16 April 2014

Earl's Court, 1968

Juan insisted, after our first meeting, that whenever I came to London I stay at his pied-a-terre in Earl's Court. He was almost never there because he spent most of his time in Newmarket, transferring real equines to canvas. I'd be doing him a favour if I aired out his apartment from time to time [...]

I liked Earl's Court very much and fell in love with its fauna. The district breathed youth, music, lives lived without caution or calculation, great doses of ingenuousness, the desire to live for the day, removed from conventional morality and values, a search for pleasure that rejected the old bourgeois myths of happiness - money, power, family, position, social success - and found it in simple, passive forms of existence: music, artificial paradises, promiscuity, and an absolute lack of interest in other problems that were shaking society. With their tranquil, peaceful hedonism, the hippies harmed no one, and they didn't proselytize, didn't want to convince or recruit people they had broken with in order to live their alternative lives: they wanted to be left in peace, absorbed in their frugal egotism and their psychedelic dream [...]

Many hippies, perhaps the majority, came from the middle or upper classes, and their rebellion was familial, directed against the well-regulated lives of their parents and what they considered the hypocrisy of puritanical customs and social facades behind which they hid their egotism, insular spirit, and lack of imagination. Their pacifism, naturism, vegetarianism, their eager search for a spiritual life that would give transcendence to their rejection of a materialist world corroded by class, social, and sexual prejudices, a world they wanted nothing to do with - this was sympathetic. But all of it was anarchic, thoughtless, without a centre or direction, even without ideas, because the hippies - at least the ones I knew and observed up close - though they claimed to identify with the poetry of the beatniks (Allen Ginsberg gave a reading of his poems in Trafalgar Square in which he sang and performed Indian dances, and thousands of young people attended), in fact read very little or nothing at all. Their philosophy wasn't based on thought and reason but on sentiment, on feeling.

- Mario Vargas Llosa, The Bad Girl, 2006.

See also:
London: Mr CD in Soho, 17 October 2013
London: George Fordyce & Dolly's Chop House, 22 February 2013
LondonSpringtime in Wimbledon, 24 March 2011
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