Thenadays (pronounced 'then-a-days') is actually an old English word. A partner to “nowadays”, it's not in Shakespeare, though it sounds as if it should be - a sentimental and wistful glance back to ‘then’, when things seemed to be better. Perhaps surprisingly, given our inclination towards nostalgia, it fell out of common use in the early 1900s.
Thenadays is now an online gift retailer specialising in retro, cultural and heritage inspired gifts which reproduce, or evoke, shared memories of the twentieth century.
David Heppell, the founder, explains where it all began, “the idea came from buying (or trying to buy) presents for my father. Every Birthday, Fathers Day and Christmas was a problem as he has no specific hobbies - or interests - where gifts are easy to come by. To make matters worse, he’s not interested in golf, which seems to be the go-to gift idea for men of a certain age."
"One of the things he’s said to me over the years, which has rung more true as I have also got older, is ‘I may be older on the outside, but I still feel 18 inside…’”. Age-related gifts seemed like an ideal solution.
Revisiting our formative years - our youth (or before) - is a national pastime; many of us never really feel like we’ve ‘grown-up’. David’s wife teases him that his favourite present from her is a remote control car. “The only one I had as a child had a fixed cable from the controller to the car – so it couldn’t go very far without me running along behind it (say that to kids today and they won’t believe you). Technology has moved on, prices have come down and now our lounge carpet occasionally has little tyre tracks all over it.”
Presents from an earlier era are also an interesting way to make sure cultural history and recollections are passed on to the next generation – and helps link the generations together. It’s sad to think that some people in their twenties have never heard of Tommy Cooper (yes, really). There are many, though, who are curious about what came before – what happened ‘back in the day’. It’s a modern version of the oral tradition – the young finding out about what parents have been through – the old(er) ones being reminded of things they thought they’d forgotten. Start reminiscing and one memory inevitably cascades into another in the telling. It’s a lovely way to connect with family and friends - who they were then – and who they still are now. It seems to bypass our famous British reserve.
Many say it was the Victorians who built modern Britain – but while they provided the foundations, and instilled some of the values, we’re now more of a product of our memories and recorded history (film, music, television and consumerism in all its many forms). Cultural History has never been so accessible and there has never been so much of it easily available.
The twentieth century is still modern(ish) Britain - it put us where we are now. The memories are still within-arms-reach – not yet museum pieces, not antiques. While there are many shops glorifying the authenticity of ‘vintage’ items as relics of a golden bygone age, Thenadays sells only newly produced items – remade as they were originally, or updated, revised or refreshed in some way –harking back to lingering memories of ‘old friends’.
It’s easy to forget the past in the hustle and bustle of the here-and-now, but it is useful sometimes to reflect on where we’ve come from, what made us who we are, what we loved as children, what we’ve lost – and gained – over the years, what we’ve perhaps only come to appreciate in later life. You may even remember something you thought you’d forgotten…