Booze, parties, casual sex between brilliant men and talented ambitious women, relationships, rows, affairs: how the memories have come flooding back, like the results of a particularly heavy night, with the recent publication of Anne Robinson's memoirs I'm Afraid I Was Very, Very Drunk.
Younger reviewers have shaken their heads at Anne's story in the thin-lipped, disapproving manner of the po-faced daughter of Absolutely Fabulous. Why all the sex? Had we no sense of social responsibility? One moment men and women were sworn enemies, the next they were tearing each others' clothes off. Was some kind of group self-esteem crisis being enacted? What exactly was our problem?
Then there are the more specific questions. In a moving evocation of the past, Anne Robinson recalls "ending up with my knickers round my neck in a bed I didn't recognise, surrounded by vomit and not having the slightest idea where I was". Experts have accepted the puke and the strange bed – they were part of the general scene at the time – but have worried at some length over the knickers. What exactly were they doing there? Even allowing for the fact that underwear would turn up in the strangest places those days, no one has quite been able to explain a sequence of events which might have led to them ending up around Anne's neck.
How sweet. How naive. At that moment in our modern history, an entire generation was humming and twanging with sexual tension. In the Sixties, only a small number had appreciated the full summer-of-love experience – Dave Dee, John Peel, Germaine Greer and Mary Whitehouse. Now it was time for the rest of us to catch up.
The Joy of Sex was our highway code. Where today there are aerobics and trips to the gym, our workouts involved the trickier joint-grinders and ligament-stretchers of the Kama Sutra or The Perfumed Garden. At some point, American sexologists claimed to have discovered a brand new orgasm called the G-spot. All hell broke loose. Couples disappeared for months in search of it, setting off like 19th-century explorers on a quest for the North-West Passage.
Knickers around the neck? Frankly, that was nothing. Some people literally turned themselves inside out. Others had to be rescued by emergency services having become inextricably trussed up together in a cat's cradle of G-strings, cuffs, hunting crops, dog-leads and Japanese love-balls.
None of this, as we look back, should be a source of pride. We were irresponsible, immature. Yet perhaps, with the benefit of new-found emotional maturity, we should recognise that sex in those days was a sort of cry for help. Our family had never understood us (parents were absolutely hopeless until about 1977), the Beatles had broken up, Jim Morrison was dead, the whole Vietnam thing us very scarred. Somehow the political revolution had passed us by. Now it was time for the sexual revolution and this time we were determined to do our duty. The bed would be our barricade.
Then there was the whole gender problem. Goodness, we were in a muddle. Women wanted to prove that they were the equal of men, so they slept with them. Men needed to show that they were comfortable with women, so they slept with them. We were angry with one another yet strangely needy, had abandoned our old roles yet were uncertain of new ones, were craving intimacy yet fearful of it, professionally ambitious yet anxious not to appear square. All these burgeoning pressures confused and worried us. So we slept together.
Then, because deep down we were hurting, drink was important, too. We needed courage during the hand-to-hand fighting of the sexual revolution. Several men called George – Brown, Best, Gale – took to appearing in public in a way that validated out new dependency, made it almost fashionable. We drank at lunch to line the stomach, at meetings to find something to say, after work to bond with our colleagues – then we went to a party and the drinking really started.
You mock. You sneer. You look back 30 years and feel ineffably superior in your modern, socially evolved manner. But have you ever tried the Third Position of the Tiger and the Rhesus Monkey with someone you have never met on a bed slick with vomit, trying not to comment on the pair of knickers around her neck? It's not easy. Some would say that merely trying it indicates the sort of spirit and heroism seen all too rarely in these more careful days.
Miles Kington is on holidayReuse content