The awfulness of the previous period of time

In my iTunes library, I have songs that mention the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, either looking back in anger or forward in excitement. “Goodbye, ’70s!” sneers Alison Moyet; “Heading for the ’90s, living in the ’80s,” notes one-hit wonders the Escape Club.

But what happened to the ’00s? Where were the songs from the late ’90s that looked forward to the new decade. Oh yeah – the millennium is what happened.

Instead sights were set beyond the next 10 years; pop music extended itself 1000 years into the future. The Backstreet Boys and Robbie Williams and Will bloody Smith all got visionary and futuristic about Y2K and beyond.

Then, suddenly, along comes 2010 with barely a dent made in the millennium, and the sudden realisation that a whole decade has past and it probably wasn’t as magical as it seemed like it was going to be.

Though, it would have been a major downer if someone had released a song in 1999 that imagined a new millenium of terrorism, financial crises and Susan Boyle. Yeah, imagine this in an R&B lite style, perhaps with a Fred Durst rap later on:

Aeroplanes flying into buildings.
Poor Wall Street tumbles to the ground.
Frumpy spinster becomes a pop star.
These are the things that will define the next decade.

Well, there were actually some good things that happened in the ’00s. It’s just a lot more fun to dramatically declare that the whole decade was awful and therefore bring on the ’10s because shit cannot possibly be worse.

Ditto with the 2009, which was also awful and 2010 will be better. But I seem to recall that 2008 was awful and 2009 would be better. Et cetera.

Somehow when I look back at the 2000s, the thing that sticks out the most for me is the three months I lived at my parents’ place in Hamilton (late ’01, early ’02), where I spent most of the time sitting on the couch, watching the strange choices of music videos on Juice TV (Heather Nova, wtf).

Perhaps this period sticks out because I was unenjoyably living in Hamilton and watching dull music videos all day. Or perhaps I remember it because I was fresh from the National Young Writer’s Festival in Australia, feeling confident and inspired about my writing talents, and being very productive.

I hope that when people look back at the 2000s and declare it to be awful that it’s really just about a couple of specific events, and that they didn’t actually live through 10 whole years of awfulness without any effort to make things better. Because that really would be awful.

Happier times

I’ve been thinking a bit about memory. I recently had a conversation where I’d roughly described what I’d been doing for the last 10 years. And the next day I thought, well, that’s sort of how that decade went but it also didn’t go like that.

I could have retold the story of those years – entirely truthfully – but painted a totally different picture by what I’d left in and kept out.

I write things down here and I also keep a diary, but I’m conscious of how the act of writing about an event can shape that telling of a story as being the “official” version.

And what I write here is influenced by how I’m feeling at the time and who I have in mind when I’m writing it. So, what if I don’t write something down and eventually forget about it as it’s not in my official history?

There’s a day I sometimes think back on as being a good day – Thursday, 14 April 2005. I was on holiday in Australia, and that day I drove from Kiama (on the New South Wales coast) up to Wollongong, then on to Sydney.

I remember it as being a brilliant day, I visited the art gallery in Wollongong, and cruised down the coastal highway, listening to The Fall in my rented Toyota.

When I read back what I’d written online at the time (part one and part two), that more or less matches what I like to remember of the day, give or take a few minor details.

But what I’d written in my diary at the time tells a totally different story: I was utterly miserable!

The day had taken me from a lovely seaside town, along the coast and into a confident metropolis. This couldn’t compete with Auckland and so the thought of having to go home in a couple of days made me feel really depressed.

I have a vague memory of mooching around my hotel room that evening, but I only really know my holiday had this effect on me because I wrote it down at the time.

The happy stuff – the good memories – are what have stuck around. The other details, like being disappointed with seeing “The Interpreter”, are fading.

Ask me about any event in my life and I’ll tell you a different story every time.

The fun is in the telling and the retelling, the perspective that time can bring. Let’s sit, let’s talk – I’ll tell you a brand new story you’ve already heard.

Robyn in car

The authoress in happier/unhappier times.