find them anywhere. Where have you hidden them? Maybe you should welcome the new soul vision".--from Dexy's Midnight Runners, "There There, My Dear".
I spent the Summer of 1980 in London, attending one of those "study abroad" programs in which we stayed at dorms which my fading recollection tells me were attached to the London School of Economics. We got a choice between inedible cafeteria food and a pound coupon for snacks for lunch. I developed a love for samosas and little cheap Golf chocolates through the pound-for-finger-foods regime.
In this era, the streets were filled with unemployed people walking the streets in suits, with empty briefcases, in a kind of parody of the old Second World joke, because they pretended to have jobs, but the Thatcher-infused state did not pretend to help them get paid.
The radio airwaves were full of Dexy's Midnight Runners, during their earlier, aesthetically successful incarnation, endlessly searching for young soul rebels. Ian Curtis died that May, and June and July were full of "Love will Tear Us Apart", perhaps still one of the most effective mainstream 45's ever released. Bill Nelson's Cocteau Records' release "Do You Dream in Colour?" played particularly poignantly in a time whose economics and sense of general despair made everything seem somewhat colorless, or color-drained.
The Summer was unseasonably cool, like the fog-encrusted sheath on an old movie. We wandered through mists to poetry-readings and live music shows. One class assigned us homework of attending agitprop meetings, so as to understand the impact of alternative culture. I went to a fervent debate among Trotskyites of whether the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was morally defensible, applying the fisheye lens of their dialectics. I found the debate interesting, although it confirmed for me a nearly life-long contempt I have for would-be ideologues who like to excuse violence inflicted by and upon other people, over tea. Another evening, we felt the cool air descend as we watched "Mid-Summer's Night's Dream" in a park which must have surely hosted generations of this play.
I wandered into St. Martin of the Fields' one Sunday morning, seeking a church, and was befriended by an elderly woman who took me on an outing or two to places like Southwark Cathedral. I did much of my best tourism while wandering unknown places on Sunday seeking out places to worship. I remember a dawn in Camden town when burglar alarms were resonating up and down the street as I walked.
The streets were alive with recycled ideas, dead letter offices, and ungerminated new notions, would-be "soul rebels" and "new Englands" and neo-fascist thugs and downcast faces. In general, all that mattered less to me than, for example, the joy of a toy museum in Bethnal Green or the incense rising from a censer in Wakefield Cathedral.
It was a time, as now, when the writings of Charles Dickens no longer seemed like cariciature but instead made up part of the fabric of life. For me, it was a time of Pip and Estella, of Charles Ryder, and of lamb sliced off a rod for use in spicy hot kebabs.
It was a time of uncertainty, and change, and a sense of dynamism hung in the air, seasoned with despair. It was a time for pronouncements, and the Manchester sound, and
use of the prefix "post-".
My Summer confirmed for me the unimportance of so many things so many people assert to be important, and the importance of so many things then (and now) neglected altogether.