thrown away in the early '80s when I wasn't looking.

A very poor, out-of-focus photo of me from around 1977/'78.  That's
my sledge leaning against our dog Tara's kennel on my left

It occurs to me that one of the worst cruelties parents can inflict on their children is to decide, in their absence and without consultation, to dispose of their childhood treasures on the grounds that they're 'too old' for them and don't need them anymore.  (Many a lifelong obsession has resulted from such thoughtless parental behaviour, I'm sure.)

If you're an adult who yet lives in your childhood home, perhaps happy halcyon days don't seem so very far away, and, if so, you're in an extremely enviable position.  I first moved into my present address aged around 13-and-a-half when the immediate past seemed far closer than it does now.  However, these days, I often find it a source of great disappointment that fondly-recalled moments associated with child-hood belong to previous houses rather than my current abode.

It never seemed to matter much before, but as I get older, my past appears even further removed from me, and it galls me that I never got to sneak downstairs at Christmas in this house, or went sledging down the hill in the nearby park in winter, or guising 'round the neighbours' houses at Hallowe'en.  These things all happened elsewhere.

The house with the dark front door is the one I lived in when
my sledge was built.  Photo taken around 2009 or 2010

Last year, at Christmas, I revisited the area I used to live in from about one-and-a-half years old until I was six, going on seven.  It's only about 25 minutes away on foot, which might not sound like any kind of a journey, but the 'reality' of travelling 46 years into the past is an immense distance in anyone's book.  It was between seven or eight o'clock at night and some local teenagers (about 17 years old, I'd guess) were sledging down the very hill that I had done all those years before. I was with a friend, so not having to worry about being mistaken for some lone, sinister stranger, I hailed them and asked if I could have a shot on one of their sleds.

I explained my connection to the area and they were entirely agreeable, no doubt hoping to witness this old duffer come a cropper on the slopes.  It was one of those modern plastic sleds, red in colour (my favourite), so the blood wouldn't show if I happened to injure myself.  What an experience!  It was great to relive a moment in the same place as nearly 50 years previously, and I'm glad I did so before the local council decide to sell the land for houses or whatever.

But I digress.  As my very existence ticks faster and faster away, what once seemed like one cohesive 'whole' now seems fragmented and scattered to the far corners.  I refer to the various aspects that make up my life of course.  Sometimes, I look at my comics and toys from childhood and am suddenly beset by a feeling that they belong elsewhere, and seem curiously out of place.  One item recalls one house to memory, another summons forth recollections of a different one.  Mostly, such mementos afford me a great deal of comfort and pleasure, but, occasionally, can also cast a pall of sorrow over my ruminations.

A similar occasion to the one described, but in a different place around
20-odd years earlier, in 1989 or '90.  (Same colour of sled though)

As I've no doubt ruefully reflected before in my melancholy musings, it sometimes seems like the 'spirit of youth', which once beat so strongly within me, slipped off somewhere to die when I wasn't looking, leaving me tired and empty, a mere husk of my former self.  All that remains is a dim and distant echo that yet reverberates in the vast caverns of memory, but even echoes eventually die.  The ghost of my childhood now resides in former homes, having fled this current one.  It deigns to visit me on occasion however, so I must be thankful for small mercies.

Usually, surrounding oneself with familiar objects from the past helps perpetuate the notion that it's not so very far away after all;  that, in fact, there is no past, present or future - only one big 'now'.  However, the mind is a fickle mistress, and sometimes delights in torturing us with a 'reality' far different to the one we'd prefer.  On that mournful note, I'd be interested in reading the opinions and perceptions of my fellow Criv-ites.  Is the past, to you, not only a foreign country, but also a forgotten one?  Or, like me, do you constantly endeavour to keep it in view, reluctant, like MOLE in Kenneth Grahame's The WIND In The WILLOWS, to completely abandon the old life for the new?

Well, I'm not sure whether any of the above screed is as clear as I'd have liked, but, if you can understand what I was trying to say, feel free to analyze, soliloquize, theorize, rationalize - or even agonize - about it in the comments section.

My faithful dog, Zara, three-quarters of the way down the actual hill
I sledged on as a child - and once as an adult.  Taken around 1996

Click on photos to enlarge.  In the case of photo #3, clicking again will  enlarge even further.  (In case you want to look through the windows.)


Anonymous said...

I buy SFX magazine every month and a few years ago one of the regular team on the mag came out with an interesting quote: "I like taking day-trips to the past but I don't want to live there". That chimed with me because I feel like I take day-trips to the past by reading this and other blogs, or looking at a cover gallery or watching an episode of the Clangers on YouTube (or the 1974 Likely Lads Xmas special which I watched last night). But I don't want to dwell on the past, I don't want to be surrounded by stuff from a childhood that is long gone. But that's just my personal opinion, not a criticism of anyone else!

However, I do feel a much stronger sense of nostalgia at Christmastime. I think I'm trying to somehow re-capture that childhood magic of Christmas. So, for example, I buy Babycham and beer just because we had Babycham and beer at Christmas when I was a kid :)

And tonight I'll be watching the 1973 Steptoe & Son Xmas special - the one where Harold organizes a party and Albert gets chicken pox. Hooray for YouTube!

Kid said...

Gasp! You actually BUY a magazine?! I thought it was all digital with you, CJ? Thing is, with me, I've always lived in the past, from when I was around 5 years old, so it must be congenital with me, I think. What you're like with the beer and Babycham at Christmas, that's what I'm like every day - not with beer and babycham obviously, but with other things.

I've got the Likely Lads DVD boxed set, so I'll probably watch the Christmas Special again as well - unless it's repeated on TV, in which case I'll watch it 'live'.

And remember - as Bob Ferris said in the LL movie - "In the chocolate box of life, the top layer's already gone - and someone's pinched the orange cream from the bottom."

Anonymous said...

And I still buy hardback books, Kid, including several in the last couple of months. Last month I bought a new hardback version of Agatha Christie's "Murder On The Orient Express" (released to cash in on the new film version no doubt). I'm not a fan of crime fiction but I do like that one. The cover looks quite festive with a falling-snow design.

That Likely Lads quote is one of the best comedy lines ever - and so poignant too.

Kid said...

The whole movie is enjoyable from start to finish, CJ, though, curiously, when Rodney Bewes died, it was reported as not being well-received. However, I remember Barry Norman reviewing it at the time and saying it was the best movie based on a TV show that he'd seen.

Philip Crawley said...

My ties to the past seem to link up with the books, comics and items that I bought back then rather than the house that I lived in when I first acquired them. I left the family home between the ages of 21 nad 22 and only returned a handful of times after that. A visit about a year ago, where I just looked out at it from the car window (it has long since passed out of the family ownership and I did not feel like asking the present owners for a 'tour')brought about the sensation that it had been the scene of someone else's childhood and not mine. Don't know if that was because I had changed so much or the house, possibly a bit of both. But when I take down a book off the shelf or unbag a comic from that time (as I did with Silver Surfer 5 the other day) I tend to recall the when and where of its purchase. Just having experienced a birthday recently that added a zero to the end of my age I have been thinking about the past a bit more, while also trying to remind myself to soak up as much of the present as I can while I can!

Kid said...

That's interesting, Phil, because I associate the books, comics and items with whichever house I lived in at the time - and vice versa. As I've said before, sometimes when I finish re-reading an old comic and look up from its pages, I'm momentarily surprised (and disappointed) not to find myself in the room of the house in which I first read it, because that's how strong the association is. Strange, eh? Incidentally, have a great Christmas and an even better 2018. Oh, and Happy Birthday. 60, is it?

Philip Crawley said...

Yep, 60 it is. I can't be 60, I was only 40 a minute ago - there must be some sort of clerical error! I don't feel 60, whatever that is supposed to feel like, guess it depends on how you look after yourself or what hand you were dealt in the genetic lottery in regard to your health. I don't even feel like an 'adult', though I have a wife, offspring, a house and a job, all things that adults are supposed to have, but I also like comics, action figures and follow a range of pop culture interests that are considered the domain of kids. I'll keep leading this double life for as long as I can; you are only here once so why live your life by somebody else's rules? Like what you like as long as nobody gets hurt.

Kid said...

That's how I feel sometimes. Surely it was only last week I was half the age I am now? Physically though, I do feel old, because I can't do the things I used to be able to do, but in my mind I'm still a kid - or a teenager at the most. Thing is, I often find myself wondering who that stranger is staring back at me from the mirror - the one who bears a resemblance to me, but is much older than the way I see myself in my mind's eye.

Dave S said...

It's something I've pondered, whether time spent indulging nostalgia is time wasted by not enjoying the present. I love re-reading old books, comics and watching old TV programmes that I enjoyed once, but also like to discover new stuff too.

To be honest, I think that time spent enjoying yourself and relaxing is time well-spent, whether that involves enjoying a look back to the past, or enjoying today.

Kid said...

I've wondered the exact same thing myself, DS, and pretty much come to the same conclusion as yourself.

-3- said...

A favorite John Lennon quote runs along the lines of "Time you enjoyed wasting wasn't time wasted." A lot of truth in that.

I started feeling old around 12, and it's only grown more profound in the decades since. I had a point to that when i started this paragraph, but my feeble old brain couldn't hold on to it and now i'm at a loss as to where this sentence is meandering off to while the fingers just keep typing and typing an

We discussed my disconnect from the past enough to know how your musings intersect with my own in recent times. But one line in particular caught my eye:
"Many a lifelong obsession has resulted from such thoughtless parental behaviour, I'm sure."

You're not wrong there, Kid. When we were moving back stateside from the Philippines, my father threw out my comic books. We can see how that worked out.

Kid said...

That's a good saying - I like that, and have now filed it away in my mind for future use. As for your brain wandering off mid-sentence while you type, I do that all the time. That's why some of my posts don't always seem to have a cohesive point to them - I forgot where I was going with a line of thought. I even do it when I'm speaking. As for obsessions, I remember reading an article about a bloke who ran a teddy bear hospital. (Where people can have their bears repaired.) When asked what had made him start this enterprise (he was also a collector of bears by the way), he said it all originated from his mother throwing out his teddy when he was a boy. A similar thing happened to me, too. One day, when I was about four maybe, I went looking for my two teddies which I'd last seen on top of my parents' wardrobe, but they weren't there. When I asked my mother about them, she said "You're too old for them, I gave them away." She may actually have said "I threw them out", but I don't like to consider that option. Anyway, many years later, I started buying the occasional teddy, simply because I felt I'd been prematurely parted from my originals - like one 'from his mother's womb, untimely ripped'. Strange, eh?

-3- said...

I think the strangest bit is that folks seem to keep doing it, generation after generation, merely changing the focus.
At least i managed to avoid those same mistakes with my boys. I found whole new ways to screw up with them.

Kid said...

Good. At least you were original.

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