Tricky memories

Jan 25th, 2008 | By | Category: Ireland

The Coming Home Syndrome strikes sometimes. Those who remember Tony Capstick’s parody of the 1970s Hovis bread advertisement on British television will recognize the Coming Home Syndrome, it’s the memory playing tricks, not recording things quite as they were. Tony Capstick’s rejection of the sentimentalization of a grim past includes,

Do you know, when I were a lad you could get a tram down into t’town, buy three new suits an’ an overcoat, four pair o’ good boots, go an’ see George Formby at t’Palace Theatre, get blind drunk, ‘ave some steak an’ chips, bunch o’ bananas an’ three stone o’ monkey nuts an’ still ‘ave change out of a farthing.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the Coming Home Syndrome; if it makes people happy, where’s the harm in remembering things not quite as they were? What’s wrong with the “good old days”?

Maybe the problem arises not with the story telling, but with people being so caught up with the story that they want to return to the past – like the reappearance of the Communists and the emergence of neo-Nazi groups. Can anyone really wish for a return to countries under the likes of Stalin or Hitler? It’s the Coming Home Syndrome carried to its logical extreme – our countries were strong and powerful in these times, therefore our memories must be good ones, never mind the misery or suffering or the countless deaths.

The proposal to establish a Truth Commission here in Ireland similar to the commission that worked in South Africa seems a positive move, but each person will expect any such commission to support their version of the “truth”. Different groups’ memories will be very different and there will be a very real danger of the Coming Home Syndrome striking.

Furthermore, how effective was the South African commission? The arrival of a stream of South Africans in Europe suggests that peace and reconciliation were perhaps not so readily achieved.

Maybe we just need to move on as a 21st Century European society and leave how much you could get for a farthing to the fireside and the bar stools.

Leave a comment »

  1. Ian, we should move on and accept that we are part of a 21st Century European society.

    I blog and podcast about the past, not to hanker after it but to show how different life is now. Life was tough back then, did we have stress? I am sure we did but getting down on two knees to scrub a floor, or digging a vegetable patch soon worked it off!

  2. The trouble is that the floors have all turned to laminate and the vegetable patch is now a lawn!!!The Hovis advert hill is actually in Dorset!!!!Nothing is real anymore

  3. I have issues with Truth Commissions. Who’s truth? You’re right about South Africa is it really productive unless there are ‘atrocities’ that need to be addressed. Are witchhunts satisfying to either side? The victor’s write history so it’s very difficult to ascertain the truth without a heap of solid evidence. Will George Bush and John Howard be subjected to a Truth Commission in years to come. I’m with GrannyMar, I too reminisce and I’m sure there’s a bit of historical license there but I write what I remember, not necessarily what was the absolute truth.

    Now on a much lighter and ultra trivial note Rev. You seem to have escaped the meme and tag rounds so I’ve tagged you. It’s nothing painful or personal so have a go. See if the truth wins out!

  4. As years go by I realise more and more truth is only what people are prepared to believe

  5. Baino,

    Having watched his concession speech to Kevin Rudd on ABC on the night of the election results, I think Johnny Howard might be more amenable to facing a Commission than George W! I didn’t like his politics but I thought there was decency in him.

    I’m not sure what the tag/meme is – I checked your site and there’s no mention of it, perhaps it’s as Les says and nothing is real anymore. Clergy are exempt under international law, non-combatants and all that.


    Your point is precisely why a Truth Commission will not achieve anything.

Leave Comment