Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 16 August 2013
Bums on seats
Anyone who was vaguely adult in the late 1960s will remember that we spent most of the time sitting around on the floor, sometimes talking and sometimes not.
Furniture - in particular, chairs - was shunned by everyone between the age of 16 and 30, but carpets were much admired, especially if they were the magic ones. It was our generation, after all, who coined the term 'Sit-Ins', and the occupation of the city squares in Cairo right now are being called 'Sit-Ins', even by the Egyptians themselves.
When I moved to Herne Bay from Canterbury in 1971, the agent of our rented house payed a visit to tell us that an elderly neighbour had complained because we had left a toilet-roll on the window cill to dry out after it had fallen into the baby's bath.
In those days, Herne Bay's residents were about 90% over retirement age, so we usually had quite a lot of attention from our elderly neighbours, who had forgotten what it was like to be young. The agent (who was an elderly woman herself) came into our living room, and I politely offered her a space on the carpet to sit down, but she preferred to stand, even ignoring the couple of chairs and table which came with the house.
We had just finished breakfast, and there were a couple of plates and mugs on the floor where we had left them, and this horrified the agent. She said that any civilised people eat from the table, and she bent down and picked up the crockery to place it on the wooden table.
I was not having this in my own house, so - as a matter of principle - I put the plates and mugs back on the carpet again, and an impasse was arrived at until she issued us with notice to quit, but only a verbal one. I think it was this woman who made me stubbornly persist in sitting on floors for the next few years - also as a matter of principle. If I want to sit on the floor, then I damn well will I thought.
Even in the 1960s, it was odd and incongruous to see a 50 or 60 year-old lefty sitting on the floor to have a conversation with young people, and I wished that they would just sit on a chair, with us young 'uns scattered about at their feet like Margaret Thatcher when she visited Harold MacMillan in his dotage. Seeing a cross-legged, uncomfortable adult surrounded by lithe youth was both embarrassing and patronising - a bit like the dads who try to talk to their children in wildly out-of-date street-speak, thinking it is 'cool'.
These days, I absolutely hate sitting straight on the ground - even outdoors - and if I could be bothered to carry an entire set of furniture into the countryside, I would.