Alison Taylor on relationships: Nostalgia is about appreciating the things that make us who we are


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The Independent Online

I was in the car with Mum and Dad last Saturday, driving that familiar route from their house to Wakefield station to get the train back to London. The sun was shining, the fields were green and Radio 2 was on, because, well, it always is. It was Tony Blackburn's Pick of the Pops and he was counting down the top 20 from May 1978.

There were some classics – the Bee Gees ("Night Fever"), John Paul Young ("Love is in the Air") and now it was time for the No 1 to be revealed. What would it be? The anticipation in the car was palpable. And then it came. That familiar intro – the sound of waves crashing on to the shore, the humming and the ah-ah-ing and then… boom! That first, joyous line: "By the Rivers of Babylon…"

There wasn't a dry eye in the Fiat Panda. That song was a fixture of my childhood. Car journeys were always filled with the sound of Boney M's steel drums and Ra-Ra-Rasputins. But "Rivers of Babylon" was always the favourite – the big singalong moment. And here we are again, three decades later – me, Mum and Dad, and that song.

I don't think I'd heard it since childhood with both of my parents present. Without anyone saying a word, we all burst into song, blasting out every single syllable at full volume. It was magic. In that three minutes or so I was in a transcendental state of pure happiness.

Nostalgia, and for that matter reminiscence, has a pretty mixed reputation. I know that as I get older I find myself connecting with the past a lot, and with mixed feelings. I question whether it's a healthy thing. But as I boarded my train, it occurred to me that there is real power in such moments. Why? Because the warm glow of nostalgia is also quite often about gratitude. It's about appreciating all of the things that have made us who we are and got us to where we are.

The Boney M moment was the more powerful because it was a shared nostalgia. We all experience this type of thing from time to time. But it's usually when we are alone or watching those "Weren't the 1980s Totally Brill-y-unt"-type programmes.

To have three people on the same nostalgic trip at the same time is rare. And I'm grateful for that. So, the next time you feel a wave of nostalgia? Ride it, I say.