Saturday, 12 December 2015

My life as a tapestry - 6 (1966 and all that)

This July saw the premature celebration of next year’s 50th anniversary of our personal invasion of Sweden – which in turn took place on the 900th anniversary of the Vikings’ (Christianised, French-speaking and re-baptised as Normans) notorious intrusion on Saxon life at the battle of Hastings.

The theme of this panel is our voyage and the subtext is the emotional rites of passage that it led me into (and out of).Mick, Tony and I didn’t actually sail across the North Sea in a Norman galley in 1966, we travelled in relative luxury on Svenska Lloyd’s flagship Saga. Mick was still sick though. We didn’t leave from Broadstairs either, as the presence of Bleak House in the picture might suggest. But Broadstairs was, in a way, where the journey began, as that was where we first met Ann-Mari and Elisabet - depicted here in subtextual in-my-dreams welcoming poses (the pseudo Latin caption says ‘Here the affections of Viking girls’).

Wendy, my first proper lover, never came to Broadstairs and we didn’t split up until 1967 but that eventual break-up is part of the subtext of this trip for me too.

Eva sits in the cool Garbo-esque pose she adopts in my favourite photo of her from that time. Karin is playing the piano – what else? (Too much subtext here to even hint at).

I’m showing off my newly-learned Bert Jansch clawhammer guitar style and probably singing ‘Running from Home’. Tony is monkeying around as usual.

The lower border shows some of the  things that attracted us and many of our generation to Sweden and all things Swedish in the 1960s: Margareta Arvidsson as the most beautiful girl in the Universe (I can just see Ann-Mari’s lip curl); The Seventh Seal as the best-ever art film; the tulip chair as Sweden’s supreme gift to the world of interior design.

Some things we didn’t know about Sweden at the time are referenced in the top border: the prominence of Bofors and Scania in the world’s arms trade; the secret nuclear weapons development programme at Ursvik (now a primary school apparently – hope the kids don’t get their rods mixed up); and the ‘mountain land rights’ trial that started that year in Ostersund, our destination, beginning a legal process that would eventually deprive 90% of Sami people of their traditional habitation in the northern forests.

The rune stone depicted in the top right of the picture is also near Ostersund and marks the furthest northern extent of Christianity 900 years ago – brought to Sweden by Ostman, son of Gudfast in 1050. Yeah – thanks for that Ostman.

Bergman’s black-hooded Death checkmated Ann-Mari two years ago, just as he did Paul last year –  that was another reason for wanting to get together with our long-lost Svenska flicka friends.

Apologies to Agneta for not including her running home behind the taxi from the station on the night we arrived in Ostersund – now, as then, there just wasn’t room in the picture, little as she was.

Sports-loving viewers will notice no reference to England winning the world cup. We watched every minute of that dramatic game in Ann-Mari and Agneta’s mum’s living room. The triumph fitted our mood. Followed, unfortunately, by 50 years of…. well the hurt started to fade away and be replaced by indifference sometime during the reign of Sven Goran Ericsson – there, another Swede gets a namecheck.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

My life as a Tapestry - 5 (the perilous '60s)

This panel was inspired by a tragedy - the recent death of my old school friend Paul. He is the one on the left in the white raincoat and silly grin. I'm the one on the right, also in a white shorty raincoat (very cool in 1963). Mick (Paul's older brother) and Tony make up the rest of the gang, swaggering down Romford North St., trying to look hard. 

The faux-Latin caption says 'Here, gang violence breaks out', reflecting the awareness of the possibility of violence that we all had in our early teens (a characteristic of the early 1960s, or of our adolescent hormones?). 

The main picture depicts us getting beaten up by mods in Trafalgar square. We hadn't done anything to them - mods were just psychotic.

(Eagle-eyed Londoners will notice that the buildings in the background are on the wrong sides. The spire of St. Martin-in-the-fields should be on the right, not the left. Well, the only photo of the square I could find from this angle had too much space to the right of the column and not enough on the left, where the action happened. So I reversed it. Actually I reckon St. Martins looks better there).

The doomsday bus that the nuns warned me about (see Tapestry 3) lurks in the background.

The borders reflect on violence that was going on elsewhere in the world. The Cuba crisis, the Kennedy assassination, the Kray brothers. Mods invading Margate on their Lambrettas. 

And two examples of sanctioned aggression - scouts boxing in approved style (I had two bouts but never had a punch landed on me because I was nimble-footed and terrified of being hit), and the TV cop show Z-Cars which showed a country brought up on 'Dixon of Dock Green' that policeman are as capable of illegitimate violence as criminals (who'd have thought it?).

Although we were scared of it, we laughed at all the violence at the time. But it got poor Paul in the end. Rest in peace mate.