In 1979 I was back on the road to work for the B.B.C., a company that, apart from the initials of its name, had nothing else to share with British state television. In fact, the Brian Brook Company did not afflict people with boring programs, neither it talked with shameless lies about national and international political events. Finally my Company did not even put its nose in the lives of the Queen and the other members of the Royal Family, generally speaking.
The company I worked for delighted their customers by selling ice cream and drinks, logistically relying on a chain’s shop of souvenirs, sweets and tobacco’s strategically located at several points in the great London area known as West End.
This vast and famous London metropolitan area, which also includes Soho district and numerous small and large parks, is bordered by a perimeter that runs through the important streets of Oxford Street, Charing Cross Rd, Shaftesbury Av and Regent's Street, forming an irregular trapeze whose four tops pass from Tottenham Court Rd to Oxford Circus; from there to Piccadilly Circus and finally end at Leicester Square, couple of yards from Trafalgar Square, where Admiral Nelson's statue, according to the likely intentions of the public authorities who wanted it so powerfully high, witnessed the British’s greatness and glory to all those who would walk from there: French people, foreigners and British from all over the Empire.
In those years, the greatness and glory of England, after the almost total depletion of the British Empire, seemed more remote and far from the statue of the great conductor of the seas. And nostalgia, it’s all over known, is a feeling that more acutely manifests itself, when the best times are over and a crisis is bound to come.
And that Great Britain was in crisis at the end of the seventies of the twentieth century, it immediately became apparent also to the "street traders" who, living among the people, felt the moods of the average citizen in an emotionally direct way.
On the street, they felt discomfort and nervousness, though the real troubles were still to come, shortly thereafter, with the irresistible rise to power of the Conservatives headed by Margareth Tatcher (later known as the “Iron Lady"), which would mark the end of a cycle in London's administrative life, characterized by a policy of traditional securing of democratic freedoms and sympathy for the weaker social classes.
Moreover, the English metropolis had represented since the rising of the first music liberation and protest groups (born on the wave of the American Hippies movement, also known as the "beat generation") a decisive cultural reference point, helping to make London the Capital of the Rock Movement, where refugees disappointed by the illusion of the failed revolution of 1968, could find a safe refuge escape from the backflow of the reaction which had gone through the whole world.
And it was right there, in London, that they could still see the last glow of brightness before its definite sunset. So, in a good way, I agreed to resume my job and sell ice-creams and drinks in the street. By my side I had a refrigerating machine that turned milk into ice cream and a refreshing machine dispensing orange and lemonade.
Where else could I work, let alone the road? And to do what? Maybe to get into some office with air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, and the stench of paperwork under my nose? There was no other world for me, now, if not that; no other destiny, no other life I could have wanted, than the free life of street's traders.
Returning to the road meant for me to relive from the very beginning my adventure in that mysterious and fascinating city that, unfortunately and superficially, is too often considered cold and inhospitable, considering also that never or almost never come into you get a direct contact with English or British people.
This story is devoted to London and to the dear places where I have lived in. But it is also dedicated to all the peoples that those places with such variety and vivacity animated in those years who will pass through the main scene of my story: the streets of London.
6. to be continued...