In geographical hard fact the King’s Road stretches from Peter Jones’s to the World’s End. It is Chelsea’s village street. And sure enough, on Saturday mornings, its village girls all parade their flaunting fashions that will shock their elders and inflame the local youths. The strange thing is that the village youths are doing exactly the same thing.
The Bob Dylan fans seem most deeply determined to confuse one sex with another. Presumably this increases the hazards of the chase. For boys, and girls, wear skin-tight, well frayed jeans, leather jackets and flowing long-neglected hair. They march in small groups, their eyes fixed on far horizons. As a result of this they tend to walk slap-bang into your car. The men baffle me by proving what I had long suspected – that uncurbed, glossy male locks are so seductive that its small wonder that Saint Paul ruled against them. Nor is it much use us middle-aged parents trying to sex them by their silhouette; by some mysterious means that only women comprehend (but that I, alas, have failed to cotton on to) girls have managed to narrow their hip-bones to a masculine slimness. Just, in fact, as my mother did in the early twenties.
So, of course, have what I call the Goyescas; these are slightly older women – but just as slenderly built. Their flavour is Spanish; they wear their hair straight, black and tight as a skull cap. In their ears they sport large, flamenco earrings the same colour as their skinny rib-tight blouse. They disdain brassières (as well they may) and their bell-bottomed pants buckle with a cartridge-belt slung well below their often visible navel. They it is who sharply attract the local lads; and completely stun my husband.
Even more than the pyjama-girls I enjoy the comely toddlers. I can’t believe that even the flaming twenties produced anything quite so nutty. They have well scrubbed baby faces. They stride in round-toed shoes just like those I wore for my third birthday party. Their bodies are lost in a shapeless Mother Hubbard of an infantile pink or blue. But this stops just below their hips so we all have an uninterrupted view of their burnished, never-ending legs. It is astounding just how much leg a determined woman can produce when she is pushed. No wonder we are spellbound; for here, in all her glory, is the ravishing, fully fledged female nit.
Scarlet mini-underpants for men
Of course, the shops have changed to keep pace with the girls. And – there it is again- with the boys. Gone are the antique shops of truly ponderous foreboding. Now there are supermarkets, wine shops, pop art caverns selling harmonious junk or medieval bedsocks. And there is a male boutique for every female one. Indeed, these shops are indistinguishable from each other. For the girls’ shop windows display harsh, masculine shirts. And the man’s windows are full (can I believe my eyes?) of crocheted, scarlet, mini-underpants. Nor can it be assumed that these “Jan Paul” or “Male Loot” shops are there just for the queers. I defy anyone, of either sex, to discover in the Kings Road on Saturday morning who is queer and who isn’t.
The young, of course, take all this in their never-ending stride. Only the middle-aged are flummoxed. Or the foreigners. For there they are, hordes of them, all walking solemnly up and down, all gawping fishily at the King’s Road stately Moslems strolling in a perennial glee, still unable to credit their visual good fortune. For how can the allure of a yashmak compete with the well-aimed, knock-out quality of the true mini-skirt? Or take the French boys. They are quite pale under their Gallic tan and it is obvious from their agitation that Paris boasts nothing like this. And the envy on the au pair girls’ faces – they are going straight home to their hostels to take up their skirt the requisite 10 inches! Only the intelligent Germans seem puzzled – usually by the op-art doodles on some of the girls dresses.
The boys who really get the Dylan Free-wheelers, the Goyescas and the toddlers are not actually walking at all. They wear pink jeans, blue T-shirts, and a Porsche, a Daimier Dart, or a Bond-Equipe. They cruise repeatedly up and down the centre of Kings Road, soberly reassessing their choice. They clog the traffic up. But who cares? No one minds being stuck in this kind of jam where you can always, like them, look at the boys, or the girls.
It is purely visual pleasure, of course, because you cannot actually hear much above your car engine. You don’t say much, either, because all this tends to make you speechless. But above the roar of the traffic I do hear a man’s voice raised in a final desperate appeal. “Ten,” he bellows savagely, “I said ten. Ten-for Downing Street!” This harassed man is haranguing a busload of passengers. But it is a mauve bus, fresh from the provinces. He is a cheerleader, and this must be mobile bingo! “Ten” he bawls bitterly. “Now-who’s going to be lucky?” We all are. For there, on both pavements, are the boys; the girls. Suddenly he slumps into a seat beside the conductor. “Damn this for a lark!” he yells, for all to hear. But he relaxes. Perhaps his busload of inattentive morons is all for the best; for now he, too, can gape out of the steamy windows with them, and marvel at the carry-on of the King’s road.