I honestly thought she had already passed on, so I couldn’t even imagine why she was trending on Twitter. Then I read about it, it turned out that the actress, Jean Alexander, had just died, aged 90. Another one for the 2016 club. (Kirk Douglas still clinging on? Right?)
Now, this made me feel weird. Not exactly sad, but just missing something. A certain kind of British culture that we can only be nostalgic about. Irreplaceable, vintage tea cups being smashed and replaced by something rather less precious. Cultural icons we’ve forgotten how to make. It’s something I know I can no longer really find out there, not still living and breathing. Not in a million Google searches. Not even if I flew back home and searched under every rock in the South East of England. It’s gone. Time has happened and performed it’s turdy magic. All we have left are relics that we have the option to ‘reboot’ (ruin), or make one of those ‘based on true events’ bio movies about. Tedious. We can miss her all we want, but the big, old media machine isn’t going to be making another Hilda Ogden ever again.
Now that’s a homesickness horse of an entirely different colour.
It’s not just the celebrities passing away, it’s just we are only just realising that we have nothing to replace them. Popular culture is now being produced with the emphasis on low risk investment and maximum profit. This doesn’t tend to produce magic, just large events that are almost instantly forgettable. The hype itself becomes part of the experience. The actual movie/book/show, almost insignificant in comparison to the excitement derived from sharing in the media mass hysteria. Being outraged, addicted and distracted is the ultimate goal, outweighing story, character and charm.
So, I’m homesick for the past. This is nothing new. Old people have been complaining about things changing for the worse for untold millennia, I imagine. The main difference for me, is that I live on the opposite side of the planet, and my perception of cultural change is further skewed by this.
There comes a time when you’ve been away from your home so long, you know that the things you are missing have probably changed. People have changed. Wagon Wheels will definitely be smaller and Mars Bars will taste all wrong. Time and distance combined tend to make your brain remember things weirdly too, and it’s very easy to bowdlerise you own memories to suit yourself. To invent a mythical past: a golden era to miss and mourn.
I watched four hours of old British TV ads a few weekends ago. Look them up on Youtube. FOUR HOURS. Adverts from the seventies, when every male voice-over man was older, sophisticated; with tones of golden dripping honey. Nothing edgy, nothing ‘try hard’. We just wanted to be clean, tidy and safe back then, and we all thought the future would be something better. Brighter and happier. It was nice to lose myself in that innocence.
It’s never coming back is it?