Such a dangerous thing is nostalgia. Take a trip in time to Victoriana and you will be confronted by all that is horrible about the 19th Century – poorhouses, disease, lack of women’s rights, poverty in the country and the towns, dirt and darkness. We still have some of that, but on the whole we have made many improvements, thanks to socialism, philanthropists, sensible sewage and the likes of Samuel Smiles… and no thanks to the Tory Government, which would happily see us all back there.
Nostalgia is strangely powerful at Christmas. I think when the days are long and dark, time itself becomes a notional idea, and we start to float about like Dr Who in the timeless zones of yesteryear, welcoming Sherlock Holmes and the Brontes into our hearts, along with all those lovely ancient books we have been meaning to read in peace and quiet.
I picture myself with a blanket over my feet, a cat on my lap, snuggled into the arm chair, bathed in a warm wintry glow — from an oil lamp or candelabra — reading a Strand Magazine or one of the previously mentioned, occasionally prodding the fire, and distantly aware of the sounds of the horses hooves clattering up and down the street, the ancient clock chiming and the church bells ringing somewhere else.
I do believe that it’s possible to travel in time, simply by drifting into that mysterious state of altered consciousness that our forbears made possible with the liberal use of laudanum, but we can achieve, simply by practising a bit of deep breathing and relaxation. As I mentioned before… there is a lot to be said for meditation and visualisation, and certainly this is the season for space travel. But why are winter and Christmas so appropriate for such fantasies, and why is it the season of nostalgia? I so love those Christmas cards of Victorians cavorting through the snow, people from yesteryear depicted throwing snowballs at each other, or best of all winter scenes of houses with glowing lights radiating from kindly windows. What is this all about? Am I turning into Betsy Trotwood or some pinch-faced dame dredged up from a starched era of distant and very questionable morals… Blimey, I hope not…