Last night I enjoyed the finale of the Australian soap Neighbours and it was a kitsch and nostalgic celebration of my youth.
Neighbours to me is one of those comforting programmes, it is home and happy, simple times. I haven’t watched it in over 25 years, but it was a constant as I was growing up. It started when my friends and I discovered it in 1987. We were addicted and thanks to a very late school lunch hour and the proximity of school to my friend’s house, we got our parents to approve lunchtime passes and off we went to munch our sandwiches and watch Neighbours before returning to lessons. I moved to a different part of the country in the summer of 1987 and Neighbours was there, my link to my old friends and providing that comfort when I felt lonely. My new friends also loved it and although it was so uncool, I remember listening on repeat to Jason Donovan’s CD in my friend’s bedroom. Neighbours was always there when you needed a pause on homework or revising for exams, 5.35 was that special half hour just before tea, when you escaped to sunny, happy Australia. When I went to work in France for a year, it was Neighbours that I craved to watch back on British tv and I remember asking my mum for the recaps on the phone. Helene et les Garcons was a similar series in France but not quite my Neighbours. As I got older and started work, I watched it far less but it was always one of those programmes you could just dip into and feel good. Sometimes you just need a series that does this, it is familiarity, comfort and nostalgia.
I finally visited Australia in December 2002 to watch the Ashes cricket matches in Melbourne and Sydney. I couldn’t go to Australia and not visit Ramsey Street, or as it is correctly called, Pin Oak Court, so on Christmas day after Christmas dinner, we jumped on a suburban train and headed off to Ramsey Street. I loved every minute of my time on the street, recognising the houses and picturing all the famous scenes. Its one of those things you do that seems a bit crazy but you never regret. We returned 4 years later for more cricket and on one night in Sydney we went to see one of my favourite musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (I loved the film with Guy Pearce aka Mike) As we walked in we saw Toady in the audience, which was just class.
The finale last night was just the perfect mix of nostalgia with flashback clips which I remembered watching the first time, so many cameos and clever touches. For me the story reuniting Mike and Jane (oh how I rooted for Plain Jane Super Brain in the 1980s, I really identified with her rather than feisty Charlene) was the perfect ending I needed. So many characters from my era were featured and it all just felt so warm and comforting. Neighbours wasn’t just a tv show, it was something which grounded me during my teenage and early adult years and I’ll always smile remembering how a simple Aussie soap brought happiness and comfort.