Tuesday 13 March 2012

Britain is a country where old men can sit back, watch 'White Heat' and remember when they were young men in the 1960's

white heat

According to the BBC, its new tv series, 'White Heat '  is :

' a drama about the interwoven lives, loves and betrayals of seven characters whose relationships are forged in the white heat of the 60's through to present day. Passionate, dangerous and compelling, the characters' love stories and friendships are set against a backdrop that takes us from Wilson to Thatcher, feminism to the Falklands, hedonism to HIV - exploring the personal and political journeys which shaped their destinies to make them the people they are today.'


I watched the first episode. It was 1965. Winston Churchill was on his deathbed and  Petula Clark was in the charts with 'Downtown' :

As the viewers we :

*  witnessed 18 year old Charlotte move into a communal house in which Jack, the wealthy young landlord , fancied himself a 'revolutionary', preached absolute sexual liberty and quoted Malcolm X.

*  saw Jack celebrate Churchill's death with an ironic rendition of "There'll Always Be an England" and Alan , a working-class patriot, respond by tuning his radio to some appropriate pastoral music.

*  noted that Alan was in the house because Jack had selected his housemates for the purposes of a social experiment along with a Jamaican, a gay Asian and a poor Northern Irish Catholic woman.

* also noted that the writer of the series, Paula Milne, was clearly intent on exploring issues of identity because the phrase, "the personal is political", first coined by Carol Hanisch 4 years later in 1969, was mentioned several times and in case we missed it, the legend was also emblazoned on a poster in Charlotte's room.

As a reaction to Episode 1, I found myself agreeing with the old Liverpool poet, Roger McGough, who was 28 in 1965 and wrote in the 'Observer' on Sunday :

'We never wore kaftans or put flowers in our hair Never made the hippy trail to San Francisco Our love-ins were a blushing tame affair Friday evenings at the local church hall disco.'
Roger McGough
'Ask any young person now about the 60s and they always tell you it was all about flower power and free love and revolution. But as anyone who lived through it knows, that is a myth. For me, the 60's were something that happened elsewhere, at parties I wasn't invited to.'

'Most young people I knew in Liverpool in the early 60's after graduating from university were getting jobs and renting flats. They weren't plotting to overthrow the establishment, they were aiming to be doctors or lawyers or teachers, or just to get an office job, and they were grateful if they found one.'

'So the swinging 60's seemed to be happening somewhere else. Nevertheless, there was this sense in the air that things were about to change, which is something the series captures very well, this feeling of being on the cusp between postwar gloom and something newer and more exciting where a lot more was going to be possible.'

Thuderclap Newman : 'Something in the Air' : 1969

' It is interesting how the character in White Heat who is going to overturn the ruling classes, Jack, the politician's son, is the one who was born into privilege. He can afford to be anti-establishment because he comes from the establishment. He can be against social injustice because he has never known any himself. That rings very true for me. A lot of the 60s rebels were public school- and university-educated. Less realistic, though, is the dinner-table conversation. We all know that when students sit around talking they talk about fashion or toast or the weather, not usually social revolution.'

My earlier posting on Churchill'd death in 1965  :

and Petula Clark's birthday last year :

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