“You are a beautiful and unique snowflake”
As I stare across the street at the woman on her terrace, I think of this phrase and it rings sort of hollow.
She is an exact carbon copy of a former friend of mine in Edinburgh. Same lithe form, same love of clean simplicity, same adoration of all things vintage. As she methodically places a table, two chairs plus requisite vase of flowers (just for aestheticism – she will not sit there) out on her terrace, I smile to myself. I think of that old friend of mine who always wanted beauty around her, and who equally saw beauty all around. Her apartment was like walking through a gallery filled with old photographs, bunches of flowers and herbs, an old bicycle in the doorway. Obsessed by Françoise Hardy while not speaking a word of French, she would spend her evenings designing jewellery and organising her collection of vintage clothes for Markets at the weekend while listening to Madame Hardy whisper stories of love long-lost or even love which never was. Living in a sort of vintage bubble, she paid no attention to the problems of the “real” world. She never read a newspaper, never looked at anything on the internet other than fashion or her emails. A true dreamer.
As I watch the girl across the street, I’m nostalgic for my old Edinburgh life. Back then I had started to live in this vintage bubble too, going to my rubbish services job which I in equal parts hated but adored because I loved my colleagues, while at the same time going for tea or coffee in cosy artistic places and sitting and reading Vogue. Perusing the local library for old classics and philosophy books. Careening through charity shops and picking up the hand me downs of someone’s old Auntie Bertha.
Was I successful in the eyes of society? Not at all
Was I happy? In retrospect, yes
I was going nowhere. I had hit pause on plans for real life, and “growing up”. And it was magical. I felt a freedom there I had never felt before. Everything I had was my own, I took care of all my own affairs. I suppose in a big way I was growing up. I had a lot of bad times in Edinburgh but plenty of good times. I met the Frenchman there so that city will always hold a special place in my heart. Whenever I go back it feels like home again. It’s ironic as I spent around the same amount of time there that I have now spent in Reims. I cannot say I have embraced Reims in quite the same way. Maybe when I leave Reims I will look back with my rose-tinted specs. We all have a habit of doing this, don’t we? Perhaps I am nostalgic for an Edinburgh that doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s an idea I have in my mind of a time and a place I was at in my life which I will never feel again.
Letting go of the past sometimes feels like the hardest thing to do. But it’s the only way to really enter the future and live in the now.
Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.