In the seventies the height of luxury was the spa attached to the swimming pool. I never had one. I wasn’t that rich. However whilst building a house in the rural fringe of Sydney, Australia I befriended a women and her sons.
Janet was a wonderful person probably ten years older than me. Her husband was a doctor and fairly wealthy but he had died a few years earlier in a drunken car crash. He was an alcoholic. Anyway with the wealth came a swimming pool and the spa.
The pool was a welcome respite from house building in the hot Australian summer. Stephen, her eldest would help me with building. Peter, her other son was a bit young at the time.
And the parties were great.
Much quaffing of wine, playing of guitars, singing of songs, soaking in the spa and cooling off in the pool .
Stephen had a girl friend who was like ‘the girl from Ipanema’, any true man could not help but sigh as she walked past in her bikini.
Now, me, I was a hippy. I didn’t see the point of clothes, so I’m sitting in the spa enjoying my nakedness. I suppose the alcohol and weed helped! Linda didn’t share my enthusiasm for nudity, more is the pity, but she could cope with mine.
A group of us had been enjoying the warm bubbling water and glasses of bubbly when it occurred to me that we had run out of drinks so I thought it incumbent on me to go to the kitchen for another bottle or two.
Now I must explain at this point that this was a Sunday afternoon party to which Janet had invited not only her hippy friends but also the straight neighbours. The straight neighbours, actually all housewives, were already on the edge of their comfort zones in this gathering of bohemians and had retired to lounge room to drink tea and orange juice away from the wanton exposÃ© of raw life happening outside the sliding glass doors. See, Janet didn’t discriminate when it came to inviting party guests. She was a socialist. Or a hippy pathfinder.
I started to get out of the spa expressing my desire to return with more bubbly. Some members of the group, realising that the path to the kitchen was through the lounge of the uptight, suggested that this might not be the best idea I’ve ever had. Linda, however, with a malevolent gleam in her eye, said “If he wants to let him’.
So, with the imprimatur of the most beautiful creature in the vicinity, off I went resplendent in my water soaked nakedness on a knights quest to secure alcohol.
Now I have to say that apart from being aware of walking through a group of fully clothed mainly female people I didn’t give it a second thought. I returned to the warm and bubbly world of the spa, via the same route, with a fresh bottles of joyous elixer. It was only later that Janet gleefully told me of the consternation and squirming that had greeted my spartan journey.
She then told me of the comment that went into local urban mythology.
‘It was all pink and wrinkly’ one of the ladies offered.
About a week later Janet acquired two kittens.
She named them ‘Pink’ and ‘Wrinkly’.
My penis, in a somewhat imperfect manifestation, was now immortal. Well at least as long as the cats lived and they do have nine lives!
Small children are a gift. They’re just a few years away from having left God or source or everything that there is or whatever. And they haven’t had the cosmic connection taught out of them yet.
My granddaughter was only 4 years out of heaven when I had my heart attack. It was my own fault. I had consistently ignored my high blood pressure. Well this ostrich imitation resulted in a type A aortic dissection. Survival rate, not good. Thanks to brilliant paramedics I made it to hospital and was operated on by some of the best surgeons in the country.
Cassidy was concerned that her mother was so upset and wanted to know why. Vanessa explained that I was very sick in hospital and although everyone was doing their very best, I might die. It’s a lot to comprehend for a four year old. She had never experienced any one or any thing she knows dying. It was a new concept, so she went to her room to contemplate it. A little while later she came out and said “Mummy what can I do to help Michael?” Here it must be said that Vanessa is a most wonderful mother. Others might have dismissed the thought that anyone so young could have any part to play and given a dismissive answer. She felt totally helpless herself.
“Just send him lots of golden love and light” was her reply.
Cassidy retired to her room to consider this course of action.
A little while later she emerged carrying a cushion, which she placed in the centre of the lounge room. She sat cross-legged on the cushion in her very best lotus position and placed her Barbie tiara on her head. “Like this Mummy?” she asked. Her mother nodded. Then in a 4 year olds version of meditation, she closed her eyes and proceeded to send me golden light.
Meanwhile, back in hospital things were at crisis point. My body temperature had been reduced to 18 degrees C for the operation and I now had a piece of Dacron for an aorta and my aortic valve had been repaired. The problem was that although my temperature had been brought back up, my body was not retaining the huge amounts of blood that was being transfused into me. Everyone had done everything they could. It was up to me to start recovering.
One hundred kilometres away and on the second day, Cassidy sat down on her cushion in her very best lotus position wearing her tiara, closed her eyes and decided to send love and rainbows this time. After a while she said, “He’s alright now Mummy.” And then she added as she packed up her cushion and tiara, “He’s very big and golden is’t he?”
Back in the hospital I started the recovery process. I had decided to stay.
Interestingly as I became conscious I remember having a dream where I was a very big and golden Aztec. Coincidence?
The sixties and seventies produced a generation of young people with a firm belief in love, peace, joy and equality. Wealth and conformity were no longer important. We were free to express our true selves without fear of judgement. We were all God’s children.
We were the children of those who had experienced the full horror of yet another ‘war to end all wars’. The militarism, the lies, the deceit, the propaganda, the destruction, the austerity and suffering was over. Filled with hope and optimism for the future our uptight parents filled the post-apocalyptic world with little bundles of joy. It was a boom time for babies.
When the baby bubble became adults they burst onto the world in an explosion of joy, colour, music and fashion as a counterpoint to the austerity and greyness of the post war world. With it came a new attitude. We reveled in the joys of life. We were against war, bigotry, racism, inequality and sexism. We were for love, peace, festivals and very loud music. Oh, and drugs. This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. We could all live in love, harmony and compassion. Flower power was the creed of the day. Sex was no longer taboo.
The festival at Woodstock was the pinnacle of the new feeling. The actual festival was an organisational disaster but it succeeded in gathering together half a million young people with same dreams, hopes and aspirations for a better, peaceful world.
I wasn’t there. Neither was Joni Mitchell who wrote the definitive song about the event. Woodstock.
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
We had a feeling that our parent’s generation had lost the plot and we had to return to a simpler more honest, peaceful humanity. The sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t bad either!
To my mind Joni Mitchell was the consciousness of our generation.
This from ‘California’ on the ‘Blue’ album.
Siting on a bench in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
So my fellow hippies, what happened to the dream? Where are you all? Why haven’t we been able to change the world? Why do we continue to elect politicians who lead us into war? Why do we continue to live in fear?
The youthful enthusiasm, the love, the compassion and joy of life of the sixties and seventies seem to have vapourised.
But a lot of us aging hippies are still around. Some of us at least haven’t lost the feeling of those days. The feeling of being open and ‘real’ and vulnerable and accepting of all God’s children regardless of colour or ideological beliefs.
Now this leads to an interesting thought. I’ve noticed that the older I get the more I reflect on the hippie way of life of the sixties, so I wonder what a retirement village or nursing home will be like when us hippies get there. Sex, drugs and rock and roll! A cosmic retirement commune with lots of concerts and loud music. Outrageous colourful hippie clothes, big hair, Jefferson Airplane karaoke competitions, pot plants everywhere. Swimming naked in the pool and groovy fondue dinner parties. We’ll have our own rock and roll band and let it all hang out. Cool man!
It’ll be good to salvage something of hippiedom. I’m looking forward to it.
If we weren’t able to change the world at least we can take the dream with us in an outrageous blaze of glory and embarrass the children.
I had a South African girlfriend once. Not a girlfriend in the way that she was the total focus of my attention in the traditional courting sense. But, never the less, she’s etched ever gentle on my mind. Her name was Reg. Short for Regina. No! Really. Well if you had a name like that, wouldn’t you want to change it?. Stunning girl. She wasn’t really classically beautiful or pretty. She was more statuesque in the Greek sense and she had the most enormous breasts with inverted nipples. Never seen any thing like it since. The nipples became non inverted when she was aroused. How do I know? Come on! it was the sixties! Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Personally I never bothered with the drugs, unless you include alcohol, in which case I did quite a bit of bothering. As for sex, in those days the contraceptive pill was newly available and there was no such thing as HIV aids, so the worst that could happen was some form of STD that could be treated. Make love not war was the motto. Halcyon days! Or quite often daze. Rock and roll, well although of course I was definitely into music of the time, Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Rolling Stones etc., my favourite music was New Orleans Jazz of the traditional variety from the 20s and 30s. On a Friday night my friends and I would journey to a pub called “The Fox & Hounds” in a village outside of my home town of Brighton. We’d drink cider and dance all night long. The dance was called a skip jive. It was like a rock and roll jive except that you skipped at the same time. It was very energetic and I could do it without pause. Mind you I was only nineteen.
Anyway back to Reg.
It was a most unusual and somewhat casual relationship, mainly because she was so incredibly intelligent, far beyond my comprehension. I think she must have regarded me as some sort of ‘toy boy’, although we were the same age.
At the time I had a sports car. It was a Triumph TR3A. It was magnificent. It was British racing green. It was the last of the true old fashioned sports cars with a big souped up tractor engine and a driver’s seat almost over the back wheels. At 70 mph the engine was only doing 3,000 rpm. You could drop the clutch at the traffic lights without touching the accelerator and it would pull away. It was ….. groovy.
I remember taking Reg driving on windy English country roads impressing her with my masculine driving expertise and knowledge. “See that line of telegraph poles” I said, “although I can’t see where the road is I know that it will follow the telegraph poles so I can drive accordingly”. The line of telegraph poles went straight ahead over the brow of the hill. The road, on the other hand, went sharp left and took a completely different route. She said “I’m suitably impressed”. I stated the absolutely flaming obvious. “You can see right through me, can’t you?” A reply was superfluous. Still, she loved going driving because back in South Africa she also had a Triumph TR3A. We talked of philosophy, of sports cars and esoteric concepts and her anger of the lop sided news from South Africa where no one ever heard of the brave white politicians who put themselves in the firing line everyday to oppose apartheid. She was learned, eloquent, an artist and like so many geniuses she was schizophrenic.
I didn’t realise it initially. Then, one night when I met her at a party, she was wild she was ebullient, she was electric and she invited to sleep with her. What was a young hippy to do? I was groovy with shoulder length hair, a beard, wearing platform shoes, flare trousers and a really cool leather jacket. I had just finished playing a set of Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly songs on my guitar. I was hot. So naturally I said “You and me babe”, and relaxed into the night.
She screamed out “Thank you God!” when she came and when we awoke in the morning said to me, “What are you doing here?” Very confusing for a simple young lad.
Anyway, for some reason, she latched onto me in a casual sort of a way, or at least I suppose one of her did. She would come and stay with me sometimes and likened herself to the protagonist in the Chris Christofersson song ‘Forever Gentle On My Mind’.
One day after she had stashed her sleeping bag behind my couch for the night she announced she was going back home to South Africa. Seems that a psychiatrist was trying to tell her she was schizophrenic. There was an awkward pause. Do I say “No of course not, they must have it all wrong”. Or do I tell the truth as I experienced it. It was difficult. I opted for the truth and related the story of the time I woke up in her bed and she didn’t remember inviting me. Well she wouldn’t, she wasn’t the same person I met the night before.
She left shortly after that, full of love and appreciation and I never heard from her again. I often wonder what happened to her. I think of her whenever South Africa is mentioned and whenever I hear “Forever Gentle On My Mind”.
I don’t think she was taking the pill. Maybe I’ve got family in South Africa.