Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Take a line from a song that you love or connect with. Turn that line into the title of your post.

Now you’re going to laugh at me. But when I heard that song coming over the radio in Mum’s kitchen in 1967 – can it really have been that long ago – I was transfixed. That was what I wanted. That was what I had to have. I had to be in San Francisco. I had to be lean and flower-clad. I had to have a long skirt and dusty sandals, and beads. And bells. According to Scott McKenzie, people were in motion, all across the nation. They were on their way to San Francisco, and that became my Garden of Eden. Even now, listening to that song, I cry. Not always, mind you. Sometimes I just think – that was a bit cheesy. And now it’s so dated. Whoever talks of love-ins now? Whoever would trouble to prance around in a field waving daisies, or paint flowers on a mini?

Would I really have dropped acid, ripped off my cheesecloth shirt and swayed around to psychedelic music? No. I was never a hippie. I was schoolgirl. By the time I became a student, hippies had faded like the flowers they wore in their hair. They were a joke. And have remained one. Who wants to be called an ageing hippie?

The Beatles were the height of my musical experience. I wouldn’t have known the name of one underground group. I wore my school uniform most of the time. My hair was cut in a practical helmet shape, at my Mum’s insistence. I had spots and no social skills. I was aware that San Francisco was somewhere in America but not where in America. I had never flown in an aeroplane. I had no money for the fare. A train trip to Devon to visit my aunt and uncle was the furthest I had ever been on my own, and that totally stressed me out. I was too young. I was afraid. But yet I yearned for San Francisco, which I envisaged as 0ne big field of flowers. Maybe a tent or two. A few dusty sidewalks with tangle-bearded, blissed-out people lolloping about on them.

Prior to that I had thought London was the answer. London was where I would go, as soon as I was able. I might be a misfit in suburbia but in London I would find People Like Me. It took me many, many years to realise that People Like Me are relatively few and far between, and scattered randomly throughout the country and across the globe. There would have been no comforting concentration of kindred spirits in the capital city.

Recently, I was reading about the end of life. I know – bit of a jump. Sorry. I read this fascinating thing – that when they ‘begin their dying’ old people often talk of going on a journey. They might ask whether their flight is booked, or request railway schedules or tide-tables. They might ask when the taxi is coming to collect them, or say they are soon going on holiday, or planning to meet up with a (long dead) loved one. Strangely, the planned journey is always to some other place on this earth – no flying up to meet the angels. This made me sad, but then I thought – how wonderful that there is that defence mechanism, so that they aren’t consumed with fear. And who knows, maybe it’s true in some mystical, metaphysical way: a kind of psychic metaphor.

And that lead me to think about that other journey – the one young people feel compelled to make. It’s just as much of a draw – the journey outward into the world – as that journey homeward, back to the source, becomes. I longed for San Francisco but did nothing about it. Bolder souls go on gap years or back-pack to remote parts of the world in search of something. I suspect they never find the actual something: the journey is the something, that going out, that longing for a Lost Eden.

On the news recently was a young British woman who took her toddler to Syria, but returned a few months later. She is now serving a six year jail sentence and her child, presumably, will see very little of her. And then I wondered whether this longing for the Earthly Paradise, or Eden, might not be the explanation for so many young people being drawn to join terrorist armies. Maybe Syria – or some equivalent war zone – has become their Lost Eden. They yearn for it with a young person’s passion, although the reality bears no more resemblance to Eden than San Francisco would have done, had I had the nerve or the means to go there. We can all have dream places, and we can long for them so much that we go off in search of them. Maybe we are not so different after all.

We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

(Joni Mitchell)





12 thoughts on “Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

    1. Did I? I’ll have to search through my previous posts now! Well, in a way I suppose that is true. Rosie isn’t my real name (sigh!) it’s Linda. I never felt like a Linda. People commenting on posts addressed me as Rosie because of the – whatever – WordPress had given me – rosie2009. Rosie is in fact the name of my favourite black cat – whose photo randomly appears in bits of the blog. I would so much rather have been a Rosie than a Linda that I kept it.

      And in another sense it’s true, thinking about it. In the blog I am actually being much closer to real me than I can allow myself to be in everyday life. I used to be “her”, and sometimes still am. Here I am “me”. But at least I’ve managed to be intriguing, in a minor sort of way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My cat is a Rosie 🙂 Do you blog because you perceive an opportunity to be more authentically “you”? I have a theory that the idea that a therapist’s couch affords a space free of judgement applies equally to the blogosphere.

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      2. (My Rosie the cat sends greetings to your Rosie the cat.)
        I think – the therapist’s couch is probably true, but slightly too logical/academic an explanation for me. I’ve always written – had to write – and almost inevitably what I wrote seemed to be by ‘someone else’. I suspect he is a he, for a start. And he/she/it is all the things people give me funny looks for in real life – over the top, given to sweeping generalisations, florid, poetic and emotional. He worries me sometimes: what on earth is this scary blighter going to say next?
        I realised around the age of five, maybe earlier, that I was always going to have to ‘translate’. If I came out with what was in my head unfiltered, people either laughed or gaped at me as if I had said a Mad Thing. At school I realised I had to watch them carefully so as to be able to act like them too, otherwise they’d ‘attack’ or exclude me. I got quite scarily good at it over time, but it wears me out and then the act starts to slip. I become like some creature from Dr Who – the alien me and the human me kind of ‘flickering’.
        So, I’ve had to write – and now, in La Tour Abolie, at last I have an outlet for the writing – and for me/her/him. So yes, free of judgment, but also – invisible. Visible is having to ‘edit’ every word and every sentence. Invisible is letting it/she or he express it/her or his self. (I do believe I’m rabbiting. Cup of tea required.)

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      3. I’m trying to give up the self-editing, having decided I don’t mind the gaping. I have lost track of what the point is supposed to be if I am not me. It’s quite a hard trick though. Nevertheless my blog is not anonymous and I link it all to Facebook so everyone connected with me there sees it unfettered. If anything, the experiment has proved to me that people care a lot less about what you say than you think they would, and even if they do, well it’s no loss.

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      4. You’re probably ahead of me in the ongoing process. I suppose the point of self-editing is to avoid getting “marmalized” as Ken Dodd (dreadful British comic) used to say. However, blogging is one way of – if not coming out as your real self – at least peeking round the curtain every now and again and waving at people!

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  1. As a very young child, I told my parents and all my friends that I was going to live in Brazil when I grew up. I had my heart utterly set on it, and then one day I found out that San Fransico had cable cars, and decided that I was going to live there instead. San Fransico just has a powerful pull I guess!!!

    I love the post and I love the song😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I watched most of the video. Once was probably enough. I always think he ought to have ears, whiskers and a long tail. He did do a series of margarine or possibly butter adverts here a few years ago, and seemed to have mellowed, even acquired a sense of humour. An illusion, obviously.


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