Inspirational Moments in Absolute Beginners - Buckingham Palace Road

It's strange to think that it's over fifty years since Colin McInnes wrote the classic novel Absolute Beginners. It nailed a certain outlook perfectly, one which encapsulated the mindset of breaking out of conformity and moving into a new, classless age.

Nowhere in the book do we see the dichotomy between the old world and the new so vividly portrayed as in the scene where the unnamed narrator is on Buckingham Palace road and contrasts the "glamour people" at the air terminal on one side with the "peasant masses" on the other - "all flat feet and fair shares and you in your small-corner-and-I-in-mine".  And then along come a "troop of toy soldiers", marching down the middle of the road "and playing that prissy little pipe music like a bird making wind".

And our narrator stands and watches and thinks "how horrible this country is, how dreary, how lifeless, how blind and busy over trifles".

That contrast between the two groups is key. Note he refers to the travelling group as "glamour people", not "the rich", or "privileged", nor by an approximation of that horrible phrase of thirty years later "upwardly mobile". It doesn't matter where they're from or where they're going (or even that in a couple of decades his cultural successors would be off on similar journeys to the Balearics and beyond). Neither does it matter what age they are.

This scene sums up for me the changes that were happening in the late fifties, where the world was growing smaller and the old order was getting left behind. Because the whole outlook that MacInnes' character described is classless, rootless and ageless. That's its essence.

No comments:

Post a Comment