You’ve seen the scene in a dozen black-and-white Hollywood movies.
A beautiful blonde boards a train on a rainy, foggy night, and takes a window seat. As it slowly departs with her hand pressed against the glass, her tall, dark and handsome love-interest walks alongside on the platform until the train gathers speed and the platform ends. The two destined to never see each other again - or at least for another fifteen minutes of screen time. Well, in this story I’m the beautiful blonde (work with me here); the love interest is the 90’s, and the train is time.
Sitting on the train looking out at the platform I’m right smack in the middle of the 90’s. Countless faces gather closely and smile back at me, wishing me well on my travels; they look like a bespoke Sgt. Pepper album cover. I spot Georgie Burgess holding a shears – which in hindsight makes no sense at all. I’m oblivious to what’s ahead as the train jolts to life and ever so slowly begins its journey into the noughties. It’s not a problem at first. I’m still young, and I can still see everyone and everything so clearly. In fact, as we gently move forward, I now get a better view of the entire platform. The Italia ‘90 squad are waving from an open top bus towards the back. Is that Sean Hughes in a bathtub with a yellow rubber duck? Man, I’d forgotten about that show.
But like time, from a seemingly stationary position the train gathers momentum at a ferocious pace and before I can catch a breath the platform quickly sinks behind the fog. I panic a little. The platform had lay before me like a giant ‘Where’s Wally?’ picture, and now I wonder if I grasped it all. Did I soak it all in or where there memories in there that I may never recall again? The train speeds forward regardless. This differs from Hollywood. It can’t go back. It can never go back.
I settle into my seat feeling somewhat melancholic. I glance out the window and observe the new landscape. My nostalgic-clock tells me we left the platform five minutes ago, but when I tap my phone screen I see we’ve been travelling a half hour. Is it really thirty-three years since the start of that decade?
Looking at the phone, my attention moves swiftly to the wallpaper picture of my two perfect kids smiling up at me. I smirk back a little cynically – they’ll view the 90’s in the same way I viewed the 60’s: may as well have been the Roman empire. Ancient times. I wasn’t around for either, so what’s the difference. Two more taps of my phone and my earbuds come to life with the closing lines of Donna Lewis’ ‘I love you always forever’. My heart swells a little and my smirk shifts to a genuine smile and grows broader. Another memory comes forth from the platform fog, a young Anna Chlumsky inconsolable after hearing Macauley Culkin died from bee stings. As a nod to Anna, I judge it appropriate to stop smiling now.
Next up, the opening chords of The Lighthouse Family, ‘Lifted’. And my spirits are lifted. I know I can’t go back, and stranger still, none of us on the train know how long is left on the journey. Some will get off at the next stop, the lucky ones will get to travel a little further down the tracks. As Freedom FM continues to play, the songs of my youth envelope me like a comfort blanket and help me tease out some more of those memories from back on the platform. I anticipate what song will come next, and with it, what memory will step out from the fog.
And I’m OK with continuing the journey.