I once spoke to a man who had talked to a man who had a friend whod fought at the Battle of Waterloo. The friend of my friends friend was in his eighties when he told the story, but his memory of the events was as clear to him as if they had happened the day before. He had played his part in the defence of the little cottage at La Haye Sainte, the stench of gunpowder and blood thick in the air, the mixed languages of French, English, Dutch and German shouting and screaming all day long as the battle raged, and in the twilight he saw Boney flee the field with the broken remains of the Grand Armee rushing behind, trying to keep up, Imperial Eagles scattered in the mud. On Sunday 18th June 1815.
Time. When were young its a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It feels to expand endlessly, like the universe. Theres the painfully long journey from one half term break to another, and the paradise of the six weeks holiday that lasted forever. And then as we get older we start to really understand. You get points of reference. A favourite album that you queued up to buy thats suddenly ten years old. Suddenly twenty years old. And you still listen to it. A film that you remember going to see at the cinema is now, to your astonishment, a couple of decades old. The fact that your Grandfather would be clocking up his Century next year hits you like a ton of bricks. And then we realize that a hundred years is nothing. Two hundred scarcely more. Because I once spoke to a man who had talked to a man who had a friend whod fought at the Battle of Waterloo.
When I was growing up I lived in a Yorkshire neverneverland populated by Ray Mort and Brian Glover. A world where Selwyn Froggitt organized turns for the Scarsdale WMC and Foggy Dewhurst spent the endless days re-living the Burma campaign on the moors above Holmfirth. A Northern Arcadia where the football pitches were always muddy and the titles on the programmes always wobbled. A world with terrifying Battle Axes in wrinkled stockings and men who to make life down the mines or in the mills bearable had decided never to really grow up. A world that has vanished. Sometimes I see the washed out colours and the old cars on the episodes of The Last of the Summer Wine from the 1970s and early 80s and I physically ache for a past that went by without me even realizing.
And its the same when I listen to Britpop. The long hot summer of 1995 when all the reservoirs went dry; Jarvis Cocker on stage at Glastonbury telling us that we were halfway through the decade. A point in my life when we were closer to the 1980 that then seemed a lifetime ago than I was to where I am right now typing this when 1995 seems like five minutes ago and Im hoping they do another series of All Quiet on the Preston Front. Where did it go? That lost time is conjured up for me when I hear the guitar outro to Champagne Supernova and just for a moment I could be driving back over the Woodhead Pass that summer with the bleached heather, stopping off for a pint in the Dog & Partridge and things were never going to get any better than this. Before Im dragged back into the present, with my hands clawing desperately to the chorus of Live Forever.
We all have a period in our lives that defines who we are. A point that mentally we never leave. And so suddenly or, at least, it seems suddenly Sports Casuals and the Britpop twenty-somethings are the Teddy Boys of tomorrow. Or maybe even today.
We’re tied to the 90s. In the middle I’m terribly frightened. I’m taking it fast, taking it slow. There’s thunder and lightning. It’s terribly frightening. Lord knows where it goes