Is it dangerous to look back? Well, if you are Lot’s wife I guess the answer to that is clear unless you want a change of career to condiment. It did not do Persephone much good either come to think of it. In fact I cannot think of any reference where looking back is generally considered a good idea. When the monster is behind you the best thing is usually to run very fast. Or as in the joke with the bears, at least run faster than your fellow potential victims.
We are lucky enough to be able to eat out at nice places every so often and have developed favourites over the years that have developed not only a picture of reliability in our heads but also a level of nostalgia. You know the sort of thing perhaps. That place where you had your first proper date (or at least the one that went well, draw a veil over the others perhaps). Maybe it was just a place where you used to meet friends and the echoes of their laughter still permeate the place in your ears when you go in. The reasons why somewhere might have a particularly special meaning are endless. In some cases it is just time. One of my favourite places in London is a tiny wine bar off Charing Cross road, that has been run by the same guys for as long as I have been going – over 20 years – and is a little bit of France all on its own – warm, convivial and pretty much unchanging through that period. That atmosphere is such that you feel you should be ordering in French. It just seems the right thing to do, somehow.
But the problem is that you do not control what happens with these places. Like the village that I grew up with, generally they will change, adapt and sometimes disappear. The tapas bar the Lovely Wife and I spent far too much time in while we were courting closed pretty much the weekend we got engaged (I like to think that it did its job by that point and was no longer needed but would have been the venue for an engagement party which subsequently never happened). Sometimes it is less dramatic but can still be disturbing. The two nice places to eat we have been to recently were perfectly fine; but not as good as they had been in previous years. That is my problem. Once you have reached a particular standard then when it comes under it, even slightly, it is difficult not to feel a bit of disappointment.
Obviously there is a matter of degree here, but I do feel it is good advice not to try and revisit things that first time around turned out to be so special they stay strongly in your mind. Our first anniversary, for example, was a blinder. I had booked part of the the Eisenhower suite on the top floor of Culzean Castle on the South West coast of Scotland. Culzean is a National Trust for Scotland property (http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park/ ), the Robert Adam designed castle literally perched on the cliffs and set in magnificent gardens. The top floor was converted into a serious of rooms for Eisenhower as a thank you for war efforts and you can hire them for dinner and overnight stay. Usually that means just you and maybe two or three other couples in a magnificent setting including a grand circular drawing room overlooking the see.
We arrived in glorious sunshine to find a host of firemen (they had just had a false alarm) milling around in the sun. The Lovely Wife did ask whether I had arranged them especially. The truth of that will remain a secret. Anyway, we had the gardens to ourselves in the fading sun as all the visitors had gone, and found out tour delight that we were the only couple staying so literally had the place to ourselves. I can still picture being in the drawing room watch the sun go down finally across the waves; magical.
But much as it was such a special event, that it would be great to relive… We are never doing it again, because everything worked so well that I just cannot see another go at it being anything other than a disappointment, however slight, and the worst thing is it could damage the memory of the first time. Sometimes nostalgia is best kept at arm’s length in your memory and it is better to create new best times then try and recreates best times from you past.