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Bonzer Words!: The Land Of Lost Content

Nostalgia can be manufactured as well as often being illusory, says Alan Wheatley. It conjures up a false and often sentimental Disneyland version of the past.

Alan is the editor of Bonzer! magazine. Do visit www.bonzer.org.au

Once upon a time there lived two bears . . .

Were there ever times when you lay in bed, not yet ready for sleep, while your mother held a book in her hands and read to you?

Those sweet memories are deceptive, I've discovered.

I don't actually recall any occasion when my mother (or father) read me stories. My memories of reading to a child in bed in fact relate to my own children, to whom I read and told stories right up until they started school and were able to read their own books.

This same phenomenon is true for nostalgia about one's homeland, too.

The English poet A E Housman wrote—

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

This is an extract from his poem The Shropshire Lad, and it's noteworthy that Housman wasn't a Shropshire lad at all. He came from Worcestershire.

So nostalgia can be manufactured as well as often being illusory. It conjures up a false and often sentimental, Disneyland version of the past. The yearning is not for 'those blue remembered hills' but for lost pleasures, real or imagined.

Whenever I catch myself becoming all dewy-eyed about a program on TV, a piece of music—or even this poem by Housman—that call up a vision of my homeland, I try to remind myself of that truism.

Do we choose only to recall what it is we want to remember? True memory is that which is non-selective and incorporates the bad as well as the good, the pain as well as the pleasure. Like taking your two little children to a child-minder when your wife is suffering from post-natal depression.

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