Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Article excerpt

The 1960s were already more than halfway over when I realised that I was living through what was supposed to be an exciting decade. I had got married, found a job, had two babies and was leading the stressful life of a young family man, quite unaware that all around me Britain was bubbling with excitement. In 1966 I was in Paris, doing night shifts as a trainee journalist for Reuters news agency, when I happened upon a cover of Time magazine, emblazoned with girls in miniskirts and boys in flared trousers, announcing that London was 'the swinging city'. When I came home to check this out, London seemed much the same as it had been in the 1950s -- a grey and grimy but dignified city, old ladies still wheeling their wicker shopping baskets up and down the Brompton Road. At one point during the Sixties, I had gone to a Beatles concert in Bournemouth, but I hadn't enjoyed it. Despite an ear-splitting sound system, the fab four were drowned out by the hysterical screams of the girls in the audience, and the noise was unbearable. If this was 'swinging', it wasn't for me.

Then the other day I got an invitation to the 21st birthday party of the beautiful Emily Beatty, the daughter of friends and neighbours in Northamptonshire. I accepted, of course, but noted with concern that the theme of the party was to be the 1970s and that we were to dress in the style of the period. I thought about the Seventies, but couldn't remember anything special or glamorous about them. They seemed rather a grim decade to me. I returned in 1973 from Rome, where I had been for Reuters for the previous five years, to find Ted Heath at war with the coalminers. He imposed a three-day week as an energy-saving measure and then in 1974 called an election on 'Who governs Britain' which decided that the miners did. The decade in my mind is a blur of wars, coups and crises of various kinds, of recession, stagflation and industrial unrest, culminating in the 'Winter of Discontent' when rubbish littered the streets and bodies remained unburied.

It was a time marked by the arrival of colour television and Monty Python's Flying Circus , but also by the pre-eminence of such ghastly people as Gary Glitter, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, all since identified as child abusers. …

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