Yes, things really have got better

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, February 27, 2012

Nostalgia. The sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time. My life at the moment is giving me pause for nostalgic thought but, as in the words of American writer Peter de Vries, "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."

I am currently filming a big medical drama series in Leeds, my one time alma mater, the first of the two northern universities that I attended during the late 1980s. I assumed that coming back to the birthplace of my spirited independence from North West London toward a peripatetic creative life would reduce me to tears of nostalgic rue.

Leeds was my city of "firsts". First time away from home, first time I met someone who'd never "met a Jew before", first beer, first all-night rave, first awareness of injustice, first acting opportunity. The university's Drama Society saw me fired up and acting alongside such future luminaries as Alistair McGowan, Peter Morgan and Mark Wadlow.

But rather than sit here tucked sensibly in my hotel bed by 10pm, longing for those heady days gone by, I am looking at a rejuvenated city. The Leeds I remember was in the final grips of the bitter miners' strike, constantly raining, dark and under developed. Now it is a shiny metropolis with shopping boulevards and a Victorian Quarter. Its students eat in restaurants (or so I imagine) rather than staging political demonstrations on the streets.

Filming in a disused school is also dragging me back to thoughts of my past school life, with its creaky old Victorian architecture, constant cold, rickety wooden desks and blackboards scrawled with learning without meaning.

I met someone who'd never 'met a Jew'

The walls of the building hold memories of detentions and corporal punishment, of cabbage and crying in the loos. Sometimes I arrive on set having dropped my daughter at her school in the morning before boarding the East Coast train, and the "Jolly Phonic" child-led, happy creative environment that is the junior schooling of today is a world away from times tables and rote learning that characterised the schooldays of my past.

Cheder, too. The modern relevant way that Jewish education is taught in our local Cheder is a world away from the boring, not to mention utterly pointless, three sessions a week I was forced to attend from the age of four. She's learnt more in one term than I learnt in seven years.

The ultimate kick to nostalgia came this week watching Luis Suarez. His racist comment to black player Evra saw him banned for eight games. On his return, he ignored Evra and refused to shake his hand.

Football of my past was full of racist chants from the fans and there was a total lack of respect and tolerance. Do you know what the fans from both sides were chanting now in the stalls of Old Trafford? "You racist b*****d". In my world the past was different; but it was definitely not better.

Last updated: 11:15am, February 27 2012