Look forward – nostalgia’s really not what it used to be

PUBLISHED: 13:47 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:25 29 August 2018

Life in the good old days - was it really better then than it is now?

Life in the good old days - was it really better then than it is now?

This content is subject to copyright.

It’s all very British to look back and wallow in nostalgia, but should we all take the advice of Slade and look more to the future - as it’s only just begun?

Let’s talk about the good old days, was it all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line, if we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?

Memories, are troublesome things aren’t they? This week I was in conversation with a long standing colleague about how journalism – a trade I have enjoyed for many years – has changed.

When I was a young journalist, right at the start of my career, print was still king.

We worried about how stories looked in the newspaper itself, we concerned ourselves with getting the right words, crafted, with the right pictures. We still do to a point, but it is fair to say that journalism and how we consume news has markedly changed with the internet dominating the way we work.

This is progress. And I remember well one editor telling me that the gathering of news will be internet focused by the time I hung up my notepad. Even at the time I knew he was right, and he was. The world has changed, there are youngsters around who know no different and who have grown up in the internet age. They can’t imagine a life without mobile phones and easily accessible news at the move of a finger.

When the Titanic went 
down it was newspapers alone that told the story. People had to go out and buy their news. It wasn’t everywhere, there wasn’t total news saturation in the way there is now.

These days, when something happens, it is the newspapers, the internet, the so-called social media – in its myriad of forms, the television, the radio, that tell us what we know. There are many ways to access world events.

And we now ask ourselves what will work on the web? Will we get hits? Will this go well with the web audience?

I love journalism and I 
don’t mind this change – the essence of what we do isn’t unrecognisable, it’s just the how that has altered - though I cannot help saying I still like a physical newspaper to read, but even if I did mind I have no choice but to change with it.

The interesting thing is that at 42, I have already had a conversation about the good old days with someone who understands.

Although I thought it would never happen to me, I am, I admit, sometimes nostalgic about my younger days and how things 
used to be.

This is fine but nostalgia, I think, has its dangers.

The main danger is the use of rose-tinted spectacles.

As we age we forget the privations and the difficult things we dealt with and tend to recall the best of times. This is great and how it should be, but when it comes to looking back I wonder if we tend to see things through an inaccurate lens.

There is no doubt in my mind that though many who voted to leave the EU did so with an eye to the future of Britain, yet some, I’m sure, voted for a UK of their youth, for a return to a time they regret and miss.

But I’m not convinced that hankering after the past whether it be for a more polite time, a world where we had more time and less anxiety, or whatever 
you care to think of, is always a good thing.

Nostalgia was once considered a mental illness, but we viewed things differently then. And is nostalgia something that is peculiarly British?

I cannot help thinking, by the way we deal with our history, the way we are struggling to define ourselves, the way we list our buildings, the way films and the arts are regurgitated, the way we often oppose and put off great engineering works, the way we like to “preserve” things, the way we sometimes assume new equals bad....that Britain suffers, a bit at least, from a bad case of nostalgia.

I’m not saying that history isn’t important – in fact I’d argue that a better knowledge of British history might help us understand ourselves a great deal more – but I wonder that we shouldn’t be a bit more excited about the future too and look over the horizon rather than over our shoulders.

When were your good old days? Do we look back too much? Are you nostalgic about something? Write to James at

Dear James,

Your article last Wednesday 
was very interesting. I remember them all.

Montgomery Clift. That brings back memories of life at sea (as a single person.)

The Hitchcock film ‘I Confess’ was being shot in and around Quebec City.

On a day in mid 1952 I was there and noticed a crowd of people – so I went to see what it was all about.

It was outside the Courts of Justice as the criminal was running out pleading for his wife not to leave him. I did not see Hitchcock but every time that film was shown I would always make sure that I watched it.

When the film was released in 1953 some critics did not like 
it because the name of the murderer was already known – so why watch it?

Peter Falk, as Columbo, made quite a name for himself with the same approach.


Great Oakley

Dear James,

As my mother suggested 
no one would marry me as 
I was very trying and most of my school reports said this as well, I feel that perhaps, “She tried” would be appropriate if I had a headstone.

My mother died when I was 29 so sadly missed my second very happy marriage when I was 39.

Kind regards,


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press