Monday, 20 September 2010

Making connections

School photos and old friends; TV programme The Young Ones; Gypsies and Travellers; and social networking. To use an awful but apt word – do you see the commonalty, or what links this hodgepodge together?
Last week I met up with three old school friends to visit our Grammar School for celebrations of its 400th year. When we were pupils we had no idea it was so ancient. An exhibition told us something of its history but it was the photos that grabbed us and made us all suddenly come alive as if we’d been injected with something possibly illegal, certainly rejuvenating. Able to reel off names of tennis players, football teams or the best part of an entire row of 1960s schoolchildren in one of those long roll black and white photos, how we laughed!!
Then my husband and I watched the BBC1 programme The Young Ones showing the energising effects of returning certain ageing celebrities to their hey-day, thereby revisiting their former talent. Forget the garish 1975 furnishings; that was unreal. But the joyful feelings of reliving younger days and a world to which they thoroughly belonged was very heartening to witness.
An ageing neighbour once said to me wisely, ‘The more you do, the more you can do!’ I certainly do not feel old yet but I shall remember all of this and fend off age for as long as is feasible. It is vital to enjoy the present and look forward to the future but dipping into the past can offer great therapy and, as this TV experiment showed, energy.
At Gypsy events where I have toddled along with my books, people from that community are constantly seeking out their past, their ancestors. ‘Are your books about Kay so-and-so?’ they will ask, unsure about the value of fiction. Old photographs will draw a crowd, like wasps to jam, seeking out faces and memories, the pull of family tugging so strong that they fight hard to preserve it.
Maybe the link between the school reunion, the TV programme, and the Gypsy community welded firm by family, is that instinctive sense of belonging; everyone, young or old, knows what it means to be part of a group or family. That same vital, tribal instinct, sometimes unfulfilled in ‘real life’, is what social networking is often about. Connectedness. There we have it.