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Summer Nostalgia: does it make a good story?

Writing.ie | Member Blog

Chris Mills

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I recently experienced a burst of nostalgia for various past episodes of my childhood. It’s tricky to deal with this often pernicious emotion. Ideally as a writer, you attempt to pin it down and forcefully interrogate. Then you should arrive at the truth contained within those pleasantly hazy memories. That’s the theory but in practice that old devil called nostalgia wills you into believing that the sun always shone brightly. This of course is no use whatsoever from a writerly perspective as there is nothing as tedious as someone else’s warm and fuzzy nostalgic reveries. You know the ones I mean, where the sun always shone, the sea was lovely and warm and the strawberries actually tasted like strawberries. Just think of all those far off summer holidays, heading to the seaside for a week’s stay at the beginning of the school holidays. As I grew up in Britain, my summer holidays started in July, which was also when the industrial holidays started. My birthday fell round about the end of the school year so that was another reason for holiday spirits. We often went to Somerset, dad driving the six of us down there. Nostalgia for summer holidays tends to ignore the reality of squabbles in the back seat from the four of us packed tightly into the hot car. It must have been incredibly frustrating for my dad to be driving an argumentative bunch of kids all the way down to the coast. Now what would make the better story? All four of us poking each other and squabbling about who got to sit near the window or a pleasant account of the car journey (playing I-Spy) that nostalgically glossed over those very real events and petty arguments. As a child it simply didn’t occur to me that grown-ups might have wanted (and needed) a holiday too. It was all about us. In fact, it probably wasn’t much of a break for either parent as we stayed in self catering chalets or caravans so cooking and washing up were still required. Now, writing a warts and all holiday account would have to acknowledge that the reality probably wasn’t as idyllic as my nostalgic memories would like to have it. I’m sure that my parents enjoyed their holidays (I must ask them about sometime) but just bathing* the whole childhood holiday scene in a warm glow doesn’t give you a fully rounded picture. Having said all of that, the main antidote to nostalgia is to bring up some of those funny or embarrassing moments that always peppered family holidays. Now where shall I start on that one that one? My sister getting lost one year, leaving the suitcase at home on another, taking a gerbil on the trip one year….? *Pun intended

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