Nostalgia is the most wonderful emotion, isn’t it? Of course, we are never nostalgic for the bad stuff, only for happy memories, or what we convince ourselves were happy memories. Our noses pick up the smell of Johnson’s® Baby Shampoo or Cashmere Bouquet soap and we are instantly transported back to being a small child, bundled up in a soft, thick towel, chuckling as our Mum tickles us under the arms while drying us off after a lovely bubble bath complete with little boats and rubber duckies. That our mothers may never have used that particular shampoo or that particular soap is irrelevant; it is the scent of them which we associate with childhood, particularly a happy childhood, and so that is the memory our nostalgia button triggers in us. And isn’t it delightful? For some the past is a lovely place to visit; for others they have never left it.
Today I was driving home from the library when I saw in the next lane, and slightly ahead of me, a brown Volkswagen Beetle. This was not the sleek, beautifully engineered 21st century model. No, this was an old, old Beetle, and not one which offered up gleaming testimony to weekly buffing and polishing by somebody intent on presenting an old vehicle in pristine, showroom condition. This was nostalgia on wheels, and it was the accoutrements, the little extras, the accessorising of an old girl which were so incredibly captivating. Mounted on the roof of the vehicle was a roof-rack, one which looked itself to be pretty ancient. On the roof-rack was a child’s tricycle, a very old, quite rusty tricycle, complete with dodgy looking handlebars and perhaps a wheel which was not quite round. It was a real, honest-to-God kid’s tricycle such as is not seen in these times of plonking two-year-olds on mini-bikes with trainers and sending them off on the road; it was the sort of trike which I craved as a child and I almost cried with repressed envy. Nestling next to the trike was something perhaps even older – a Coca-Cola crate. It was wooden, with red paint slightly faded, as is so appropriate, and it fitted beautifully with the trike. Now, if that is not enough, what was on the back of the vehicle just had me laughing with delight. Growing out from the bonnet (remember, it’s a Beetle and so the bonnet is at the back and the boot is at the front) was a luggage rack, and strapped onto the rack were two small brown leather cases which looked as though they came straight off a movie set.
Yes, I saw the driver, and, yes, I noted the registration of the vehicle (a great personalised plate, I have to tell you), but those are private details which I won’t share here. What was so wonderful, what made me chuckle and beep my car horn, was that there are still people in the world who, without becoming feral tree-dwellers or balaclava-clad anti-globalisation protestors, reject the modern, the neat, the streamlined and proudly say, “Here, this is the stuff I like, and I like it because I like it, not because it’s trendy to like it.” This wasn’t a 27 year old waif in a Mad Men dress; this was a guy walking the walk, living his own personal nostalgia. It was marvellous.