Let the good times roll

29th July 2016 at 00:00

As I write, Theresa May is still our prime minister. Who knows what else will have happened by the time you read this? I would’ve gone for the top job, but I’m told that knowing all the words to Evita doesn’t necessarily qualify one for political leadership.

Change is the only certainty, but given the rate at which it has happened this year, it seems like time itself has knocked back its fifth espresso.

Like many – regardless of the way they voted in the EU referendum – I fully expected to wake up on that Friday morning to find that everything was the same, but people were in general a bit more indignant, a bit more fist-wavy. Those who were unused to confronting their own beliefs had been forced to discuss “politics”. Without a “Can’t we all just get along?” option on the ballot paper, the vote was inevitably divisive.

I’m still shocked by the result. The referendum has ripped through stitches that held decency together. It has given the nod to the tiny minority whose abhorrent views were previously only whispered.

I believe that the reason so many voted to leave wasn’t because of hate but nostalgia. The idea they were sold was that everything was better in the past. And it’s a very seductive pitch. Who doesn’t occasionally reach for their sepia-tinted specs and hark back to the Good Old Days? Even as I finish writing that sentence I’m already yearning for the beginning of it. It was all fields round here, then. But how do we know when the Good Old Days are actually happening? How do we know that the moment should be cherished?

As someone who’s been writing stuff down for donkey’s years, I’ve developed a knack for stepping back in tough times to clock their narrative value. Knowing that a situation is godawful, but recognising that it will make excellent material, provides a portable silver lining. It turns a bad experience into research.

This year I’ve tried to do the same, but with the good stuff. In a small notebook, I’m keeping a list of whatever makes me smile. Some days it runs to three pages. Some days I’ve struggled to find a sentence. But the more I do it, the more I find myself seeking out reasons to smile.

Fast-forward to November, when the fresh, new academic year will start to wilt, when the weight of our work will turn our springy step to a trudge. We’ll all need some good stuff to keep us going, and the summer hols are when its ripe, so gather it in abundance.

When something lovely is happening, collect that memory for winter. When the Good Old Days are a constant stream of moments, close enough to remember with clarity, they can never be used against you. They are yours.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands


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