Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Hippie Shake with Gilli Allan

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. This week Author, Gilli Allan joins The Hippie Shake and shares some of the memories and pics that represent that wonderful era, the 1960’s.

 1965 - a life-changing year in a great decade

I don’t usually like to admit it because it makes me very old, but I’m a baby boomer, one of that ‘lucky’ generation who passed through their teenage years and became young adults in the 1960s.  Born in 1948, I can well remember the dreariness and austerity of the 1950s. It was a black and white world, where bombsites were commonplace, the milk was delivered by horse and cart and trains were still steam driven. TV was one channel only and our set had a 7 inch screen.  And I recall having to wear liberty bodices and leggings, with hundreds of fiddly buttons.  The new decade, which coincided with my move from primary to grammar school, was like the sun coming out. 

In fact the decade started badly for me.  In 1961, when I was not yet thirteen, I was involved in a serious accident. Crossing the road outside our house I was knocked down by a van.  I could easily have been killed, but, apart from remaining unconscious for several days, I escaped with only minor injuries. Afterwards my family joked that it was the knock on my head that switched on my hormones. From having a ‘take or leave it’ attitude to boys and pop music before my accident, I became suddenly aware.  I regularly developed crushes on neighbourhood lads and the drop-ceiling above my bed was adorned with cut out pictures of the pop stars I admired.  I went for looks first - their songs were almost incidental - and Jess Conrad and James Darren were favourites. That was until the Beatles. Loving the Beatles took over my life from 1963 onwards. I was obsessed. And George Harrison was my favourite. From being dotted with a few photos, my drop-ceiling became smothered by my idols.

Aged 16, I left school in 1965, after O levels.  In the 6 week break, before I started Art College, I worked in Dickins & Jones, in London’s Regent Street.  Apart from mini-skirts, which had only just hit the high-street and were worn no shorter than 4 inches above the knee, the prevailing fashion theme that summer was for white PVC macs, worn with those calf-length white boots with cut-outs (first shown by Courrege, in 1964, I believe). This look was universal.  Every young woman in London, it seemed, had a white PVC mac.  But I’ve always been a bit of a rebel.  I didn’t want to wear what everyone else was wearing and anyway couldn’t afford this fashion garment.  My older sister and I went to a chandlery (name forgotten) in Albermarle Street, which sold sailing equipment and sailing ephemera. We both bought the far cheaper oilskin mackintoshes.  Hers was red and mine was yellow, and I wore the accompanying sou’wester back to front because I thought it looked better! 

When I arrived at Croydon Art College in the September of 1965, lacy stockings (tights had yet to come in), corduroy, mini-skirts and Anello & Davide buttoned tap-dance shoes were what all the trendiest female students were wearing.  But what wasn’t quite so acceptable for an art student of the time, was to love the Beatles. The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Spencer Davis Group, the Kinks - Ray Davis had actually attended Croydon Art College - were all more recent, more raucous and more overtly rebellious, and therefore had far more credibility. I didn’t dislike these bands -  I just kept in the closet about my love for the Beatles and the fact I was a member of the fan club and still received their annual Christmas fan club record.

At the time it was common for people in the advertising industry to produce their own Christmas cards.  My dad was the art director in an advertising agency and he designed our family card, but it was an annual nightmare for him. The air would frequently turn blue as my stressed and over-worked father struggled to come up with an idea, to find the time to actually sit down and produce the design, and then to get it printed in time to catch the last post before Christmas.  At the end of my first term at Art College, and full of confidence in my own abilities, I volunteered to design the family card. My father accepted with much relief and I’ve done it ever since. 

But.... were the 1960s so great?  The decade in which you grow from childhood into independence must always seem special.  After all, it’s the time when your hormones begin to ferment and the future looks full of romance, potential and excitement.  I’ve long thought that favourite records are often so powerfully potent, not because of any intrinsic superiority in musicality (after all, they’re often cheesy and derided by others), but because you were exposed to a particular song at a time when you were more thin-skinned and receptive to the world around you. A song that touches you at such a time, when your emotions are in turmoil, will resonate more deeply within you and remain with you, maybe for life. And the same is true of your feelings about the decade in which you became an adult.
All that aside, I believe the 1960s were especially great! And 1965 was a crucial life-changing year for me. 

A little about Gilli…

Growing up in Orpington, Kent, my hobbies were drawing and writing ‘books’.  School and I didn’t get on and, as soon as I was able to, I left and went on to Art College.  I originally worked as an illustrator, in advertising.  I only began writing again, with the serious intention of being published, when I was married and at home with my young son.
I write contemporary romantic fiction with an edge, or ‘Reality Romance’.  My first two novels - Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams - were ‘mainstream’ published, but these days I publish independently. I have two novels  - TORN and LIFE CLASS - currently available as e-books and in paperback.  FLY OR FALL is coming soon.  
I now live in a village, at the head of a beautiful valley in the Cotswold Hills, in Gloucestershire.  Still a keen artist I draw and paint, design Christmas cards and regularly attend a weekly art class. I’ve been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers and was one of the initiators of the successful community shop in my village.
I wouldn’t be able to live the life I do without the support - emotional and financial - of my husband.  Our clever son, Tom, who was a toddler when I started in this game, has put his Phd on hold and is currently working as Project Curator, for the British Museum’s, 2014 ‘Vikings’ exhibition.

Gilli’s latest publication

Other Titles…


Fly or Fall – due out later this year

Gilli’s Links
twitter: @gilliallan

TORN: She may escape her old life but will she ever escape herself?

LIFE CLASS: A story about art, life, love and learning lessons.

If you would like to join in the fun of The Hippie Shake please leave a message in the comment box so that I can contact you.


Anne Mackle said...

Oh what memories from Gilli. I wasn't a teenager until the seventies and by then mini skirt had risen to just covering the bottom and no more. Last year I did the A- Z challenge on the 60's & 70's and it was so good to be steeped in nostalgia for that era. Pauline's book also brought back many memories for me, I think the time you grew up in will always remain your favourite time. Lovely post.

Janna Gray said...

Great post from Gilli! My memories of 65 are very childish ... boarding school (a Catholic convent in South India),missing home, grotty food and whingeing about having to go to Mass five times a week and say the rosary every night!
But I do remember kinky boots ... I had white ones made by a cobbler in Colombo, Ceylon. LOVED them and the pelmet sized mini skirts / dresses that my mother made for me.
Looking forward to the next Hippie Shake post!
Janna Gray

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Anne, Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your lovely words on my latest book too. xx

Pauline Barclay said...

Hi Janna, sounds like your 65 was different, but I bet there was some fab times too. x

Lizzie Lamb said...

Hi Gilli and Pauline, A fabulous blog post and it took me back. I was quite young in 1965 but really came into my own in the sixth form in 1967 - 69. Then anything seemed possible. I was keen to get to Teacher Training College and leave home (and a very persistent boyfriend behind). Life was so proscribed in those days - home from 'the dancing' by 10.30pm, no going out in the week, finish your homework, help with the cleaning and looking after my younger siblings. But my memories of the clothes etc are very similar to Gillis except I think by 1969 we were very 'flower power' Love and Peace Man. Wouldn't change those days for anything and, of course, when I went to Teacher Training College I met my future husband there and we are celebrating 40 years married this August. Cool.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks for all the comments. I was only 18 when the hippy flower power thing came in, Lizzie, and the Beatles opened the Apple shop in Baker Street. I took to it all like a duck to water. I was particularly keen on the maxi (my legs were NOT made for mini skirts!)and recall the winter of '68 wearing a long grey herring bone coat that I'd bought at a school uniform sale, knee length (probably plastic, as I had no money) boots and a grey muff I'd made from an off-cut of grey faux fur. Very Dr Zhivago!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Love your 60s recollections, Gilli! I was a litle younger than you but my brother and sister were 9 and 10 years older so introduced me to the Beatles etc.

Jo Lambert, Writer said...

Wow Gilli, such memories! I used to subscribe to The Beatles Monthly Magazine, it was a 'must have' in our class! We all had small posters and cut outs sellotaped to the inside of our desk lids too. In 1964 the Beatles were filming Help in the West Country. One morning their train went through the local station where some of the girls were waiting. As you can imagine getting a glimpse of J,P,G & R made them the envy of the school!

Gilli Allan said...

What a fantastic close encounter, Jo. I have an even more sickening one. A girl from my year was an extra on A Hard Days Night. And she was in the audience for a Beatles only episode of Ready Steady Go. She wasn't just saying it, I saw her! Oh, how I hated her!