Nostalgic times from the 1997 film Boogie Nights. Photo / Supplied.

Why A Little Nostalgia Will Do You Good

Looking to the past can be a healthy way to approach the future

Over the last few weeks I’ve been missing the daily pleasures of pre-lockdown life. Listening to live music in a crowd of strangers feels like light years ago. While dwelling in our pre-sanitised past seems to be unhealthy right now, research suggests that looking back is a perfect balm for unsettling times such as these (just google "power of nostalgia"). Fond memories can not only help you feel more optimistic about the future but also evoke inspiration and creativity — a big plus for racing minds stuck at home.

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To nudge your own boost of warm fuzzies right now, we’ve asked a few experts in each of their respective fields to dip into the pools of childhood memories, along with sharing the advice they would give their younger selves. Who knows where we'll be in weeks or months but, if looking back helps us to plod on positively into the future, heck, dig up that dusty vinyl and spin some joy.

Jo McColl, owner of the Unity Books in Auckland. Photo / Chris Loufte

The Baker

A favourite dish from childhood
Banana cream pie, as it reminds me of Christmas. My mum taught me how to make dessert pie, and I’d help her at Christmas time to make banana cream pie, strawberry pie and pecan pies. The tradition in our family was to eat a big Christmas dinner, then wait for our extended family to arrive and serve pie and ice cream. As a kid it always seemed like we were waiting forever for the cousins, aunts and uncles to turn up. And then there was more waiting as we exchanged gifts before we got to dessert.

Ultimate comfort food
When I was five, my dad took an assignment to work in Paris, so our family moved to Paris to live for a short while. Our apartment was above a boulangerie, and each day we’d go downstairs to get our bread - and my sister and I would get a chocolate teddy bear. But it was the crepe stand on the corner that got my attention. It smelled heavenly! I remember getting a warm sugar-and-lemon crepe in paper and eating it while I followed my mum, who was pushing my sister in her stroller. I’ve never forgotten that. And when we got back home, my dad learned how to make crepes, and showed me. Even now, I’m still trying to recreate the smell and the taste of the crepes I had as a child.

Advice for my younger self
Worry less and understand that each moment counts.

Fashion designer Liz Mitchell. Photo / Chris Loufte

The Muso

What I listened to as a child
The Best of The Kinks 1964-1970. This record blew my 9-year-old mind. I remember being in the car with my Mum staring out of the window and imagining I was playing on stage with The Kinks rather than driving to school. Nick Drake’s River Man also brings back memories of my formative years ... I was 18, living in London as a songwriter and really connecting with the poet inside. Experimenting and maturing.

Pluto’s most nostalgic song
Dance Stamina. We have a lot of fun playing it. It was one of our first songs to gain good traction. Plus I get to play a bit of lead guitar. I recall playing it at the Big Day Out and we had 10,000 hands clapping along. That was cool.

Advice for my younger self
Enjoy every second, life is a great ride.

Nostalgic times from the 1997 film Boogie Nights. Photo / Supplied.

The Bookworm

What I read as a child
As a child, I devoured as many books as I could get my hands on. The weekly trip to the library was an essential event although, back then, children were allocated a miserly three books a week. Adults were able to take five. My mum (a busy mother of four) would select a solitary novel then allow me to use the remainder of her allocation. Even then, seven books was barely adequate. By the age of eight or nine, pony stories were my favourites - English girls struggling to look after badly-behaved ponies - then I came across My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. Written in 1941, and set in Wyoming, this wonderful novel is basically a youthful coming of age Western — a boy and a beautiful golden filly he calls Flicka. My first Western! My reading life would never be the same! I still have the hardback copy that I purchased after winning $25 in a writing competition. The illustration of beautiful Flicka on the cover still makes me wish I was that boy on the wild ranges.

Advice for my younger self
When I left university and went to work full time at Unity Books in Wellington, many asked me if I was ever going to make use of my degree. (What better use for a double degree in Religious Studies and Ancient Classics than working in Unity?) And 42 years later, I am now proud owner of Unity Auckland and joint owner of Unity Wellington. If I had any advice for my younger self, I would say: "Follow your heart, you’re doing what you love, all will be well." I’m sounding like my father.

Daniell Butler from The Pie Piper's. Photo / Michael Craig

The Fashion Designer

The first piece of clothing I made
My early memory is from the late 60s — making a "Mod" dress with a bias polo neck and cutaway armholes in a textured colourful spot cotton. My mother, Aileen, was my sewing assistant and we would have used a Butterick pattern and adapted it. I still have some of those early patterns in my vintage collection.

My favourite designer as a child
Growing up I was inspired by Twiggy, designer Mary Quant and the London fashion and art scene — the "Youth Quake" as young people challenged the established order and the status quo. Fashion had relevancy, vitality and political energy. Feminist writing was becoming available and this helped form my early feminist ideas. I did love Zandra Rhodes, her romantic bohemian designs with unique printed fabrications. Bill Gibbs and Jean Muir were also favourites.
Aileen’s 1950’s French fashion magazines showcased the couture work of Christian Dior, Patou, Madame Gres, and Balmain. These became part of my design reference library and their influence continued as I developed as a bespoke couture designer. Dior’s feminine tailoring has been an inspiration.

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Advice to my younger self
Life will throw many challenges — be strong, be kind to yourself, listen to your inner voice, find what inspires you and see how this can become your life’s journey of discovery. Be present and make sure you have made time to smell the roses.

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