Notes on Nostalgia

April 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Funny how synchronicity works.

Last week I was trying to explain the concept of nostalgia to a non-English speaker. It wasn’t so much the idea of a fondness for things past, but the idealized notion of that fondness that caused the difficulty. In the end, it was clear, but it’s a strange feeling from which we all suffer from time to time. (Strangely though, a week before that conversation, I was involved in a discussion of progress, which seemed to prefigure that later discussion.)   

Capitalism of course has made progress its watchword. There’s a memorable passage in the Communist Manifesto where Marx talks about how capitalism has at its heart constant motion. It always reminded me of the sorcerer’s apprentice: Not only is the motion constant, it’s out of control.

So while we enjoy our creature comforts (anyone want to go back to washing clothes by hand?), we often idealize the past, looking back to a “simpler” time.  

I was born in Windsor in England, but later grew up in a town called Wantage about 30 minutes from Oxford. To get a sense of that, you might try  watching Midsomer Murders which features an extraordinarily high body count in just such a small county, (and by co-incidence there’s , a recent Spiked  article on that).

I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to that small town existence again either in England or here in Canada, but I can definitely feel a certain, well, nostalgia for it. On the other hand, when I was watching Ricky Gervasis’ Cemetary Junction the other night, I felt a rising terror about the social attitudes, sexism, homophobia and racism that absolutely pervaded the England of my youth. ( At the beginning of the film, one character berates his fiend for listening to classical music: “Don’t listen to music by poofs. Put on some Elton John.”)

By way of conclusion, the last item in this odd little commentary involves the December issue of Uncut magazine which featured a CD of songs inspired by Ray Davies of the Kinks. Fittingly, the album begins with a fine cover of “The Village Green Preservation of Society” by Amy Rushby, but continues with a very nice collection of songs by artists like Squeeze, Richard Thompson, Kevin Ayers, Roy Harper and many more which all contains a sort of Englishness.

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green.



  1. ballnoir said,

    Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz was based on the story of your hometown? lol
    “goddam good!!!- for the greater good “

    • fischerzed said,

      Well, not quite, but it did seem familiar. I was born in Windsor which was not the small country town, but later moved to a town outside Oxford which had a bit more in common this those I mentoined in the post. Not quite as reactionary as I might pretend, but certainly some of those odd tendencies. Not quite like Twin Peeks but strange in its own way. (I did love Hot Fuzz though Shaun of the Dead was better)

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