Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Living in the past?

click photo to enlarge
Getting older gives you perspective and with perspective comes humility. At least that's what happens for many people. As teenagers people are often self-absorbed, the centre of their own little universe about which everything revolves. Then, as we age, start a family and shoulder the attendant responsibilities of partner, children and work, the inward focus continues. It is less marked than in our younger years because the compass of our lives extends, but it is there nonetheless. Often it's not until our offspring have departed the nest that people experience sufficient time to pause and reflect in a more considered way about the three big questions in life - "Who are we, whence come we, whither go we" (as Gauguin put it). And with retirement the viewpoint and perspective that age brings throws these questions into sharper relief.

It's natural at that point to reflect on yourself as a person. One thing that many older people conclude (I am one of them) is that the extent to which we are like other people is much greater than the extent to which we are different from them. This is something that teenagers find hard to accept and which might account for the sometimes extraordinary lengths they go to in order to dress and behave like their friends. It's also natural, with greater age, to look back at your life, to consider how it was different from today and to make value judgements about whether it was better or not. This, as I've said elsewhere in the blog, is a path fraught with dangers and delusions. And then there's the rather less problematic fondness that can grow for the objects and habits of our past - the artefacts, vehicles, ways of living etc that we experienced as our younger selves.

I was thinking about this the other morning as I watched a railway artist paint a picture of the locomotive, "Mallard". This was the LNER Class A4 steam engine designed by Sir Nigel Gresley that in 1938 achieved the world speed record of 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h) for a steam-powered locomotives, a record that still stands today. The artist was plying his trade at an exhibition of transport models - trains, boats etc - and must have been painting this particular subject with an eye to the 75th anniversary of that record-breaking run - it falls on 3rd July of this year - and the sort of person who was a potential customer. On looking round it was clear that the great majority of exhibitors and most of the visitors were aged sixty or older, that it wasn't only the fact that they had the time to indulge in their hobby that caused them to pick this one, it was also their age. It seemed to me that a sort of second childhood was upon them - and they were thoroughly enjoying it!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed:1/30
ISO: 1000
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: N/A