Tuesday, April 15, 2003

When I started working from home, I was looking forward to all the time I would spend reading. Instead, I seem to spend all day in front of my computer, or in front of the telly. It's taken me two weeks to plough through In The Sixties, the autobiography of Barry Miles.

Miles was a well-connected figure in the London of the Swinging Sixties. He co-founded the Indica bookshop and gallery, which is where John Lennon met Yoko Ono. Miles's business partners were John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Asher, whose sister Jane was Paul McCartney's girlfriend. He offers some intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of the Beatles and the Stones. Miles was closely involved in the UFO club, where the Pink Floyd regularly performed, bathed in a psychedelic light show.

Miles set up the underground newspaper International Times, running stories on drug-taking and way-out poetry by counter-culture heroes Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

I have always been fascinated by London - its geography, its history - especially its recent history. I have often told Ian that if I could be any age, I'd be his. Oh to be 17 in 1967. [Ian tells me it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and didn't seem to notice the Summer of Love.] The London of Miles's book is familiar, yet so different:
The King's Road led straight to Glastonbury in those days (much as Brighton used to be the sea end of Wardour Street); everyone seemed to be travelling to Glastonbury each weekend and staying - those that were eligible - at Mrs Biggins' Aquarian Boarding House (those born under other signs stayed in bed-and-breakfasts, barns and haystacks).

Jane Ormsby-Gore and Michael Rainey decided to follow the ley lines to Wales, and Sue and I took the lease on 15 Lord North Street, a small Queen Anne house just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. There were five floors including a basement, with a pocket-handkerchief garden in the back. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, lived across the street - he never did bother to move properly into Number 10. Our garden wall backed upon that of the editor of The Times, William Rees-Mogg. Lord Sainsbury lived next door to him. The rent was quite high at £15 a week, so Graham Keen took one of the floors.

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