I’ve just bought a new laptop. It’s the latest state-of-the-art, whizz bang, extremely light, unbelievably fast machine. I’d had the old one for five years, and it had developed a habit of randomly deciding to shut down. Rather like me when I’m writing. So, I should be a very happy, excited person. But I’m not. I’m a very stressed, grumpy person. Reason? I don’t like whizzy, bangy technology. I need it, but I don’t like it. I suppose in time I will get used to this machine. I will give it a name. Don’t laugh. It’s what we do in our family when we’ve finally acclimatised to something new with which we need to get comfortable – cars, settees, and so on. But for now, this machine is ‘It’.
Six years ago, I discovered I had cancer. I was one of the lucky ones. Mine was a discrete tumour and was surgically removed with no after-effects. I had just had a book published in the Maze series, so my children decided to buy me a ‘you’re going to get well again very soon’ gift for my birthday, a few weeks after the surgery. They wanted to give me something special. I had talked often about how I am a very fast typist, having learned my skill many, many years ago on a manual typewriter. So, they bought me the one in the picture above. It was love at first sight. It’s called ‘Daphne’, after my favourite writer.
The thing is, though, I’ve never used Daphne. She sits on display in the conservatory. She is in dire need of some TLC and I promised I would get her a makeover. But I never have. I walk past her at least ten times a day as I make my way through the conservatory to the garden, and each time, I feel a surge of quiet happiness and – memory.
You see, it’s not about Daphne. It’s about what she represents. I first came across a manual typewriter when, more years ago than I care to remember, I decided, after giving up teaching, on enrol a college course to become a Personal Assistant. Those were the days when being a PA was the highest rank the majority of women could hope to reach in the world of male dominated business. The course lasted one year and I made friends that I still remember. Seven of us went on holiday to Spain at the end of the course. One of them is my best friend today and works with me on marketing my books. She became a brilliant sales director. I am sure that many of the others also succeeded.
It’s the memories, the nostalgia, the recall of happy times that makes Daphne so special. My friend and I were laughing at lunch a few days ago about that course; how the most exciting thing that happened was that the College bought some electric typewriters, and our group was the first to use them. We laughed over the exercises to a metronome, three carbon copies. We learned to type error-free, never having even the slightest inkling that a machine would come along that would correct the errors for us!
The dictionary defines nostalgia as: ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.’ I don’t long for the past, but I do have the wistful affection. Not, of course, that I would want to return to the manual typewriter. Horrible thought! These days my thoughts are mainly about the future, about writing new books (exciting!), receiving kind comments on the books I’ve written (even more exciting), figuring out how to find more people to read my books (daunting!).
But every now and then I see a picture on Facebook or whatever, or catch a glimpse of a name I’d forgotten, and I feel a strong yearning to get in touch with those people, find out how they are, how their lives have turned out. I remember the fun and good times we shared. My life has not been a bed of roses, I have, like everyone else, had ups and downs. But I’ll never forget the people in my past who made me who I am today.
In the meantime, ‘It’ and I will soldier on and learn to like each other. And I will continue to remember my old friends, and give them the occasional call, just to make sure they’re OK, and check on how nostalgic they are feeling.