Oliver Cross: Looking to the future, because I can’t remember the past

THE INFORMATION SYSTEM TIME FORGOT: Ceefax, which disappeared from our screens this week.
THE INFORMATION SYSTEM TIME FORGOT: Ceefax, which disappeared from our screens this week.
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This week TV went totally digital, allowing all sorts of nostalgic types to remember the finest features of analogue TV, like limited channels, disappearing-dot fade outs, the test card and Ceefax, the information system time forgot.

I was astonished to discover that Ceefax – so slow and so clunky, even when new – only disappeared this week after 38 futile years of attempting to entertain the nation.

It’s as unlikely as discovering that Johnny Hallyday, the man they used to call France’s singing heart-throb, had just filled the Royal Albert Hall with a rock concert (which actually he has, so that’s not a good example).

The fond recollections of an outdated television system (one nostalgia expert said on the radio that Ceefax should be embraced as more calming than watching paint dry) show that the old chestnut about nostalgia not being what it used to be is quite wrong – nostalgia is more maddening than ever.

Relatively young people are as gruellingly attached to endless reminiscences as old men in flat caps at the British Legion club use to be – muddy old music festivals, episodes of Brookside, cars that didn’t work and appalling fashions are all now fondly remembered at great length, even though it would be better to smother them in a dignified silence (and here I have to break off so I can work out whether there could be such a thing as an undignified silence...oh yes, that’s what happened when bad comedians were thrown to the audience at the old Glasgow Empire).

And if I seem a little sour, it’s because I haven’t got a nostalgic bone in my body. I’m like an American presidential candidate – I just look to a better future for all mankind, and particularly me, and I don’t want to dwell on history, particularly if it involves mean-spirited people without vision going on about past mistakes (in my case tank-tops; in the candidate’s case Afghanistan and Vietnam for starters).

But despite having no nostalgic bones, I do have a slightly nostalgic stomach and can, if nobody stops me, become quite flat-cappish about fatty lamb chops, lardy cake, Spam fritters and other things which, they didn’t tell me at the time, were as poisonous as cyanide and why I’m not dead is a mystery.

I think, because I’ve never been particularly interested in sport (at least between Olympic Games or World Cups) or music, which are the two main nostalgia fuels, that I’m more immune than most to taking a rosy view of the past and going on about it in a way that makes you want to self-harm.

My other protection against excessive nostalgia is that I suffer from a weird condition called (although only by me) reverse dementia syndrome.

This means that my short-term memory, which used to be a little problematical, has finally kicked in, while my long-term memory is shot.

So that now I can, for the first time in my life, remember my postcode, the beginning of my telephone number and some of my computer passwords, whereas when I went to the pub quiz this week, I couldn’t help with any question involving information from beyond about two years ago.

My quizmates asked me, when things got really desperate and they needed a brain-storming session, to name some famous actors – any actors – from the latter half of the 20th century. ‘Sorry...’, I had to say.

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