I had to smile this morning when Facebook threw a video at me on my newsfeed of my nephew and niece banging away at toy drums and keyboards respectively some seven years ago when they were both tiny poppets. I forgot how much it made me laugh at the time and for once I was not annoyed to be reminded of something that lies in the past – generally I would rather look forward, given the choice.
Looking back can be dangerous I feel. Revisiting past glories, going back to places you have loved in the past or have important connections for you can be a powerful drug but also risks damaging the memory that made it so special in the first place. The Lovely Wife and I have agreed that we will never try and replicate what we did for our first wedding anniversary, where we stayed in the Eisenhower suite at Culzean castle on the Ayrshire coast, as it turned out having the top floor of a Robert Adam designed castle (clinging majestically to the cliff edge and looking out to sea) all to ourselves. Everything – the weather, the lack of any other guests and the firemen who were in attendance when we arrived (do not tell the Lovely Wife but I did not actually arrange them, but I’m claiming their presence as an additional bonus). Put bluntly, trying to recreate it would not work. In this case the memory is the thing. I think that the nature of memory is that positive elements just continue to improve and mature like a good bottle of port, well kept.
There can be sadness in happy memories too, however.
One of our other fondest memories was of our honeymoon in New Zealand. This has been on my thoughts a lot this week due to the earthquakes there, as it was in the previous bout of disturbances that devastated Christchurch a few years ago. New Zealand is the only place outside the UK where I honestly felt I could make a home, and the people and places were so nice to experience that my heart goes out to them in the wake of such trouble.
Now, here is where it gets a bit selfish. The world is hit by a constant series of disasters – it seems very much the way of things – and many of them are worse than what is currently afflicting New Zealand. They all need support and aid from the world community (oh how much I wish such a thing existed in truth) and Haiti – as an example – is more desperately in need. But in your own thoughts, no matter how much you might rationally weigh such things, damage to your own memories and experiences seems to cut deeper.
The tsunami that hit the Indian ocean on Boxing Day 2004 (was it really that long ago?) swept away the hotel we stayed in on the Sri Lanka coast and it was hard not to think of the staff there, or the young Buddhist monk we met at the tiny temple just inland of it – which almost certainly was destroyed as well. Or the local people who worked at the turtle hatchery further up the coast. I do not know if they were spared, but certainly they would have known people killed and the place we enjoyed a lovely and fascinating holiday in no longer exists outside of our memory.
The same for many of the places we visited on New Zealand’s South Island, especially in Christchurch. The very first place we visited when we arrived, terribly jet lagged but determined to make the most of every moment was the time ball station at Lyttleton, a lovely and interesting building. The station was reduced to rubble in 2011, beyond repair. More important buildings have been lost to the world and one could argue that there are a also lot more important things in the world – people, notably – than a Victorian aid to shipping. But for me there is always a sadness that something part of a time so personally special does not exist anymore, and whether I wanted to or not, there is no going back.