by Michael Bloor
(first published in The Potato Soup Journal, 6th December, 2022)
I’m 75 years old and, at the time of writing (October 2022), President Putin is threatening a nuclear war, my boiler is misbehaving, and governmental fiscal foolishness is knocking a big hole in my pension pot. So why am I so bloody cheerful?
That’s a tough one. Can’t say for sure, but I reckon the answer may lie in the fortunate circumstances of my early adulthood. I’m not claiming this as a Universal Law of Human Development, but my outlook on life was probably formed in my late teens and early twenties. This is an essay, not an autobiography, so I will confine myself to a 55 year-old snapshot….
I was coming to the end of my first academic year at Cambridge. A working class, grammar school boy, from an industrial town in the Midlands, I felt no sense of inferiority, no necessity to modify my accent: for the first (and probably the last) time in history, it was fashionable to be working class. I’d joined the University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Group and I demonstrated against the Vietnam War. My girlfriend wore mini-dresses from Biba and suede boots; we went to wild dances, innocent parties, and arty films.
Mid-afternoon, Friday, May 12th, 1967. I was in the college room of a new acquaintance (and now life-long friend) listening with him to his transistor radio. A pirate radio station, Radio London, broadcasting from a former US Navy minesweeper, moored three and a half miles offshore, had secured a pre-release copy of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was to be heard on the airwaves for the very first time at three o’clock.
The sound from the transistor was a bit tinny but the music was astonishing. As if in tribute, a thunderstorm broke outside. It felt as if the world had turned.
Soon afterwards, the university term finished. I headed back home and got a summer job labouring in a wholesale warehouse (pay: £11 per week). Once I’d saved enough money, I hitch-hiked to Venice, shimmering city in the summer sea. That same May, a young man named Brian Clough became manager of my local football team. He was to take them on a twenty-two run of unbeaten games to win promotion to the old First Division, and the town would go football crazy. And, to top it all, everywhere you went that summer, you seemed to hear Sergeant Pepper playing through open windows.
Do you wonder I am an optimist?