Wednesday, 25 December 2019

The Ramblings Of A Silly Old Man - CHAPTER TWO


I remember that very first edition of Doctor Who broadcast by The BBC on Saturday 23rd November 1963. It did not achieve much of an audience, President John F Kennedy had been assassinated the day before so everyone was watching the news on the other side, only two channels in those days. That first episode was run again the following week after which Doctor Who became a legend.

I never was a fan of Doctor Who but Back To The Future, the 1985 film. I really did enjoy. Whizzing back to 1895 and H G Wells novel The Time Machine , no I did not find that story particularly inspiring. 

So is time travel possible ?  I once engaged two eminent astro physicists on the subject, their explanation was so academic I do not know if they said yes or no. There are certainly parallel universes but can we move between them ?

My first published book, Peter's Magic Fountain Pen, is a time travel story for children. Other books of mine feature time travel, it fascinates me. The Great Pretender sees Freddie Mercury move between parallel universes. Brian May you have a Phd in the subject, what is your take on this ?

Hey Silly Old Man, that's long enough for and introduction so get on with it will you please ! OK, here goes. If you had a time machine which could go back in time to any date, any location where would you go ?

I would go to San Francisco during The Summer of Love, 1967. I have a very clear reason for setting the time control dials to this destination which after I have rambled on for another thousand or so words I will explain.

July 1965, two years prior to my planned destination, Sonny and Cher had a fabulous hit record with I Got You Babe. With their pre-hippie look the establishment did not think them suitable role models for we teenagers who listened to their music. A scruffy duo who would never achieve anything. How wrong our parents and their generation could have been ? Sony Bono became a politician, as a Republican he was elected to the US House of Representatives. Had he not been tragically killed in a skiing accident in 1998 he may well have become President. Cher is an international icon. So much achieved by a scruffy singing duo.

As my time machine flies to San Francisco I want to explain there is a lot more in my arrogant opinion to being a hippie that flowers and wacky backy. I want us all here now in the third decade of the twenty-first century to learn from, take inspiration from the hippie movement.

I remember 1967 and The Summer of Love so well. I was sixteen going on seventeen years of age. I had left the pointless and wasted years of school behind me and was working in the giant Lewis's Department Store right in the centre of Birmingham, England. Vast, there were more than two thousand members of staff spread across nine floors. I was a management trainee about to take the high street by storm. Management, even at the basic level of a trainee, was dressed smart and business like. Tidy hair, white shirt, sensible (boring) tie, black shoes and a blue suit.  Long hair, tie-dye, sandals  and flowers were a definite NO NO.

A couple of years earlier I had failed a rite of passage in my peer group. When my friends started to smoke I did not like the taste so I never took up the vice. Had I been a hippie and a smoker I would happily have swapped a packet of Embassy King Size for a bit of weed.

In the fashion department of Lewis's Department Store money was made from old people, Carnaby Street had no influence on our sales. However, a buyer thought we should try to cash in on the hippie movement.  Boxes of hippe bells were delivered to the store. But hippies did not wear bells they wore beads !  I do not think we sold a single one. Hippies did not find the city centre of Birmingham. Why should they, they had San Francisco ?

I have been to San Francisco more times that I can actually say. I hope I will go there again before my time is up. Each visit to The City By the Bay I follow the usual touristroute: I walk The Golden gate Bridge, take a Bay cruise, visit Alcatraz - in The Summer of Love - it was still a working prison, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Coint Tower, Chinatown, ride the cable cars and more. When the time machine lands in San Francisco looking for The Summer of Love we will not find hippies in these locations. The hippies were camped in Golden gate Park which is way off from the waterside. The odd hippie or two may have wandered down to The Bay but it was a very long walk there and an even longer uphill walk back.

The last time I was in San Francisco I dressed as a hippie, tie-dye, sandals and flowers in my long hair. I was the only hippie in the vast Golden Gate Park. As I searched for Hippie Mount the few other people in Golden Gate Park looked on at the Silly Old Man with pity.

In 1967 the vast Golden Gate Park, which then took the name Hippie Park, was packed. I am truly looking forward to being there.

The first time I flew to San Francisco smoking was allowed on aircraft. The moment we entered California air space the No Smoking sign was turned on.The State of California did not allow smoking in its air space. Today you will not find people smoking on the streets of San Francisco but smoking cannabis is perfectly legal.

The Flowerpot Men, that was actually a British group sang, Let's Go To San Francisco. Flowerpot Men, there were those who thought the group took its name from the TV childrens programme The Flowerpot Men. NO !  Flowers as in flowers in your hair. Pot as in cannabis !  Programme controllers at the new Radio Boring aka Radio One never twigged that. Scott McKenzie sang about San Francisco, don't confuse the two.

I want my time machine to be the size of a fleet of jumbo jets, I am planning to being a few thousand hippies back with me to England 2020.

One million, three hundred and fifty-three thousand were killed during The Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands more were injured, death and injuries were significantly higher among innocent civilians than the armed forces on all sides. The hippie movement was a peace and love movement against this war.

The hippie musical Hair does not truly portray the peace and love of the hippie movement although the story ending is very powerful. The music is weak although Hair did give us The Dawning of Aquarius.

My time machine will bring back as many hippies as I can pack inside then head off again to August 1969 to Woodstock, the three day festival in New York State.

Please allow me to ramble and share a couple of anecdotes with you.

After two years I completed my management course at Lewis's Department Store in Birmingham. The Staff Manager thought my career lay in staff training and then staff management. At the age of eighteen I was interviewing school leavers to join the store. That actually features in one of my time story novels but we won't ramble down that road. I liked Mr Harris's idea, he was the staff manager, and from it decided I would change my career path and become a school teacher. Strange that given how much I hated school as a pupil. I secured a position as an unqualified assistant teacher in a boys preparatory school. Aged nineteen I was teaching twelve and thirteen year olds. I was in charge of PE and Games, when the headmaster learned of my love of music he added that to my timetable.

On a school trip to Blenheim Palace the coach passed a sign post near Oxford pointing to Woodstock. The boys got very exited and asked if we could go there. I had to explain it was not the same Woodstock.

Spring 2019, I was in a school speaking with a group of sixth-formers. This lad has a tie-dye shirt which I admired. When I finished telling him I thought he had good tastes he launched into talking about Woodstock. He would have been seventeen years old, Woodtock was thirty-three years before he was born.

The organisers of  the Woodstock pop festival planned for an attendance of thirty thousand. Half a million turned up !

Half a million. Peace and love. As I explained I do not smoke , would not have puffed on cannabis but there was enough in the air for everyone close to the stage to get high.  Two years ago in the Summer of Love The Small Faces sang in Itchycoo Park sang: What did you do there - I got high. Radio Boring you missed that as well didn't you !

Where was I ?

Half a million. Not a fight anywhere at any time during the three days at Woodstock. Nobody was injured in any way. Security was simply peace and love.

Half a million with catering designed for thirty thousand. Instead of complaining about the hippie invasion the local people prepared food in their own homes then the army took everything into the festival.

The Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1970.

I want our time machine to bring back as man of the one million hippies as we can fir inside.

Peace and Love.

Britain, thankfully, kept out of the Vietnam War. The Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust have been consigned to history but now more than ever before we are racing at top speed towards Armageddon. We need the hippies.

Before I tell you why I want to import all these hippies to the twenty-first century allow me to ramble something incongruous.

In 2019 there were 8,011 homeless rough-sleepers in San Francisco, an increase of 17% on the previous year. In Milton Keynes, England, where I live the figure given by the local authority is 97. People in England truly care about this situation as it is repeated up and down the country. Yes, ordinary people care. Politicians may say they care but facts speak for themselves - THEY DP NOT. Local authorities are cold-hearted, incompetent and filled with administration systems that does not care.  As I walked about San Francisco it became obvious that the majority of people, ordinary people did not care at all. Authorities were constantly moving them on, sweeping them away like litter on the sidewalk !

I saw one man sitting at a pedestrian crossing. He did not have a begging bowl but was holding a piece of cardboard on which was written:  I do not want money, I need change.

In San Francisco, in any city anywhere in the world sit a homeless person with a piece of cardboard on which you have written: I need a home, can  you  help me ? Then set the stop watch running to time how long before shows him some milk of human kindness. You will have a long wait, a very long wait.

In the same place put a dog on a lead, tie it to a lamppost. Put the piece of cardboard where people can see it. I doubt the dog will have to wait for an hour before he finds his loving home.

What would the hippies fro the 1967 Summer of Love think of this ? What would those a Woodstock think of our twenty-first century ?

Contrast this sad tale with my going into McDonald's on San Francisco's waterfront for breakfast. Curled up on spare seats were homeless rough-sleepers. They had been there all night. As each friend woke up staff were serving hem breakfast. No hurry to leave. each friend simply left when they were ready. I am sue the hippies would thoroughly approve as would the families at Woodstock who made the  food parcels. Could you imagine a branch of McDonald's near where you live showing similar kindness ?

When our hippies reach the third decade of the twenty-first century what will be their reaction ?

They will not find the Vietnam War, no Cold War but they will find a love-void situation in which live our homeless rough-sleeping friends. They will find food banks. Close your eyes and try to picture to picture the incredulity on their faces as they try to understand what a food bank is.

Our time travelers will not  find our politicians any different to those of their day. Greasy pole climbers who have little interest in real people. Indeed I doubt a politician today has any idea what a real person is. 

They will find that same pen-pushers they knew although today they are keyboard rattlers putting ticks in boxes never stopping to think those ticks are real people.

They will find kids in school not being educated but trained under pressure to pass examinations simply in order to put their school in a good position in the league table.  Ticks in boxes.

Once a person reached eighteen years of age local authorities do not recognise adult social care.  Perhaps at the age of ninety-seven and a half a tick may find its way into a box of care.

In their day back at Hippie Park or Woodstock drugs meant a bit of puff to go with the music, that puff today is legal in San Francisco. Drugs today are dangerous and delivered by knife stabbing criminals safely carrying out their evil trade without fear of the police.

They will find commercial charities run as businesses where only the profit actually helps those the charity claims to care for. They will find charity shops where as little as nineteen pence in the pound spent at a charity shop finds its way to those the charity pretends to be at the centre of its operation.

Our hippie time travelers will find a world populated by three times the human  kind animals reared in factory form to be murdered for human consumption. Against this they will find animal welfare organisations trying to generate love for wildlife and domestic pets. How can the two equate.

They will find a world on the eve of destruction, a world facing a far bigger threat of Armageddon than they understood the Vietnam War or the Cold War represented.

They will find greenies pretending that electric vehicles and banning diesel cars are the solution to climate destruction. Claiming these and others without comprehension of the real clause of global warming and the ease of a solution.

They will find blind politicians and box ticking bureaucrats side stepping the issues as they do not fit into their box ticking systems.

We need our time travelers to start a twenty-first century movement of peace and love, peace and love to change the suicidal direction of our society. I will need a very, very, very big time machine to bring so many hippes from The Summer of Love and Woodstock to solve the mes of the twenty-first century. The time machine will need to be big because once you hippies are here I plan to put all blind politicians and all keyboard rattling, red tape generators on a journey through time and space. They are going to the destination first featured in 1963 with Doctor Who, they are going to live with the cavemen ! 

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