Monday, 26 December 2016

It's Xmas 1963.

It's 1963. Well, imagine it is. My parents have been in the habit of taking us en famille to a Methodist chapel in Newent, Glos. My sister and I are bored almost to tears by the Sunday school, but sometimes in summer the family cycles from our home in Highleadon to and from the chapel on two tandems. This very much brightens my day. My parents have soon made friends most of all with a family who live in a modern house on a dairy farm near May Hill. (Being a get-up-early farmer, it seemed acceptable for the farmer to snore during sermons. Tolerance, you see).

We have been invited to lunch with the family on xmas day, but when we arrive the mother seems to be consumed by an entirely unexpected grumpiness caused by... Her sons and... The Beatles! Waking that morning the mother had started Handel's Messiah on the family's record player, but her sons, 16 and 18, quickly swapped it for With The Beatles, the brand new album, a present that very morning from their grandfather, himself a retired Methodist minister! Incensed by their disrespectful attitude the mother returns all her sons' presents to a hiding place then hands them one quickly wrapped. Opening it, the sons, tall, confident, Mod-styled young men, both of whom went on to become doctors, find... a dead beetle in a matchbox. A few days later our family goes to visit Eric, my grandfather's brother, a lovely man, and Gracie, his cantankerous, skin and bone, rheumatism-riddled wife in their mock-Tudor house in Hereford. The adults' conversation turns to The Beatles - they were very big news at the the time - and suddenly Gracie pins me with a steely stare from the watery eyes in her skully old head, "All that yeah, yeah, yeah... You don't like them, do you!" It isn't a question, but it is an opportunity, and some force, far bigger than I was, makes me take it. "Yes, yes, I do!". It was quite untrue, I'd been surrounded by classical music only, and had no understanding of pop, but from that early age the thrill of taking a contrary standpoint has never left me, with the result that I habitually still look for alternative viewpoints at almost every turn.