Have you ever been somewhere, 30 or 40 years after you first went there, and found it had changed?
Had it changed for the better or the worse? Or perhaps it was the same and you had changed?
In 1980, I visited New York with a mate. We had no money and I have few vivid memories of it being anything other than busy.
In 2018, I returned with my wife and 22-year-old son. It snowed. I loved it.
In fact, if I had unlimited funds, I’d have an apartment in New York and I’d go there every year for a few weeks to absorb the energy of the place.
New York in the 1980s. Image source: Shutterstock
Conversely, I visited Phillip Island not so long ago. I’d holidayed at Cowes many times as a little boy and my memories were wonderful.
I recall days spent on the beach in the 1960s when the tide went out, playing beach cricket with dozens of others who simply wanted to join in.
I’d walk through the soft sand along Lovers Walk into town, past the home owned by tennis great Frank Sedgman and past the Isle of Wight Hotel, into the main street where I’d buy an ice cream.
And there seemed to be a koala up every tree on Phillip Island. If there wasn’t, it didn’t stop you looking.
This time, 50 years on, things had changed.
Phillip Island in the 1960s. Image source: www.surfingdownsouth.com.au
The old pub burned down in 2010. It had been built in the 1920s, replacing the former pub that had also burned down, and it was noted for having hosted Fred Astaire, Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck during their filming of the movie On the Beach in 1958.
The fact that I never went in it didn’t seem to matter. I saw it twice a day every day while on my holidays, and such a thing sticks with you.
I didn’t see anybody playing beach cricket, and Lovers Walk looked tiring and nothing how I remembered it.
No, that spark that makes a place special was missing, and I wondered if 50 years of memories had built it up into something it wasn’t, or whether 50 years of ageing had dampened my enthusiasm for the little things.
So have you ever returned to a place you visited years ago, and did you leave thinking it was better, worse or exactly the same?
Do you holiday with your family where you holidayed with your parents?
Have you taken your partner somewhere, built it up to fever pitch, only to be disappointed by their reaction?
I’m reluctant to return to London for any length of time because I can’t imagine it being better than when I was there in 1980.
London in the 1980s. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
And I loved some family holidays at Erskine House, in Lorne, in the late ’60s.
Every time I go back to Lorne now I see a thriving community that stretches way up the hills behind the main street into the hinterland and yearn for those days when Lorne was virtually an outpost.
Because this slightly saddens me, I’m reluctant to go back to Lorne, so I go via the back highways and avoid it.
Lorne in the 1980s. Image source: Cody Phelan (Pinterest)
The answer, I think, is to never return to somewhere thinking the new people in your life will feel for it as you do.
And never let your new impressions replace your memories of years ago.
It’s a bit like showing your children or grandchildren where you used to live as a kid. You can build it up all you want, but I’m betting they’ll be asleep in the back seat of the car.
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