Those were the days, eh?

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The Independent Online
Now that nostalgia has been officially recognised as a clinical illness, we are glad to welcome today Dr Edward Bromley, Professor of Chronic Nostalgia at St Pancras Hospital, to answer all your problems to do with recurring attacks of nostalgia.

I have recently found myself humming Glenn Miller hits and even, God save us, whistling old Vera Lynn songs. As it is now more than a month since the 50th anniversary of VE Day, I am frightened that I am going to be unable to shake off my VE Day nostalgia. I did enjoy VE Day plus 50 very much, but not that much - after all, I am only in my forties and have no real memory!

Dr Bromley writes: Relax. You have not got nostalgia for VE Day 1945. You have got nostalgia for VE Day 1995! This is what we call short-term transferred nostalgia. All it means is that instead of having nostalgia for the event itself (which you cannot have), you have nostalgia for the anniversary celebrations of it. This is much more common than you might think. The symptoms will fade very quickly. If you find you are still humming, say, "Lili Marlene" in a month's time, get in touch with me again and I will recommend a course of action. Or, if that doesn't help, a good CD of wartime songs.

Is there something wrong with me? I can't help feeling that Wimbledon used to be better in the old days. The players had more character and grace and style and elegance then, and more individuality, too. OK, maybe they didn't serve at 125mph, and maybe they weren't so well trained, and maybe they were all amateurs subject to the whims of a dictatorial bunch of incompetent administrators, and maybe today's players have developed more interesting strokes and maybe Agassi could have seen off any of the old stars - on second thoughts, maybe Wimbledon was awful in the old days. Please do not answer this letter. I may have cured myself by answering it.

Dr Bromley writes: Not at all. Though I think you're wrong. It was better before.

I recently went to see the film called 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', about which there has been so much fuss, and I have to say that I was very disappointed. Oh, there were one or two good jokes, and one or two good situations, but I couldn't help feeling that the characterisation was so thin that it was unbearable, and that in the old days there was much more craftsmanship in the art of making British comedies. The character played by Simon Callow, for instance, would, in the old days, have been fleshed out and given a bit of solid background so that we knew why we felt he was a lovable eccentric. In this film I thought we were merely asked to take it for granted that he was a lovable eccentric, with none of the old traditional qualities of film-making involved. Why do I get these destructive nostalgic feelings?

Dr Bromley writes: Because in the old days British comedies were much better made and modern films like Four Weddings and a Funeral are flashy, superficial replicas.

Another thing. I keep feeling that players like Boris Becker have changed for the worse even in living memory. I can remember when Becker was quite a nice young lad instead of the rather forbidding, close-cropped uhlan officer we now have.

Dr Bromley writes: You have a bad case of nostalgia here. Write out a hundred times: "There is no such thing as an uhlan officer any more". More's the pity. Men were really men in those days.

Ah, that takes me back to the days when doing lines really meant something! When I was a young boy, I remember being told to write out something 50 or 100 times, and how I enjoyed the exercise! How I enjoyed getting my pens and nibs together and being allowed to stay in school after hours, carefully writing out the noble thoughts of my schoolteachers, instead of having to go and catch fish with a bent pin, like my unfortunate coevals. Those were the days! And how useful all this writing out of lines turned out to be for me later, when I went into the banknote forgery business!

Dr Bromley writes: And, of course, banknotes were really banknotes in those days, weren't they? Next, please.

Just a moment, Dr Bromley. You claim to be in the business of curing people's nostalgia, but you seem to do nothing but tell us how much better things were in the old days. How do you explain that?

Dr Bromley writes: Quite simply. In the old days I was really quite an objective and skilled observer of nostalgia and its symptoms, but over the years I have let it get to me and now I am no longer the professor of nostalgia that I used to be.

If you want a useful answer to your query about nostalgia, write to Professor Bromley about 10 years ago.

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