How Things Change
34 might seem like a young age to start looking back over life, but with the pace of change in today's world it's easy for someone even at a relatively early part of life to sense that the world they grew up in has gone.
It's the trope of the ages that everything gets faster, louder and less-mannered than you remember things being when you were a child. I suspect that's more a matter of personal perspective than anything else, but it is true that much of the social infrastructure you remember has been lost by the time you hit 30.
Take, for example, bonfire night. I grew up with this being pretty much the cultural highlight of the year. For weeks beforehand, you would collect your wood, try to persuade your parents to buy bigger fireworks and construct the biggest bonfire you possibly could.
Today, within the space of a generation, Hallowe'en has almost totally supplanted this tradition. The days when everyone would gather around fires in their back garden to remember the bloody events of 4 centuries past seem to have been relegated to a memory over the course of a few short years.
If you have happy memories of events like these, their loss can feel like a personal insult. It's a reminder that the rest of the world doesn't care - or even know - what your cherished memories are. They're too busy making their own memories.
Another example: I remember how Saturdays were devoted to my grandparents. Of course, they're dead now, which leaves a poignant tang in the mouth of itself, but the kinds of things we did together are the stuff of history. A happy train ride to Cleethorpes. A few frames of snooker at the working men's club. A game of bingo with gran. Today, the snooker tables have been replaced with pool table. The bingo hall is long gone - players having migrated to online bingo and the like.
If you spend all your time dwelling on things that have passed and can never be regained, you will fall into bitterness and sorrow. The winters will seem colder, the summers less sunny.
Nostalgia in itself plays a valuable role in reminding us of who we are and how we got here. We can look fondly back on times in our lives when great things were happening, and keep the memory of lost loved ones alive. But we should never live in the past. The world might be changing, and those changes might not always be for the best, but every day brings new opportunities and the chance to experience new things.
The toys of yesterday might be associated with indescribably happy times. But today's toys can bring equal happiness if we get over our grudging distrust of them and experience them with fresh eyes and an open mind.
Often, revisiting things can actually show them in a new light. The Kids TV we watched with open-mouthed awe at the time now seems stilted, awkward and slow. When you start to realise this, you can shake off the parts of you that cling to the past. You yourself were more naive and easily-gulled as a child. That's nothing to regret - it's just part of life.
Loved ones lost
The Beatles (of course) had words for it: "People and friends that went before, some are dead and some are living. In my life, I've loved them all". People do come and go from our lives. We move. They move. We change jobs, houses, streets.We fall out. People die.
All of this can be cause for regret, if we remember happy things we will never share again or things we wish we'd never said. But the important thing is to remember the happy times first and foremost, but also to imagine the friendships yet to come.
We can mourn the loss of our grandparents or parents, but we should take heart that one day we will be parents or grandparents ourselves, our uncles or aunts. We will have new friends, more friends, better times ahead.
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