The past is another country: A change is gonna come. (Who said that?)

A catch is dropped and blamed on Spidercam wires. Rules are developed for calling a dead ball when a shot hits the roof of a stadium.

Drinks come out onto the field accompanied by a car with a huge Gatorade bottle on top.

Change sucks, ruins everything, is messy, rude and impatient. We should keep things the way they were. Change tears things down.

Change is inevitable, natural, helpful, modern and beneficial. We should constantly evolve and update. Change improves things.

Take your pick, both are right.

I was talking with a friend last week about someone we know who is coming out to Australia soon after being away from here for at least 17 years. They left Australia for Europe in the early 70s and, despite occasional visits since, we fear they will be shocked at what Melbourne looks like now.

Of course, any city changes over a period, even this person’s adopted city is vastly different. But what will they think and how will they like it? We both agree they’ll be more grumpy than pleased about the various changes/improvements to the city .

As it is with cricket. Those that know the past usually seek to look back on it wishfully (wistfully?). Those that don’t know it can’t believe things weren’t ever as good as they are now and roll their eyes at any dispute with that. Cricket played indoors? Wonderful, no frustrating rain delays like there were on the final day of the Melbourne test or last night’s BBL. Cricket played indoors? The end of civilisation as we know it.

Ponting, Smith, Clarke, how good are they? Pah, Greg Chappell, now there’s your man.

Chappell? Couldn’t tie Neil Harvey’s boots.

And so on, and so on.

As it goes with other sports, like AFL. Coventry, Pratt, then Coleman. Onto Hudson, Jezza, then Dunstall and Lockett, Ablett Senior, yet none as are good the one they replaced and Buddy’s the best of the lot anyway. Each generation arguing and dismissing claims by the other.

“Ablett Junior is the best ever”. Have we forgotten Carey already? Carey? What about Matthews? Lethal? Give me EJ every day.

LeBron, Kobe, MJ, Kareem.

It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.

Dave Warner epitomises change, is brash, fast and evolving. He’s exciting, playing all forms and constantly attacking. He’s the future, he’s alive. Run a ball hundreds. Chris Rogers: plods along, plain, bland, dull, barely there, just an old Test opener, not a fast form guy. Boring fifties. He’s like watching paint dry, forgettable.

David Warner is cocky, disrespectful, arrogant, and rude. He’s everything wrong about this generation. All or nothing, you never know what you’ll get. Rogers, now that’s how the game should be played, no scandal, steady and polite. Respectful, old school and patient. Mr Reliable, for the team. He’s a link to the way we like things to be.

Past and present. In the one 11.

I vividly recall the first time I ever saw a person hold up a mobile phone and take a photo with it. I didn’t have a clue what they were doing, but was captivated. Not that I was interested in taking photos with a phone, but I couldn’t believe it could happen and loved the concept. (Much like my interest in various reality television shows; I’m not interested in the shows but am endlessly fascinated and intrigued by the concepts, the way they are produced, the people that go on them and what motivates their behaviours)

I had to embrace the future (or the present) over the Christmas break. My Blackberry, purchased in 2008, didn’t wake up Boxing Day morning and was pronounced dead a few days later by the doctors at the Hawthorn Optus store (no flowers please).

Despite using an iPhone for work, what I used 90% of the time for my personal communications was my trusty Blackberry. I think the more it became out of date they more I wanted to retain it, railing against aspects of modernity and Apple-led marketing in favour of something basic. Despite it having more power in it that the moon-landing Apollo rockets, I became convinced it was my version of a typewriter or record player and my link to the heady good old days (of 7 years ago!). Not exactly horse and buggy stuff, but my little way of clinging to old school. On the weekend my son politely mocked me as a “first world anarchist” for not carrying my phone with me when we went out for the day (or seemingly any time I left the house). I’d explained to him that it was my little piece of rebellion at not wanting to be bogged down and tied to technology all the time. He’s right though, my actions aren’t exactly challenging Ghandi for changing the world.

I have now had to upgrade and got myself a new-fangled phone, an iPhone 5 (I didn’t want to go all the way to the latest thing did I), although virtually all the features past text, photos, e-mails and calls are wasted on me. Last year I downloaded my first, and so far only, app (which I immediately forgot the password for). This year it’s already an iPhone, so it’s baby steps to see what 2016 holds for me.

Were things better in the past? Definitely and no way. Absolutely and you are kidding. Yes they were and no they weren’t. For every advancement in instant communications, there’s cyberbullying and scamming. For everyone that feels life was simpler in the 70s, there’s driving without seat belts and the 6 o’clock swill.

The past is another country. Someone wiser than me said that once (and I could probably find out who in a few seconds on the world wide web thingy). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with living in the past, a bit anyway. Pining for days gone by, simpler times (by comparison), even if it is through rose coloured glasses.

I use the past as a reference point a fair bit. As I look at my 14 year old son, I tend to parent and guide him based on my recollections of, not just my 14 year old self, but on me for the few years after that too. I don’t base it so much on the present, and me as a dad now, more what I remember being at 14. I look for things in him that I did, and try to veer him in a different direction, not wanting him to make the mistakes I made and have to turn out, well, like me I suppose.

If we ignore history, we are doomed to repeat it (FDR or Henry Ford? I’ll need to Wikipedia that one too). Some people crave and embrace change passionately, and look at those who do not as not just being staid, but slightly weird. (What, you’re not on Twitter?). Others want the good old days back, when everything was better than it is now.

The balance for writing a good science fiction novel used to be that the premise or concepts of the book had to be just far enough in the future to be seen as plausible or possible, but not as far away so as people couldn’t connect with them at all. Now, that is becoming harder. Imagine 10 years ago saying that you could verbally ask a question of a phone and it would answer you or have a conversation. Imagine telling Greg Chappell in his heyday that a catch would be dropped because the wires for a floating overheard camera above the player’s head got in the way.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. (Again, not my line, I’ll look up this one too). Maybe all change does is replace one thing with a newer and different one to get equally frustrated about.

The past might be another country. But I like to visit it occasionally.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic and thought provoking , Sean with a lot of hidden meaning . The present re mobile phones and computers scares the crap out of me which my sons pay me out constantly . hey big bash fans were are you at Sheffield shield games ? ( real cricket )

  2. Hartley was responsible for your quote I think Sean (no doubt as you say Mr Internet would know in a heartbeat) – I remember many moons ago being in a history tutorial at uni pulling apart that quote and its implications for the study of history. I marvel at these devices and how different studying an arts degree (or anything else for that matter) would be in the modern age.

  3. The Paul Simon quote leaped out at me, Sean (and what a great, great song “Boy in the Bubble is.’)

    Yep, crickets come a long way since G Chappells day. He’d have said you were crazy if you’d predicted all the new techie stuff

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific piece Sean.
    Paul Simon line so apt. Agree that technology and the particularly Internet has changed things rapidly in the last decade compared to other generations. We used to wait on tenterhooks to read about sport in the paper or get some snippets on WOS the following day. Highlights without commentary and yet it left me wanting to know more. Not knowing left some space for the imagination to play. Thought-provoking stuff.

  5. Hi Phil, I think the expression was, The past is a foreign country. Things are done differently there. It could have been Aldous Huxley… but don’t quote me, Paul

  6. It is from Hartley in The Go Between, I just consulted the Columbian encyclopedia…

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