Sue Arnold: I blame it all on the maharishi, myself

'George went to India and overnight Janie changed from a dizzy blonde with Biba boots to a flower child'
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The Independent Online

No one so far has described George Harrison as a wrecker. He was the quiet Beatle they all say, the nice guy, the one who dabbled in mysticism and spiritualism, the one with the social conscience who staged a charity pop concert for Bangladesh long before Bob Geldof's Live Aid.

True, all true, but he also wrecked my friend Janie's life. I shared a flat with Janie in the late Sixties when we were students in Dublin. There were four of us, which was convenient because there were four Beatles and like every other teenage girl at the time obsessed with the Fab Four, we each identified with one of them.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't as obsessed as the other three, having my sights firmly fixed on a date with a Tremolo rather than a Beatle. On the flight from London at the start of one term the Aer Lingus stewardess said excitedly that Brian Poole and the Tremolos, another northern band, were on board. Or was it Freddie And The Dreamers or Gerry And The Pacemakers, I forget.

Anyway, disembarking at Dublin Airport, a long-haired leather-jacketed Tremolo, or Dreamer, or Pacemaker helped me carry my suitcase to the bus, gave me a signed photograph of his group, and thereafter I was less inclined to fantasise or faint every time Janie played "Dear what can I do, baby's in black, and I'm feeling blue", her favourite track from the new Beatles LP.

We all raced out every Saturday to buy the latest Beatles single – there seemed to be a new one every week. Beatles records were handy currency. I remember one particular party when a young lecturer turned up with the new Sergeant Pepper LP and had his pick of the female students.

Janie was the archetypal dizzy blonde. When Ursula Andrews came to Dublin to film The Blue Max, she got the job as her understudy. She had a string of glamorous boyfriends who swept her into college in sports cars while we trudged along Sandymount Avenue to the bus.

She wasn't quite as dizzy as she seemed, being the only female under-graduate who had taken the precaution of bringing a term's supply of The Pill to Trinity College with her. The rest of us either got the train to Belfast to buy it or crossed our fingers. We'd have been safer crossing our legs but this, remember, was the Swinging Sixties.

So there we were, the four of us, Janie, Hazel, Kate and me in our flat with Beatles posters cellotaped to the walls, Beatles records spilling on to the carpets and heated discussions over supper every night about whether the lyrics of "Norwegian Wood" were better than the lyrics of "Wednesday Morning". Hazel, who identified with John Lennon, reckoned he wrote better metaphysical poetry than John Donne. George Harrison, who had just started to date Patti Boyd, was Janie's pin-up. It was probably no coincidence that she looked remarkably like Patti Boyd herself. We all wanted to look like Patti Boyd: long blonde hair, long legs, smudgy black eyes, shiny white boots.

And then, suddenly, it all changed. George went to India and found Ravi Shankar, the maharishi and brown rice, and overnight Janie changed from a dizzy blonde with a wardrobe full of Mary Quant mini-skirts and 11 pairs of Biba boots, into a flower child. She gave up meat, make-up and men and threw herself instead into meditation and the meaning of life. She bought a sitar and moved in to a bed sitting-room with a mattress on the bare floor.

After graduation when the rest of us went back to England to work for ICI, the British Council and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, instead of taking up her job as a Thames TV trainee, Janie moved to a ruined cottage in the Wicklow mountains with no electricity, no running water and three miles from the nearest bus stop.

"Poor Janie," everyone said. "That thing she had about George Harrison and the maharishi wrecked her life." She's still there apparently which is more than can be said for Thames television. Good old George.

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