Nostalgia for old, rundown coastal Sussex

Sally Bayley’s The Green Lady is a beguiling, experimental mixture of biography, fiction and family history. In her excellent memoir Girl with Dove (2018), she wrote about her neglected childhood in the coastal Sussex town of Littlehampton. Here she returns to the same locality, but considers her forebears, embroidering episodes from her own rackety childhood into the lives of her ancestors and local people. The title refers to a hostel on the corner of the lane where Bayley grew up. Its owner, Mary Neal, opened it up to factory girls from London. This is the central image of the book, encapsulating themes of wealth and poverty, town and country, the

Has nostalgia become the Greeks’ national disease?

Imagine a new take on the Greek myth of Pygmalion. A love-shy artist makes a woman out of marble who is so beautiful that he falls for her and prays that she will come to life. For a moment he thinks his wish will be granted, but it is only his imagination. Now, in his sadness, he feels as if he himself is turning to stone. This, in a sense, has been the story of the Greek nation since, two centuries ago, a gang of brigands and diplomats took up arms to breathe life into the Parthenon marbles and revive the glory that was Greece. Thus began the phenomenally bloody

I have been ambushed by the past

The other week I turned up for the village walking club’s Monday hike. A dawn meet. Two cars. A 90-minute drive and we parked on beaten earth under umbrella pines. The line-up that day was three English, three French. I was the youngest; the others were encumbered by walking poles. We shouldered our day packs and skied through the pines to emerge on a dazzling beach next to a glittering sea. A hundred metres offshore was a steep fortified island. Fort de Brégançon is the French President’s summer residence, they said. A spry and taciturn old Frenchwoman, dressed for any future meteorological possibility and with a whistle and lanyard strung

Even in the Swinging Sixties, Ray Davies was feeling nostalgic

At first glance, nostalgia does not seem like a subject much suited to exploration via the medium of the pop song; after all, this is the topic which inspired, at least in part, Ulysses and A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, two of the greatest and longest novels of the 20th century. What can one say in three minutes that hasn’t already been said in six volumes? On the one hand, we have such warnings from history as ‘Those Were the Days’ by Mary Hopkin or Terry Jacks’s implacably awful ‘Seasons in the Sun’, a rendition of Jacques Brel’s ‘Le Moribond’ which loses not just something but everything in translation.