So summer is here in the UK. Or Spring. Or that weird spring-summer thing we have every year in May after the snow and before the rain – and the cloudy school holidays.
It makes me feel nostalgic. I smell coconut suncream and meaty barbeque smoke and I’m transported. I’m a boy cycling up and down the street in front of our old house in Daisy Hill. Those long summer Sunday nights before school, and the long weeks once school had broken up. Or I’m a teenager in an un-tucked school shirt kicking a football around. Or chatting up the girls and swigging beers at messy house-parties trying to look cool.
Or I’m back at Eurocamp where I worked for three years in Italy and France. It’s funny how memory doesn’t recall an overall picture – a sense of the period – but rather I can be driving in my car with the window down and remember an intensely clear moment being the passenger on a van ride back in 2001. We used vans on montage which was the setting up the holiday park process at the beginning of the summer season for the company. I used to think it was cool, being a twenty year old lad, thrashing round the countryside in the Iveco, piled to the roof with fridges, bed-frames, tent canvases and whatnot. Dirty hands and a mahogany tan. We worked hard, tired ourselves out in the French sun, and then came back to the communal tent and spent the evening eating and drinking with the other twenty or thirty couriers on the site. They were great times.
It’s funny how the sun, and the feeling of being warm, and a few once-familiar scents can cause you to forget where you are for a day or two. I’ve been dreaming about another era. And as much as I know life moves on there’s something sad in the nostalgic sunshine. And as much as I know turning thirty wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be, and I have more money now, more time, more interests and generally more insight and understanding than I had as an intrepid youth. As much as all that I have benefitted from I feel like there’s something lost. The dictionary describes nostalgia as:
A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past
And as good as life is now there will always be things left behind. I remember the feeling of driving from warehouse to site and arriving and dropping fridges off at each tent where the other couriers were cleaning their hearts out trying to get everything ready for the first holidaymakers. There was a kind of macho hierarchy to the jobs, and zooming around on the van was better than cleaning a tent. This after uni and college and school and never really being anything or anyone of any consequence. For a couple of months there was a significance and a wild freedom of being overseas completely able to reinvent myself.
There was a close community amongst the couriers, or reps, who spent the whole summer together. I suppose once you’re older and fixed within your very normal, very secure and established society you are bound to miss the tight communities you were once part of – whether you’ve lived abroad or just been to university and lived in halls, or even served in the armed forces. You remember with longing being integral to the group. If you had a bad day you would feed your ego by not hitting the pub with the gang, knowing that by sitting in your accommodation, one after another of your team would pop their head in noticing your absence. And now you spend your summer’s days surrounded by all the luxuries you can afford. Good book, cold beer, a comfy chair, a radio, suncream, sunglasses. And creeping nostalgia in the back of your mind making you feel isolated and like you’re missing something – like relaxing is fine, but remembering when you never had time to relax. There was always dramas, events, parties and romance.
Oh to be young again, eh?