Times past

I spent a large part of this morning going through my iTunes library – re-rating songs, adding them to playlists, filling in details, and so on. Every boy loves that stuff.

In the course of doing this you naturally listen to the songs you’re working on. Equally naturally, you find memories being recalled. You survey the chronological sweep of music and remember a time when a particular band was hot for you, and what you remember of that. You remember when you first heard a particular song, or where you were, and what memories you have attached since to it. It’s all pretty standard branding. Then I came across a bunch of Bossa Nova songs by Joao & Astrud Gilberto.

I love Bossa Nova, but I probably haven’t tuned into it much in recent years. There was a time that I listened to it all the time. I probably got into it in the early nineties, and kept at it until about 2004. Since then it’s only been sporadic. What I discovered in listening to these songs again, one after another, is that I have attached a very strong emotional reaction to this music. The memories, as they are, are fragmentary, but in their place is a pervasive sense of wistfulness. As you would, I seem to feel summer days, late nights, cool drinks, alluring women. I think there was a while when Bossa Nova was my go-to music when I brought a cute young chicky babe home.

All that returned to me, but with it came an utterly unexpected sensation. I felt desperately sad, as if this music was the soundtrack to a former happy life, now forever gone. I’m not that person anymore I felt, and while I accept that my life has changed since then I felt bereft thinking that I might have lost something of myself in the passing.

I sought to rationalise the feeling. A lot of things are in hiatus now, and have been for a while. In the archaeological record this will be a dark layer of ash. It’s easy to think in the midst of it that all that came before is lost, and that whatever comes next will be different. When you’re in the moment all you know is the moment. And so the carefree memories of hot summer nights and cool women and Bossa Nova are history.

Normally I would pass over something like this, a little troubled by the impression, but willing to shrug it off. But as it happens there is something that happened yesterday that’s consistent with the feelings today.

I was out having a beer with Whisky and VJ at the Brighton Baths. It was a near perfect day. We were all in our shorts sitting on the front terrace of the club overlooking a wonderful vista of bright sun shimmering on the blue waters of the bay. Kite surfers jinked across the blue sky, and in the distance the city appeared indistinct through the heat haze. I had a cold beer in my hand sitting with two of my best friends. It was all good, but then all at once I felt a pang.

I was looking out over the water. It was so perfect and I felt aware of it. It made me think of the hundreds of occasions before I’d had a moment like this; and the thousands more sweet and easy when instead of the sea there was something else. I’m lucky in that I’ve had a rich, convivial, extroverted life. Here’s the rub though, thinking all that I suddenly felt as if those moments were running out. Sure, here I was enjoying something splendid, but it felt false, like a last hurrah. That was my last life, my life before this. That life, I felt, had ended.

It felt bitter. There will come a time when there will be much more behind me than before. To know that must be hard, but that was what I felt then. And realistically as I get older there will be less days like this, but more of another type. I did not have that though. The ‘other type’ did not exist for me. What I had was this teasing replay of times past.

Here I am, a rational, calm man. I’m not given to extravagant emotion. I don’t dwell on the negative. As much as I can I forge ahead. That’s all well and good, but there is a part of the self that moves independently of the mind. It’s clear to me that that part has become wedged, wistful for the past and despondent about the future. I hate that, and can’t live with that belief. It’s a tight run thing I think, but I have to use this sense as motivation for the future, to make it as it was before.


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