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This report is taken from PN Review 182, Volume 34 Number 6, July - August 2008.

Forty Years On Neil Powell

You can't, this summer, escape 1968: not, at any rate, if you turn on the radio and catch any of those five-minute day-by-day slots which purport to recapture the essence of that year. Perhaps they almost succeed, in their constant collisions of gravitas and frivolity, John Tusa's earnest commentary underscored by whimsical pop songs (of which there aren't nearly enough memorable ones to last out the series). And yet for those of us who, as they say, were there - as twenty-year-old students when a twenty-year-old student was very much the thing to be - the whole enterprise smacks of false memory syndrome. For what the programmes can't hope and indeed wouldn't want to convey is just how ordinary life was, most of the time. We went to lectures and seminars, read books, wrote essays. We drank an enormous amount. We made friends and enemies and occasionally fell in love. Protests and demonstrations? No thanks, I've this almost-finished essay to hand in tomorrow morning; when that's done, I'm off to the pub. Coming? Thought so. If I even glimpsed any of those famous drugs from the beginning to the end of 1968, I've forgotten: it may sound priggish, but I reckoned they were a bit silly and certainly worse for the head than Mr Biesok's good beer at the Roebuck.

This is perhaps because we - some of us, at least - were the last generation to hold an unshaken faith in the values and virtues ...

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