Great Britain: You Can Walk Across It On the Grass

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In this century, every decade has had its city. The fin de siècle belonged to the dreamlike round of Vienna, capital of the inbred Habsburgs and the waltz. In the changing '20s, Paris provided a moveable feast for Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald and Joyce, while in the chaos after the Great Crash, Berlin briefly erupted with the savage iconoclasm of Brecht and the Bauhaus. During the shell-shocked 1940s, thrusting New York led the way, and in the uneasy 1950s it was the easy Rome of la dolce vita. Today, it is London, a city steeped in tradition, seized by change, liberated by affluence, graced by daffodils and anemones, so green with parks and squares that, as the saying goes, you can walk across it on the grass. In a decade dominated by youth, London has burst into bloom. It swings; it is the scene.

This spring, as never before in modern times, London is switched on. Ancient elegance and new opulence are all tangled up in a dazzling blur of op and pop. The city is alive with birds (girls) and beatles, buzzing with minicars and telly stars, pulsing with half a dozen separate veins of excitement. The guards now change at Buckingham Palace to a Lennon and McCartney tune, and Prince Charles is firmly in the longhair set. In Harold Wilson, Downing Street sports a Yorkshire accent, a working-class attitude and a tolerance toward the young that includes Pop Singer "Screaming" Lord Sutch, who ran against him on the Teen-Age Party ticket in the last election. Mary Quant, who designs those clothes, Vidal Sassoon, the man with the magic comb, and the Rolling Stones, whose music is most In right now, reign as a new breed of royalty. Disks by the thousands spin in a widening orbit of discotheques, and elegant saloons have become gambling parlors. In a once sedate world of faded splendor, everything new, uninhibited and kinky is blooming at the top of London life.

London is not keeping the good news to itself. From Carnaby Street, the new, way-out fashion in young men's clothes is spreading around the globe, and so are the hairdos, the hairdon'ts and the sound of beat; in Czechoslovakia alone, there are 500 beat groups, all with English names. London is exporting its plays, its films, its fads, its styles, its people. It is also the place to go. It has become the latest mecca for Parisians who are tired of Paris, where the stern and newly puritanical domain of Charles de Gaulle holds sway. From the jets that land at its doors pour a swelling cargo of the international set, businessmen, tourists—and just plain scene-makers.

Ingenuity of Indulgence. The new vitality of the city amazes both its visitors and inhabitants. "The planet which was England," confided Paris' Candide recently, "has given birth to a new art of living—eccentric, bohemian, simple and gay." Says Robert Fraser, owner of London's most pioneering art gallery: "Right now, London has something that New York used to have: everybody wants to be there. There's no place else. Paris is calcified. There's an indefinable thing about London that makes people want to go there."

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