UTOPIA

 

It wasn’t as dull as she remembers.

We did not sit around in silence,

we went for drinks, riverside walks,

sometimes early morning swims

in the local council pool. We might

have scrubbed up nice for church

but it wasn’t all grim silences

or chaste remarks. The world

was breaking up and family, school

and city were each part of that.

 

Revolution was in the air,

although I was too young to know

that at the time. I was a teenager

who watched huddles of hippies

in the corners of Notting Hill pubs,

rock mutating into punk, the bangs

and whistles, textures and tones,

of carefully improvised noise

played in damp grey rooms

near the railway in Camden Town.

 

I asked the security guards

to turn the lights on, so we

could look at Ivon Hitchens’ mural

of dance and song, found my way

up to the borders of Hampstead

but never went back again.

My patch was further West, where

there were concrete flyovers

and busy roads, a small park

with swings and football pitches.

 

We made dens on scrap ground,

wobbly platforms of wooden pallets

tied into trees, and cycled everywhere.

Later, bikes became motorbikes

and the city opened up. It wasn’t far

up town, and skateboard parks

out East were possible, if you didn’t

mind the drive or distrusting looks

from locals. You could park anywhere

and walk into other worlds, could

 

hear music everywhere, and find out

other words for states of mind

and girls. Scuzzy bookshops sold

secondhand books, science fiction,

experimental novels, strange poetry

and countercultural zines. Friends

who thought the world would change

were everywhere but then started

to disappear. Book and record shops

closed down, it wasn’t easy to see

 

new bands, the basement full of

LPs you could take a 10p punt on

was no more. Everything became

‘antique’, ‘collectable’ or ‘rare’,

as hippies went into business

or moved abroad, having had

enough. Utopia never happened,

its prophets scattered in the sun,

with their confused memories,

and straggling unkempt beards.

 

 

Rupert M Loydell


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