This weekend has been one of nostalgia, dear readers. Usually I am wont to tell nostalgia, politely as I can, to fuck right off. Nostalgia at it’s root means to long for something you can’t return to and I’m not down with that futile shit, yo. But now and again, nostalgia can be a pleasant, warm ride.
I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaaaa-*Cough*
Last Friday I was mildly surprised to hear that the band that haunted my adolescence more than any other was splitting up. This was strange for me, as I was under the impression that My Chemical Romance broke up in 2008. Alas no, they have plodded on since the early days of 2006, which is when the first contagion of the emo craze was spotted in secondary schools across Dublin. I was there, man. I remember it. Those little bug eyed cartoons drawn on schoolbags in sharpie marker. The elaborately decorated Nightmare Before Christmas wallets. And the music. Oh God, the music.
I think I am completely qualified to talk about the emo craze because not only was I there, I desperately wanted to be one of them. A younger BHT wanted so much to have a side fringe, a piercing in the cartilage of her ear and one of those chains you put your wallet on one end of and clip to your belt. I wanted the Chuck Taylor sneakers and the dyed black hair, the gloomy outlook of a misfit child happily counterpointed with impossibly hysterical, chirpy melodramatic music and an aesthetic picked up from a children’s animated musical made in 1993. But I didn’t manage to make the emo transformation for the following reasons:
1: I was too fat for skinny jeans.
2: My mam wouldn’t let me get piercings1
3: All of those accessories were so expensive
4: Razor blades make BHT so awfully nervous. Poor 14 year old BHT saw one set of earring studs shaped like razor blades and she was outta there.
But ultimately I never really ‘got’ how to be an emo. Young BHT did make a very ill advised decision to cut a side fringe over the Christmas of 2006 and spent the next eight months going around convinced it was the cat’s pyjamas. My Chemical Romance existed on the side fringe of my teenage years: I was never really a true fan, but they were everywhere around me. Slowly they soaked into my subconscious and made a damp little nest there. BHT for one will mourn their passing as a band. I will remember them fondly during my more melodramatic moments, where I am fond of screaming ‘I’m not okaaaaaaa-aaaaaa-aaaaaay’ in the style of Gerard Way.
I feel like the whole emo brand has come full circle on me. Last week, I bought my first ever pair of Skinny Jeans. Maybe there’s hope for me yet. But anyway the whole MCR breakup was in my head for a few weeks while I encountered other nostalgic fare.
Is nobody else still excited about the TGV except me?
I caught the last ten minutes of the 1996 boom fiesta Mission: Impossible on Friday night and it triggered yet another wave of nostalgia. The climax of MI is possibly the most 90s thing put to film along with that scene in Baz Lurhmans Romeo + Juliet where Leo DiCaprio sits on a beach in California looking meaningful and young while Radiohead play on the soundtrack. In Mission: Impossible, between product placement for the (at the time newly opened) TGV high speed train and Tom Cruise running away from things (as is his wont in every movie ever) we are treated to copious shots of mid 90s mobile phones, laptops and internet woes. Then a freaking helicopter gets dragged into the channel tunnel as the train rockets through the English countryside. Tom Cruise, why are you running everywhere? How is this CGI so hilariously dated? Tom Cruise, how did you survive that explosion? How are you not deaf?! Why does the English bad guy look like the current prime minister of Australia? Questions for the ages…
I felt a strange pang of nostalgia while watching this scene. I can just about remember 1997, back when a mother fucking high speed train that goes through a tunnel under the freaking sea was pretty much the best humanity had. The boundless optimism of the booming 90s, the clunky technology proudly flaunted as cutting edge. The pre twitter, pre-wifi pre smart phone world is a quaint one indeed but it’s also the one little BHT was convinced she would inhabit one day. I imagined myself sitting on my high speed train under the sea, tapping away on a ten pound slab of a laptop, while wearing a big hat.
I’m a Daphne in the street and a Roz Doyle in the Bed
The 90s were a good decade for Seattle- There was sleeping in Seattle, a little known music movement you might have heard of called ‘grunge’ which would eventually spawn the emo monolith discussed above, and then there was that spin off from Cheers set in the rainy north west city that nobody has given a shit about shit (literally nothing else has ever happened in Seattle except for Jimi Hendrix and Boeing).
There is something supremely comforting about the 1990s high-brow sitcom Frasier. Because the series focuses generally on the lives and problems of well educated, gainfully employed people of means, it’s a very safe show. Nobody is going to be left destitute, evicted or oppressed. That’s not to say it’s a bad show. A modern comedy of manners with what is to me a wonderfully welcome early 90s trip. The big hair, the baggy suits, the PHONES again, posh people bitching at each other and inevitably being zinged perfectly by the down to earth working class characters.
If given the chance then, would I wish myself back to the golden days of 1994? Or perhaps to 2006 to relive the emo glory days in the skinny jeans I could probably fit into now? I think not. Nostalgia is tempting but in the end, all one really remembers are the highlighted high points and moments of quality; with respect, if all I can remember of the emo craze are the ‘good parts’, I’m fine with staying here. As for the early 90s, I actually can’t imagine life anymore without constant remote access to twitter.
Niamh ‘That being said, I think I’d go back just for the big hats’ Keoghan
When I was 12, I’d never been outside of Ireland. Okay, I’d gone to Holyhead on the Ferry but Wales is hardly that far away, and I was seven. So for all intents and purposes I had never been outside of the republic where I was born and raised. All my childhood holidays were to the Aran Islands, or Cork- and endless cycle of annual holidays to East Cork has left me with a starry eyed joy of the place. Cork was also the only other ‘city’ I’d ever been to outside of Dublin. Dublin is the biggest city in Ireland- there is nowhere else like it. with due respect and affection to Cork, Galway, Waterford and the rest, the other handful of cities in Ireland still have that large town vibe around them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it did skew my world view somewhat when I was little. there was Dublin and it was the centre of the universe. I grew up in boom time when Dublin was growing and sparkling and bustling. I had never seen a bigger place and so assumed Dublin was the equal of London and Paris and New York.
So when I was 12 and went on a school trip to London, it fucked my head up rather badly.
[Soundtrack explanation- Whenever I hear ‘Going underground’ it brings me back to being 12. The nervous, jangling chords, the energy of being young and frightened and excited. I only heard it when I was about 16, but for some reason it always bring me back to 2004/2005.]
Firstly there was actually getting to London. My first ever time on an airplane was wedged between my history teacher and my business teacher (Who happened to be married to one another) on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Heathrow. I’d never been inside a plane before. It was smaller than the picture in my head- having only seen films with massive three aisle jumbo jets, the little 737 we flew in was… quaint. This was my first hint that I was coming from a small place. We flew out at about 8 in the morning- I still dream about the force of the acceleration pushing me back into my seat and seeing the grass and landmarks whip past as we took off. I was thrilled and frightened- Goodbye home, goodbye for three whole days! I’d never been anywhere without my family before. ‘So what do you think?’ My teacher asked when we’d taken off.
‘Can we do that again?!’ I said gleefully.
I passed through London in a sugar buzzed, blissed out dream state for three days, getting ferried around with 30 other First years. The thing that struck me then was the sheer size of the place. Dublin has a greater population- taking in suburbs and the rapidly decreasing rural north county- of about 1.5 million. Greater london has 14 million. The conveyor belts that whizz you through Heathrow and the tube stations fascinated me. I never realised that cities have their own personality. Galway is beautiful and kind of sexy, Waterford is playful and artsy, Cork is rustic and warm, and Dublin is made of a million contradictions- it’s Irish but has the strongest colonial heritage in it’s architecture. What made London so dream like to me was that it felt as if I’d been here before. Not only in watching it on the telly, but also in the streets of Dublin. My home city was a miniature of London, the second city of an empire that I was only just now visiting. Everything felt familiar, but scaled up. Instead of green post boxes and buses there was bright, pillar box red. The tube was a winding labyrinth that led everywhere- I still have my map somewhere, a snapshot of the network in 2005 before the extension to Heathrow terminal 5 was finished.
Everywhere was covered in ‘back the bid’ posters- This was March 2005, when the push was on to promote London as the host of the 2012 games. I remember thinking then how far away 2012 was. ‘I’ll be twenty then.’ I explained in a low voice to my History teacher (A woman of unending understanding who taught me many useful lessons in being a badass). ‘Like… I’ll be in college. I’ll be ANCIENT.’ I loved the whoosh sound the underground trains made when they came into the stations, I loved the curving tunnels. I loved the thrill of wires running along the tunnels and the grimy air. It was a world I’d never seen before. This was a huge, sprawling, breathing city. It wasn’t as self consciously booming as Dublin was at that time. London simply stood there, staring me down and went ‘Well?’ It was my first tentative step into a larger world. It made my own dear little Dublin so much smaller and well loved. London was a good place to go- at 12 when you’re growing and changing and discovering parts of your personality the way you used to discover imaginary lands. I was exploding and expanding the way Dublin was- and here was London not giving an absolute shit about it. It was humbling.
A few months later, I’d come down the stairs in my grandmothers while staying with her for my Easter holidays and see Sky News reporting the 7/7 bombings. It hit me so much harder and more immediately than 9/11 had- I was older, and had been on those trains even for only a few days. It brought the real, big world smashing back into my sitting room. I’d left London after three days and slid back into the routine of double Irish, PE, being morose and wishing I could be older, taller, cooler and all around better. I wanted to be as self assured and cool as London was, but I was still grubby and self consciously growing. Watching London 2012 arrive and depart brought me right back to that seat in Notting Hill tube station with my innocent smile and my nervous voice, waiting for the train to come in.
I haven’t been back to London in 7 years, but it looms very large in my mind.
Niamh ‘London Calling’ Keoghan