Have you been to London recently? Did you try to see the famous residence of the United Kingdom’s Prime Mister at the famous London address of No. 10 Downing Street?
This (above) is as close to that famous doorway as you can get these days. That 20-foot tall black steel security fence was erected to block off the entire street of Downing in 1991, in response to IRA terrorist bombings in the capital, now protecting the area from about 20 other brands of terrorists from around the world. Sadly, No. 10 Downing Street is now one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Britain. The front door can no longer be opened from the outside because it has no handle, and no one can enter the building without passing through a scanner and a set of security gates manned by armed, bullet-proof vested, and very uncordial, guards.
Before this time, the public had free access to the entire street and any old geezer could stroll right up to the Prime minister’s doorstep and pose for a photo with the one, lone, shirt-sleeved police guard on duty.
Is it hard for you to believe that there was ever a time when life was so uncomplicated?
Yeah, me too.
But I have proof that there was, once, such a happy once-upon-a-time. Here’s me (below), in 1976, in my bell bottom jeans, back when I still had un-gray hair, standing at the very doorstep at No. 10 Downing Street, back when you could trust the stranger who grabbed your 110 Instamatic camera and urged you to go on, go over there so he could snap a souvenir pic of dorky, solo, 20-year old world traveler you, calling on the PM (who was at that time a forgettable fella named James Callahan):
I tend to regret the 1970s and the bad hair, bad clothes, bad music, etc. . . . until I remember that it was the decade in which I was able to travel for $10 a day, and did.
1976 was also the year that I journeyed westward from London, out to Stonehenge (Stonehenge being the pile of standing stones that I hope needs no introduction):
That (above) is a pic of the sandy walkway leading directly into the heavily trampled inner circle which, at the time, was, much like the doorstep of No. 10 Downing Street, surprisingly unguarded and open to one and all. In all, 815,000 people(including me) stomped through this ancient monument in 1976.
So it’s no wonder that, in 1977, the stones were roped off so people couldn’t climb on them any longer. The crowds are kept at a respectful distance, as they should be.
The grass was allowed to grow back, up between the old stones, and the road way that passed just meters from the heel stone was shut down to vehicular traffic. It’s now a paved footpath. The stones stand in splendid isolation, the better to contemplate their significance and wonder.
Every 40 yearsI like to get back to Stonehenge so that is where I found myself this past August, standing at almost the same spot as I did in 1976, to take this pic:
In 1976, any old geezer could mosey up to a 5,000 year-old, 25-ton monolith and, along with the hordes, literally rub shoulders with it:
These days, the only way to get close to the stones is to book a private tour with one of the three companies that are authorized to breach the outer fences :
Let the record show that in 2016 I paid the equivalent of 15. 9 days of 1976 travel to take a one-hour sun set tour of Stonehenge and be one of the 25 people allowed to breathe the same air as these mysterious and beautiful sarsens:
And no, a stranger did not take this pic; my own dear sweet Top Cat did.
My point is: As time goes on, sometimes things get worse, sometimes things get better. Sometimes things get sadder with age, sometimes they don’t.
Maybe 2017 won’t suck as much as 2016.
Happy Winter Solstice, everyone.