The grey post-war, food rationed era that followed the hard won victory of WWII – still vivid in memory – exploded in a burst of Carnaby colour and Yeh Yeh sound in the faces of two generations of war heroes, survivors and stiff upper-lipped Britons.
A bright, brash, optimistic younger generation stormed the battlements of an out-moded class-ridden system. In the vanguard, the new classless cavalry charged through the portals of the established order. Their standard bearers were the more modish themes of Youth, Music, Fashion, Mobility, Hedonism and Anti-Establishmentarianism.
(photo of Michael Caine by like the city) (Photo of Terence Stamp by Terry O’Neil)
In my youthful impressionable eyes, the London I’d been born into seemed to turn overnight from a monotonous, monochrome B-movie set populated by clipped Oxford accents under short-back-and-sides haircuts – bowler-hatted, stiff collared, pin-stripe suited and furled umbrella-carrying City gents and boring middle-of the-road, white shirted, sensibly shod, grey clothed office workers into a dazzling Technicolour, wide-screen Main-feature starring a cast of long-haired, dandified, Paisley clad men and women swathed in riotous psychedelic colours and a hip all-out explosion of fashion styles that turned two fingers up to the white, button-down shirted and monochrome colours and morals of the 50’s.
(Photo courtesy flickr)
The truth was more complex than that… but that comes later.
I’d been born in the London Clinic during the Luftwaffe‘s last night raid. And I was raised in a dysfunctional, upper middle class, cosmopolitan family. I grew up alarmingly fast into tall, skinny, highly strung, accident-prone dyslexic with very little sense of self-worth surrounded by eccentric relatives, an absent mother and an unsettlingly awe-inspiring father.
My young Weltanschauung (I did say cosmopolitan!) was coloured by a privileged upbringing complete with housekeepers, stables, horses, grooms and Continental holidays. This was followed by a typically traditional, upper-crust education: Prep School followed by four years of semi-Victorian, somewhat sadistic purgatory in one of the country’s leading Public (actually private and dam’ expensive) Schools, from which I emerged with an inflated sense of my position in society, a mediocre education – just as skinny and still no sense of self-worth!
My privileged background notwithstanding, Life was about to blow a cold blast of reality up my hindquarters… within a year of leaving school I was have my first lesson in what happens when you don’t stand up for what you want in life.
To be continued…