For Old Times’ Sake


I know, I know. I’ve been lying low again. There’s no excuse. Actually, there’s a lot going on and quite a lot to write about, but none of it I actually feel at liberty to write about (I do consider myself a very honest blogger, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt to play your cards chose to your chest). Anyway, I did write the following piece a week or two back, but it’s in a similar vein to other pieces of mine, so I thought I’d sit on it until you’d forgotten those past pieces (I’m really selling this today, aren’t I?). The trouble is this; my interests that I’m feel free to discuss are simple and few – cats, period drama, and…no, that’s it. So you see with a selectively secretive – yet unvaried – life such as it is, I’ve been all about escapism. As per uzsh. And how does somebody like me find their escapism? Well, I’ll tell you (you already know, but I’ll tell you anyway)…

If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll be aware I have been reading a lo-ho-ho-ho-ot of historical fiction lately – to the point where it’s a bit embarrassing, really. My husband often catches me with my head in a Kindle whenever there’s a spare moment, and asks (and I wish he wouldn’t), ‘what are you reading?’. And I always wrack my brain to try to invent some very clever reply (or lie). Because some might say that a self-professed writer like me ought to be reading something very avant-garde, something hot off the presses, something of great modern literary interest. But surprise-surprise, I am usually (or always) to be found pouring over something written two hundred years ago, or at a push, in the Victorian in era. Once I’d rinsed and re-rinsed everything of Jane Austen’s and Charlotte Bronte’s – which I did long ago – I moved on to Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins (the Victorian forerunner of the detective novel, don’t you know). That seems to be the general direction ‘Austenites’ go (apparently, Google says that’s not a thing; I just made up the term – go me!). And if I’m not doing that, on my days off, I will be re-watching a BBC adaptation (not ITV ones, they’re awful), or failing that, the movie versions of the same old classic costume dramas. Again and again and again and again – because only so many were written and I just can’t get enough. Failing that, I like nothing more than a stroll around some National Trusts houses and grounds, where I can pretend I’m surveying my estate. I know I’m not doing anything particularly unconventional or eccentric or original; many women of my age are a bit obsessed with our historical past (or more correctly, a fictional version of it), but sometimes I wonder why that should be so.

There is something about the fiction written in the Regency or Victorian era. I’m not sure why it has such an appeal; much of the time, nothing really happens as far as plot goes (just read Cranford [that was a bridge too far, literally NOTHING happened at all and had to give up on it]), but they are just periods in history one can strangely lose themselves in. Let’s face it, modern life is extremely stressful; never more than now has so much been expected of a person; hold down a full-time job, be the perfect parent, still manage to have an amazing social life. The pressure to succeed in this is so strong, that some of us crave a simpler time – like in the past. But I don’t know why we romanticise that past to such a ridiculous level.

Let’s get real about this, if I’d be born in the Georgian or Victorian period, and I’d fallen into the same socioeconomic class that I did when I was born in 1971, I would have been born into poverty. Infant mortality was rife, and life expectance was poor. I say this a lot (to myself, at least, possibly to my blog – I can’t remember), if you take into account my own experiences of childbirth, I would have died during labour (on both occasions – not that there would have been a second occasion), because neither of my children were coming out naturally. And lest we forget, there were no antibiotics. I’ve had various infections (one of which was scarlet fever) that I believe would have killed me if these medications were not freely available. Yep, I’d be dead ten times over (if not more), and most likely, so would you. Financially, if I had been lucky enough to even survive into adulthood, my greatest career opportunities would have been as a scullery maid or a seamstress – if I didn’t get sent to the poorhouse first because I was in so much debt. Education would not have been available to me – I’d have been lucky if I could read or write. Some say, modern-times me hasn’t mastered that skill either. Cheeky b*stards.

If it involves period costume or workouts, it’s mine. 

No siree bob; a life in the past would not have been suited to one such as me. I have to keep reminding myself that I would have been penniless, and then to cap it all off, I would have been dead. Nothing romantic about that, is there? Yet the literary past of bustles and bonnets; genteel women of means passing their leisurely days by adding to their many accomplishments (music, needlework, languages, painting, reading – that’s all they had to do), balls and plays, it still seems so idyllic – doesn’t it? None of that rat-race crap that the majority of us have to put up with today. And I guess that’s why old books have such an appeal with us, have such a hold over us. Simpler times would wonderful, wouldn’t they?

I know I’ve developed a pattern throughout my life; when I’m hitting the period drama hard, I’m dissatisfied with my current life. And I guess I’ll just have to do something about that. Still, you can’t deny it, there’s a lot to be said for modern times. Yes, a lot of it is absolutely rubbish, but there’s just no knocking what science and technology have done for us. I mean, could you live without your phone or laptop or the internet? I certainly couldn’t. Some would say we are lucky to be alive right now. Perhaps people will write about our era in the distant future with a longing and fanciful air. Of course, we’ll all know about the crappy negatives, but even the 1980s are now being eulogised – even the 90s to a smaller extent (not so much the 70s – I think we’re all in agreement they were horrid – I have photographic evidence of a childhood me in a horrid orange and brown dress to prove it). But I’ve lived through all those decades. And because they all fall into my lifetime, escapism can’t really be found there. For me, at least, only escapism into a past that I actually know nothing about will do. Because then I can pretend it was something that it wasn’t – and I’d have been happier there.

NB: I do have a few other posts in the pipeline that are nothing to do with cats or period drama – honest.

9 thoughts on “For Old Times’ Sake

  1. I’ve been getting my hands on Plenty of old books myself. Mainly because I help out at our local Red Cross charity shop and we do get some fascinating and obscure literature donated.
    Lord of the Flies with the rare yellow dust jacket comes to mind recently. Some books are even signed and have seperate letters inside the pages. Heck! I even like the feel of old books.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The grass is always greener, Adele. No exceptions.

    Surely, like many (most…all?) of us living in this day and age, you must have caught yourself fantasizing about what it will be like to live in the future? A better world. Greater personal and professional opportunities for women (and other minorities – do you consider yourself a minority), etc? Well, I expect that’s what people did too in the Victorian or so age. I am not so sure (in fact I’m inclined to think otherwise) people of any time that they’re living have the prescience or imagination to believe they would be longing to live in their time of they had the “fortune” to have been born decades or even centuries into the future. That seems to intrinsically require perspective born of temporal experience that spans across not only a person’s past and present, but also their future. Yet, how can anybody benefit from such a perspective if they have yet to live in their future?

    So here you and I and billions of other souls are – bound by experience, present knowledge, and faith in what is to come.

    That said, I still laud the virtue of diving into literary escapism (at least perspectively). As long as doing so doesn’t impede our ability to benefit from our knowledge of the actual past and appreciate the advantages of living in the world today. Both fiction and not fiction narratives of a historical nature can provide that boon. And obviously also does.

    The thing though about both that and living in times before the onset of technological marvels like the internet, social media, and the smart phone is that people had to largely rely on books to cultivate their imaginations in order to facilitate their sense of escapism. Back in the day, there was no Trivago, Facebook, or tons of other resources to service one’s desire to vicariously live in another soul’s shoes. Now we can simply jump on our Kindle, iPhone, or Netflix to transport our minds to another world. And I’m not always so entirely convinced of how a great a thing that is. Because all of those things seem innately geared to tell us what to think, why we should think it, and how sorry you and I will be if we don’t think it.

    Time will tell, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you know, I’ve never fantasised about living in the future. I’ve got this strong suspicion that it’s going to be worse than the present. But you’re right, the grass is always greener. And I’d moan whichever era I was born into! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a prolific weekend escape artist, but come Monday (except for vacation and long weekends), the moaning begins. I’ve read several apocalyptic themed novels from the ’50’s over the past year and it seems their worries of 60 years ago are no different than ours (except for zombies that is). Wonderful post!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s