Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Chariot of Bacchus

Note tigers

Chariot of Bacchus, part of a royal French marriage procession, that of the Dauphin of France to Marie-Josephe de Saxe in 1747. Happy days, while they lasted.

Brideshead revisited?
This photograph was taken on Oxford High St in 1964. It was carefully posed by the man standing at the apex of the revellers atop a vintage Rolls Royce, and taken by a professional photographer. We were each supplied with a bottle of Bollinger. A slogan current at the time in ads for a petrol company was 'Put a tiger in your tank'. Tigers traditionally pulled Bacchus's chariot. There is an odd man out in the photograph, his head just visible at the back of the car. He was one of the admirers of my dark-haired friend and flatmate who is partly obscuring my face with an upturned bottle just below our choreographer/host. He was a naval officer, and taught us how to make scrambled egg - we were all three of us absolutely clueless in the kitchen. My other flatmate sitting next to her was born and brought up at Wightwick Manor, one of the most perfect examples of Arts and Crafts architecture and interiors. What are my emotions, contemplating this scene? A detached admiration for the artistic flair shown by the organiser of the photograph. We did drink a lot of champagne, particularly in the summer. Pimms or champagne was the order of the day. We were all poised on the verge of the Sixties, about to change the way we dressed, cut our hair, the music we listened to. We were happy, miserable, accident prone (I spent part of that summer, or was it the following one, in a plaster cast on one leg, broken in a car accident, being driven by a boyfriend back to his digs). Fights broke out at parties - once, my then Italian boyfriend threatened another with a knife. Drugs other than alcohol were so rare that the few who were on heroin or marijuana were well known by their faces and names, regarded with distant awe. Men looked middleaged, dandies wore carnations in their buttonholes, evening clothes. Dark glasses worn during the day were known to be a sure sign of decadence. Sports cars were driven. Men picked up the tab at dinners, we all ate out frequently in big groups. We were known as 'birds'. It was a period of radical transition, we all of us drifted without any trouble whatsoever into jobs in London. My friends and I first moved, lock stock and a variety of boyfriends flitting in and out rather than living in, to Knightsbridge. Then our transient world began to turn into something very different - careers, marriages, children, breakdowns, suicides, murders, death. It was all there ahead of us, as we posed on that Rolls in the High St that afternoon in June.

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