Nostalgia reimagined

The end of the second Elizabethan era has been marked by proclamation, pageantry, and procession. Pictures of Elizabeth’s state funeral reminded me of souvenir magazines, once carefully stored in my Gran’s house, containing photographs of Elizabeth’s father’s coffin draped in the same colourful flag. And now, seamlessly, whether royalist or republican in belief, we have a new monarch. One generation has given way to the next.

It’s been a time for nostalgia. Last week, I learned its etymology.

Apparently, it’s derived from the Greek: nostos, homecoming, and algos, pain or distress. In the 18th century it referred to severe homesickness and was regarded as an illness. It’s a longing for a time or a place that may never truly have been quite as we imagine it.

I felt a little nostalgic this week for a part of my own roots. I went up to Glasgow to meet a friend; it was a sunny day, and I had some time to spare. I walked beside the Clyde to the end of Glasgow Green where I stood directly opposite the red stone terrace where, a century and a half ago, my Great-Great-Grandmother made her home. I’ve read copies of some of her correspondence; it’s a life I can only imagine.

Walking back towards the city, I passed beneath the McLennan Arch. It’s at the entrance to the Green; I’d run beneath it 10 years ago at the end of the Great Scottish Run. I assumed then that it had always stood here, even imagined my G-G-Grandmother here.

There were plenty of runners around in the late afternoon sunshine. I was happy enough to let them run whilst I took my time to walk and think. Just beyond the arch, I paused to read the engraved stone sunk into the pavement. It seems that, over the years, the arch has had several homes around the city, it’s only been here since 1991. If G-G-G did ever shelter beneath it, it would’ve been elsewhere. I’ll never know.