Recently, I did a couple of semi-radical things. Cut my hair off. Left my job. OK, it might not be the October Revolution but it’s still change and, to paraphrase Hilary Clinton, I think that’s a good thing.
I’ve never been someone who transitions seamlessly from one chapter to the next. Something ends and something quite different begins. And although I don’t always know what it’s going to be, experiencing life as a curious mistress of reinvention is far more pleasurable than being a calculating card player. It also does wonders for your character and gives you much more interesting stories to tell at parties and this, after all, is the point of transformation.
The luxury of time has allowed me to re-establish my flâneur status. Truth be told, wandering aimlessly as a keen-eyed urban stroller is my natural demeanour. And London is the ideal place to revel in flâneuserie; look at Virginia Woolf. I read an article recently about her ‘sailing out into the evening surrounded by the champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets’ so I thought I’d give it a go Dalloway-style in Green Park on a Tuesday lunchtime. I walked through the avenues of trees, up to Hyde Park Corner, though the gaucheness of Knightsbridge and straight into You Say You Want a Revolution at the V&A. Yes, I thought. Yes, I bloody do want a revolution. I want one right now. And two hours later, rolling off one of the beanbags where I’d watched Hendrix nimbly strumming the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, I was able to confirm something quite fundamental about myself. I am seriously pissed off I missed the 1960s.
Me and the 60s were made for each other. Liberal, anti-authoritarian, a thorn in the side of the establishment, I can’t believe I had to wait until 1973 to exist. Of course, you’d need to get the 60s at the right time – it wouldn’t have been much fun in a nappy – but I think in the spirit of reinvention I would have started out as a kohl-rimmed beatnik and unravelled to full hippie status by about 1967. Cheesecloth, beads, incense cones, plenty of batik…..actually, I did do all of this in 1989 when the 60s saw something of a resurgence (a consummate smoker, I was able to retain my doyenne of glamour status by co-ordinating the colour of my smocks with my Sobraine Cocktails) but we still didn’t have Janis and craggy faced Keith. Nor did we have the same desire to overthrow the status quo and create something new in its place. The 1960s had the kind of bravery and idealism that changed the things it couldn’t accept, from the position that everyone is connected. The irony then of Theresa May quoting Sam Cooke at the Tory Party Conference left me, to quote Victoria Wood, adjacent to vomiting.
Reinventing your world is a good thing. It requires imagination and maybe some courage, but getting off the carousel allows things you didn’t know you wanted to make themselves known, something life’s plotters don’t get the privilege of experiencing. A change is going to come. But in the meantime, there’s always fun and cosmopolitan wandering.