Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ian Jack on having belonged to a lost world

If I had to choose a favourite newspaper columnist I think it would be Ian Jack, who writes for the Guardian every Saturday.

His most recent column, occasioned by an exhibition of old photographs of Glasgow, is a meditation on the strangeness of having lived a long time.

He writes:
This week, at the opening of a[n] ... exhibition at the Barbican in London, I looked at many pictures that might easily have included me in their monochrome scenes: as a baby in a pram, a boy in a school cap on a smoky station platform, a young reporter in a crowd at a royal wedding. 
It was unsettling and faintly unbelievable to think that I once belonged to that world of white prefabs, Senior Service adverts and steam locomotives, and yet I’d fitted in snugly, without a thought.
There is a piece of film the BBC shows whenever the idea of year-round British Summer Time is floated and makes the news. It dates from the late 1960s, when the experiment was briefly tried then discarded, and shows children trudging to school in the dark.

Fifty years on, and bundled up against the cold, they look rather quaint. And then I reflect that I must have looked like that too.

And in a post from 2012 I wrote about rediscovering York 30 years after I had been a student there:
Take a look at this 1980 photograph of Fossgate, a street that formed part of my walk from the university campus into the city. It seemed perfectly modern to me then, but now looks remarkably old fashioned.
York's newspaper The Press recently published a gallery of old photographs of Walmgate, which runs from Fossgate to the city walls at Walmgate Bar.

As the photograph above shows, when I was a student it was in the process of redevelopment. The new buildings that puzzled me in 2012 occupied the site of the boarded-up shops and vacant lots I knew in 1979.

The moral is one you grasp as you get older. Few things are as permanent as they seemed when you were a child.

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