In which I say 'come, bring me your nostalgic masses'.

Printed 11/03/09.

Nostalgia. One of our society’s most popular and widely-practised mutual hobbies, alongside ritual celebrity persecution, queuing, and finding new and exciting places to insert the phrase “at the end of the day.” Nostalgia is a big business. It unites the masses, healing breaches and drawing us closer together as human beings by reminding us to focus on our similarities, not our differences. Who can remember conflicts in culture, creed or colour when you’re reminiscing about the sherbet Dib-Dab?

We’ve compiled endless TV homages to all that has past in the fields of pop music, telly, adverts on telly, people on telly and discontinued snackfoods. There are whole friendships out there built entirely on taking it in weekly turns to say, “OMG remember Fun House?? Lolz.”, then singing the Round the Twist theme tune in four-part harmony. Once upon a time people went to parties armed with witty chat and views on current affairs – now all we need is a battalion of references to tamagotchis, Neil Buchanan and Lucky Charms cereal*.

Naturally the reasoning behind it is: past = warm and fuzzy, future = hard, cold and scary. The past is nice because we’ve already done it, which is less effort than the future, where there is stuff still to do. So it stands to reason that during this period of stressful change and disarming uncertainty (that’s my finals, not the economy), we are retreating into memories of happier times like woodland creatures hibernating in winter.

This weekend we went back to our student roots. Something in us is clearly crying out for the hopefulness of first year, or £1.50 pints in a room that smells of Dettol and peanuts, because finding ourselves at a loose end in Camden Town on a Saturday night we could think of nowhere we’d rather go than our first-year halls bar. Genuinely nowhere.

Nothing would give us more pleasure than to spend an evening crying “The Tesco! The Tesco’s still here!” and “They’ve changed the hand driers in the toilets, the wily sods!”, and “Pff, it wasn’t £2.40 in our day!… Actually, how much was it, Ian?… £2.35! See, see?”. It’s testament to our third-year insecurities that we procured real gratification from invading a room of freshers, taking the best sofas and then telling long irrelevant anecdotes about things that happened around the sofas way back when.

And we couldn’t leave it at the bar, no. We continued the adventure by breaking into our old building to examine what had happened to the kitchen cupboards (for “breaking in”, read “found door open”). Unsurprisingly, nothing had happened to the kitchen cupboards because a) nothing much can ever really happen to kitchen cupboards, save mouse inhabitants or damp, and b) unbeknownst to most, our halls of residence is in a government-sponsored protection scheme to preserve the authentic décor of the mid-1970s, ‘Formica4Future’.

The laundry room was the same – rumbling noise of apocalypse, bleak looking boy on phone to mother holding up candy-pink tennis shorts. The TV room was the same – mismatched chairs stolen from a nearby church hall, telly in a fake wood cabinet, bleak looking boy watching Top Gear under a duvet. And the table tennis room was the same, minus a table tennis table – the presence of which, after debate, we concluded we had probably just hallucinated anyway.

The voiceover lady in the lift was the same (also featured as the lift lady on Holby City), and the vending machine was still stocking the very same muffins and UHT milk (the very same, I recognised the markings). So, wrapped up in the warm fuzzy blanket of the past, we foraged the well-trod corridors in search of the ghosts of our first-year selves. Sadly, we didn’t find them there. It was Saturday night, you see, and they’d all gone out.

*A word of advice to parents here – let your children watch mindless TV, let them eat sugar-packed neon goo, let them spend their pocket money on flimsy tat from Argos. They’re setting themselves up for a future of social success.