“London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.”
traditional English Nursery Rhyme
There is a short prologue post which you may wish to read should you have missed it setting up what is to follow.
London in the late 1960s found itself squarely in the midst of a drastic era switch. It was the dowdy, gritty capital of a former Empire refusing to acknowledge its demise. You could still see men wearing bowlers in the City. It would take nearly thirty more years before the Union Jack was lowered for the final time in Hong Kong, the last colonial crown jewel. Until Hong Kong was gone, there was always something of the past to be held on to.
Britain was caught up in a swirling vortex of change led by its avant-guard young generation. These were the days of Carnaby Street, the micro-mini skirt and Twiggy and swinging London. The musical British Invasion still had some legs. The Beatles’ White Album was released in October 1968, a foreshadow of the end to that era.
London, Manchester, and Birmingham were packed with new immigrants from all corners of the Commonwealth, not all of them equally welcomed by many of the existing population.
The pound sterling was at record lows and gasping.
Though the damage was mostly repaired, the mindset from WW II was still prevalent. British meant best for the old guard, though British factories were now renowned for their poor quality, and most workers needed a second source of income or graft ( a fiddle) to adequately take care of their families.
On the other hand the beer was still good.
This was the time when the overnight mail train from London to Glasgow didn’t run because of a tea pot. The union contract specified an earthenware pot; this train’s teapot was metal. No London mail in Scotland the next day because workers’ rights needed to prevail.
It would be another decade before the Iron Lady arrived to pound change and modernity into the collective and with none too kind or subtle a hand. It would cost her.
This, too, was the time the troubles in Northern Ireland were set to begin. An unwelcome, disastrous echo from history.
The economy was a wreck. The currency was between £sd (pounds-shillings-pence) and decimalization. The farthing (1/4 of a penny) had been eliminated less than a decade before but the halfpenny was still in use.
Should it join Europe or no? The between times.
And yes, London Bridge was coming down. It had just been sold to Arizona.
America had an influence of course. But it was limited. It was that place away. America seemed rather quaint in a cutsie type of way. All big and gung-ho. If you wanted to get a decent hamburger in London (Wimpey burgers were not “decent”) you had to find a restaurant near Buckingham Palace. The Brits still ate their burgers with knife and fork.
The between times. Drifting through a shadowy gloom. A glorious past remembered, and uncertain, decidedly different prospects for the future ahead.
The between times. Leaving carefree, innocent youth and seeing the world as it really was. Up close. With no safety net. An adult world. Seeking adventure and knowledge and finding more of each than could ever be imagined.
The between times. Beginning to understand that when a one in 8 million chance occurs, there’s probably a reason. Learning that while heads might be coincidence, tails is likely fate. Absorbing that your moral compass might not be true and wise in different environments and changing times. You only learn when your mind is open to different views and perspectives.
The between times. For a country. And a city. And our Marty.
… to be continued