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Day 55: Halcyon Days

I’m going to be 30 this Saturday. 30? Me? Where did all the time go? I’m still pleasantly surprised each morning that I don’t have to put my school uniform on and listen to Brett and Jarvis and Thom and Damon on my Walkman WITH A TAPE IN IT outside the Old Swan pub waiting for the 68 or the 92 (whichever came first) with yellow, “Free Terry Fields” (who the hell was Terry Fields?) banners high on the nasty, nasty municipal flats that gloomily curved around the corner begging to be utterly destroyed and replaced with a great big, scouse Tesco!

I still think it would be a good idea to head down to the swings in Springfield Park with Dino and a bottle of vodka and put the world to rights (and try to suss out the mystery of girls). I still think it would be cool to link up all our PCs and have a big multiplayer game of Doom. I would be quite content to spend the day playing Kick Off 2 against our Mike (even though he always won) before going to the field across the road with our Alex and seeing what we could set on fire. Thinking about it – I haven’t been crowdsurfing for ages or gone to a comic shop with Ben or to a gig with Danny. Level 4 Quasar, the MGM on Edge Lane, Alien Breed, the Ralla, the 61 bus that went from Matty’s to Ben’s to Yoz’s (kinda) to mine to Dino’s to Michelle’s to Glenn’s (what are the chances?), the Krazy House, the OneFour, Liquidation at Hardys and the house parties. Man, the house parties…

The new Star Wars movies came out I, II and III and they were crap. But before them we had to make them up in our heads and they were much better. I seem to have slept-walked through Uni and found distraction after distraction to keep me occupied until I found myself here on a boat heading to Mexico. 30? Christ, maybe it’s best I pass the 28th February 2009 in a daze on a bus going the wrong direction, seems fitting.

What’s with this damn nostalgia? It rummages through the past, discarding all the rubbish, the boredom, the grind of the everyday. It Tipp-exs out the minutes in between (toilet trips, queuing for cash machines, waiting for the phone to ring) and leaves you with this idealised version of the past, just the good stuff – but does it make us feel better? No, not really…just leaves us with a feeling of loss, for things not done, stuff not said, opportunities missed.

It might be an old song, it might be a scent carried on the breeze or an old VHS tape with “Red Dwarf III – do NOT tape over!” scrawled in red biro, but once the nostalgia bug has bitten, it’s hard to shake off. It stalks me, it really does, and every time I try and blow the cobwebs away and see the past for what it was – a desperate scramble to cut through the humdrum – it morphs into something I know in my heart-of-hearts, it wasn’t; a non-stop cavalcade of fun. It just seems that way.

Okay, let’s look my school years objectively…

No girlfriend. No mobile phones. No Internet!! No ‘Lord of the Rings’ films or ‘Sopranos’. No ‘Lost’, ‘House’ or ‘Deadwood’. Nobody had heard of DVDs, Google, YouTube, eBay, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, iPods or ‘Grand Theft Auto’. I hadn’t touched the Taj Mahal, or the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Angkor Wat or Uluru. I hadn’t driven across Australia with the girl of my dreams. I hadn’t been to Glastonbury or to Thailand with Stan. I hadn’t been skydiving, bungee jumping, beer vortexing, couchsurfing or hitch-hiking around the Caribbean. I had never fallen under the spell of the desert stars. I didn’t have a hat to lose.

I hadn’t met a fraction of the people I now know and love. My friends are now spread all over the world, not confined to a Liverpool bus route. I haven’t been idle – I’ve made short films, written feature-length scripts and travelled far and wide. I know more stuff – how it all works, how it fits together and how to make it better – than I was ever taught by those bonehead teachers in school (note to Geography teachers: location of Bolivia = useful, formation of ox-box lakes = not useful).

A lot of great stuff has happened in the last decade, but the distance in time isn’t long enough ago for my memory to conspire to leave me with just the good bits. But that’s just how it works, I’ll probably spend my thirties pining for my twenties just as I spent my twenties pining for my teens.

Ceyx was the son of Lucifer (not the devil, the bringer of light) and he loved Alcyone, but one day he went to sea. Seized by a premonition of doom, she called out for him not to go, but he went anyway. He had her name on his lips as the storm waters closed over his head. Eventually, Morpheus (not out the Matrix, the god of dreams) sent Alcyone a vision of her beloved, Ceyx – soaking wet – informing her that he was dead.

She ran down to the rocks where she had watched his ship depart. There she found Ceyx’s body washed up on the shore, but the gods were kind. They turned her and Ceyx into birds and they flew out together, flying and riding the waves.

Every year there are seven days on-end when the sea lies still and calm; no breath of wind stirs the waters. These are the days when Alcyone broods over her nest floating on the sea. After the young birds are hatched, the charm is broken, but each winter, these days of perfect peace come, and they are called after her, Alcyon, or more commonly, Halcyon days.

Those Halcyon days are never over. They’re not confined to the distant past. They will come and go as long as you live. Long may they continue.

Come on thirty, I can take it. You can make me older, but you’ll never make me grow up. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Helen

    Graham, this is beautiful writing. I’m sorry you can’t be here on Saturday, although not as sorry as you, I’m guessing.

  2. Laura

    I so enjoyed reading that Graham, brilliant….that really brought a smile to my face. Have a great birthday dude.

  3. Hugh

    What you on about?

    Think you’re starting to lose your mind – think we need a good old fashioned late twenties friday night in Heebees then Magnet until 5am to bring you back down to earth. Be loud, obnoxious, opinionated, drunk and dance like we’re spastics. Can I call them spastics?

  4. Chris

    Excellent post, Gra – you’re damn straight: nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…

  5. Webmaster

    Jenna Laird-Furley says:

    “I’m really enjoying your travels so far Graham. It must be quite lonely at times, so HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY!”

  6. Stan


    30 aint so bad, and there’s no problem with nostagia buddy. Especially with everything you’ve done, the places you’ve been. Yep, there’s nowt wrong in looking back what you have done.

    All the best buddy. Happy Birthday.

  7. Mave

    Cracking bit of nostalgia fella. Great read. Happy birthday.

  8. Christian

    Happy birthday Gray, thanks for sharing your perspective on days past..I do recall being completly blown away by mike’s Spectrum and never wanting our stay in LP and space invaders to have an end. But dont get all wingy though..You now have the advantage of being a child in the disguise of a real grown up and that not all bad, I should know!!

  9. Webmaster

    John Robinson says:

    “Yeah, Graham..dont worry about nostalgia, It happens more the older you get, but the older you get, the more accepting you become of yourself & your life (usually). You’re doing something which is pretty much unique, an adventure on a grand scale, so don’t be worrying about little ole nostalgia just now. Also, when you find yourself running around in circles a la Caribbean & feeling a wee bit low, dont forget there’s hundreds & thousands of people in ‘9-5land’ out here following your every word & footstep & wishing it was them ! Anyway, good luck with the rest of the’re certainly making the most of your ‘ golden ticket ‘, unlike myself who has been suitably chastised by yourself..doubt if I’ll see you in Corfu in July for example ! By the way, if you need a lift into Wales or Scotland in my yeller Cortina, just let yer Mum know, and I’d be honoured..after all it is only a ‘short journey across town’ from Liverpool to Wales Again, good luck with the grander journey”.

  10. Carlos

    Sniff .. Graham .. nice post !
    You described very well the sense of loss and idealization when we look back.
    I am reading all of your post from the beginning, I knew from you watching National Geographic, what happened ? no longer airing you , can´t be this possible ? (Latinoamerica)
    This world needs crazy people like you
    A hug from Uruguay, mucha fuerza en China !!

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