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Silver Surfer Articles
22. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

We were on holiday recently and found ourselves in a Saturday morning market. I’ve given up buying books generally from such stalls because I’ve got too many already. Nevertheless I do still browse. There on this one stall I found an Eagle Annual that was in fact “The best of the 1950’s comic.” Original Eagle Annuals only turn up in antiquarian bookshops but this one did the stuff and stirred my memories.

Now ladies, I apologise because the Eagle was clearly a boys comic but it may be that you took the sister comic that came out a year later in 1951 called very simply ‘Girl’. I couldn’t tell you how long I took the Eagle because my memory isn’t that good, but it was some time, so suddenly pictures of Dan Dare, Harris Tweed, Jeff Arnold and Riders of the Range and loads of ‘exploded drawings’ showing the workings of the Underground or a Rail Depot or a Lambretta, transported me back to those days of childhood between, I suppose, when I was 6 to about 10 or so.
One of the pages about “The Eagle Club” struck me as staggeringly naive (if that’s the right word and I’m not sure that it is) when it declared:

      “Members of the EAGLE CLUB will:
a) Enjoy life and help other enjoy life. They will not enjoy themselves at the expense of others.
b) Make the best of themselves. They will develop themselves in body, mind and spirit. They will tackle things for themselves and not wait for other to do things for them.
c) Work with others for the good of all around them
d) Always lend a hand to those in need of help. They will not shirk difficult or dangerous jobs.”

To understand that moralistic approach which (sadly) seems so strange today, you had to read the first page of this “summary annual” where it told us that “its parents were undoubtedly Marcus Morris and Frank Hampson.... Reverend Marcus Morris to give him his clerical title of the time.”

Imagine someone setting up a new comic or magazine for young people today. If they wrote the above words, as good as the intentions are, they would be laughed out of court! Which, I believe, says more about today than it does about sixty years ago!

I do find looking back both educational and therapeutic. Is that a sign of old age? If it is I think it’s a good sign. You and me, if we’ve been around longer than say sixty years, have a lot of memories and a lot of experiences, and because we’ve lived through such a period of change, we actually have something to contribute to the world. I can’t remember if I’ve said it before in this column (another sign of increasing years) but one of my most favourite quotes is “The one thing history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing,” which is a shame really because wisdom suggests that we should learn from the past.

The trouble about past memories, I suspect, is that they are MY memories and what happened to me may not interest you.  I have a feeling that before someone finds your past interesting they have to generally be interested in history. Many people aren’t and so my reminiscences are of little interest to them. For some people, I’m sure, history is boring because it was at school and we’ve let that attitude remain with us, swamping out any other interests in the past. For others it may be the feeling that modern is meaningful and important and history is simply a record of times when it wasn’t as meaningful or important.

The other thing about past memories is that we may not have any. For some of us, we feel we have a really “bad memory”. I used to think that about myself but I’m not so sure that is true any longer. Memory is an odd thing. Memories get imprinted by vivid experiences which may have been things that were amazingly wonderful or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, were frighteningly terrible. I have sharp memories of things that brought great pleasure and things where I got it completely wrong and totally embarrassed myself. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have violent, horrible memories – I’m too young and was only born in the last year of the War, and neither have I suffered physical or sexual abuse. I know memory sometimes blanks out such things but many of us still struggle with painful memories which just won’t go away.

I’m going to overcome the temptation to make ‘wise’ suggestions how we get over such things because I’ve known of people who receive therapy or prayer or goodness knows what, but they still struggle with the past. Talking them out in the cold light of day, I’m told, helps and also for some the passing of time just dulls the memory. I suppose the ultimate antidote is to create new, fresh, pleasant and enjoyable memories today, but that isn’t always possible. For those of us who are alone in old age, the silence provides fertile ground for memories from the past to rise up again.

Let’s finish with something a bit lighter:

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”
“Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques: visualization, association, etc. It was great.”
“That’s great! And what was the name of the clinic?”
Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”
“You mean a rose?”
Yes, that’s it!” He turned to his wife, “Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?”


Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time - I think I've forgotten this before.


An eighty year old couple were having problems remembering things, so they decided to go to their doctor to make sure nothing was wrong with them. When they arrived at the doctor's office, they explained to the doctor about the problems they were having with their memory.
After checking the couple out, the doctor told them that they were physically okay but might want to start writing things down, making notes to help them remember things. The couple thanked the doctor and left.
Later that night while watching TV, the old man got up from his chair and his wife asked, "Where are you going?"
He replied, "To the kitchen."
She asked, "Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?"
Then his wife asked him, "Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?"
"No, I can remember that."
"Well, I also would like some strawberries on top. You had better write that down cause I know you'll forget that," his wife said.
"I can remember that, you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries."
She replied, "Well, I also would like whipped cream on top. I know you will forget that. You had better write it down."
With irritation in his voice, he said, "I don't need to write that down, I can remember that." He went into the kitchen.
After about 20 minutes, he returned from the kitchen and handed her a plate of bacon and eggs.
She stared at the plate for a moment and said, "You forgot my toast."

Enough said!