The Past is a Foreign Country

My action-packed half-term holiday has included not one, but two visits to the rather splendid Weston Park Museum.

I’ve been writing some materials for a school trip to the museum, hence the double visit. Yesterday, whilst I wandered around the mostly science-y bit (note use of highly technical vocabulary), checking things and bemoaning the fact that the magnificently bizarre ‘Push the Poo’ exhibit (I kid you not) appeared to be broken, Mr TLC wandered off in another direction entirely.

He reappeared later and insisted that I accompany him for a trip down Ye Olde Memorie Lane. He had found an exhibition of clothing and toys from the 50s, 60s and 70s. You know the kind of thing, cases full of forgotten items that make you say “Ooh I had one of those!”

In amongst the inevitable hit of nostalgia was a sense of strangeness. It started with the shoes. Just a pair of ordinary yet familiar 1970s shoes, a pair of shoes that triggered the first “I used to have…” remark of the afternoon. I recognised the style, I remembered wearing my own pair. Yet they seemed so very unfamiliar.

It wasn’t just the passage of time, it was the realisation that everything about these shoes placed them in a bygone era: the style (obviously), the materials, the colours and something else, something less tangible. There was something about them that meant they didn’t have that mass-produced sameness that we take so much for granted nowadays, to the extent that it seems odd to look at something that doesn’t have it.

There were other things: the ‘best’ tweed shorts suit for a small boy. Did Mr TLC have one? You bet. Him and every other small boy in the 50s and 60s. Can you imagine a small boy in a tweed suit now? I can’t.

The toy pram that looked as if it had wandered out of the Victorian era, except it didn’t, because I had one of those too. The wooden toys had us both reminiscing.

The thing is, I’m only 41, I’m not old. Yet looking back at my own childhood is like looking at another world. I know the world has changed (and that’s fine, so it should), but sometimes when I look back and realise how much things have moved on, it seems almost incomprehensible. It’s a bit like looking down from a great height, sometimes it takes my breath away just a little.

We enjoyed our hit of nostalgia, before we headed back home to the 21st century.

I wonder how I’ll feel looking back in another 10, 20, 30 years time. You know what they say: time will tell.

2 comments to The Past is a Foreign Country

  • Yes.

    Mr BW’s grandmother is 96. I often think of how things have changed in *her* lifetime. Probably more than any other generationt here will ever be, I suspect.

    And then I look at Mi1dred, nearly 76, and remember that she was 2 when my Dad was born. Hard to reconcile.

  • I’m 47 (though I don’t often admit to it) and I can totally relate to this feeling. I guess it happens to us all, only when we’re younger we don’t have the experience to understand how much the times will change.

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