Alternative London 1969/70

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I found this book in a charity shop. It’s a practical guide to alternative living in London from 1969/70 covering a wide range of topics from rent laws, to sexuality, drugs and communes to join. This is the first edition, there were yearly updates throughout the 70s (here’s some choice quotes from the 1974 version). The author Nicholas Saunders later went to set up Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden- in the past a courtyard of hippies, now as bland, expensive and sanitised as much in Central London is. You can read about his life here.

I’ve typed up various extracts from the book that I think will interest people. There’s lots of pages of stuff like directories of places to buy Indian throws and bulk chickpeas and the like that I’ve skipped over.

My notes and comments are in italics to make it clearer which is which. A lot of the content is quite eye-opening when compared with current life in London- especially the sheer affordability of things for ordinary people/broke hippies and how many rights tenants had.

A note on money- this was pre-decimal money and still pounds, shillings and pennies territory 

12d = 1s (d for denarius rather than p for penny in those days too)

20s = £1

So £1 was 240d

A pound was worth a lot of money in those days, and most everyday prices are given in shillings in the book (often in the form 18/10 so 18s 10d/226d). The figures I can find for average earnings for men were £28 per week for men, and £14 for women. So that’s 560s and 260s respectively.

Most of the renter’s rights in this book were repealed by Thatcher in the 1980s.

‘Straight’ in this era is slang for normie, rather than relating to sexuality.


“This is a book for Londoners, not tourists. It contains current information that concerns the more sensitive and active people in London

The subjects I have dealt with are those where up-to-date information is generally difficult to obtain in a form which in unbiased yet easy to absorb.

The purpose of this book is not to push a way of life, but to give access to the ways in which you can express your individuality in a sincere way.”

Somewhere to live

All the contact numbers given in this section are for Chelsea, Camden and Westminster. These are obviously the boroughs where the author assumes readers will live.

“I’ve no solution to the problem of finding a place to live but I hope reading this will save you some exhaustion and expense. Flats are as seasonal as flowers. In October they’re both scarce and pricey because of the influx of students, but in the heat of the summer there are bargains to be found.”

“If you’re new to London avoid the homely digs with evening meal in the suburbs. Although largely offset by fares, this may well be the cheapest way to exist here, but you’ll miss out: everything that makes London alive happens centrally. And late-night transport is lousy. If you are shy, avoid bed-sitters. London can be a bitterly lonely place – it’s so easy to isolate oneself to the point of despair. Much better to share a flat with people you can’t stand. Seriously.”

(“Digs” means lodging with a family)

What’s available:

Bed-sitters: Price: £4 to £7 single, £6 to £11 double (All prices weekly, typical central London). Pay one week in advance, small or no deposit

What to expect: Basic amenities for sleeping, cooking, eating and washing, everything but living in fact. Light included, heat and hot water usually extra (slot meters). Masses of restrictions, including noise and visitors, not always enforced.

Security: If you share the sitting room or kitchen with the landlord or if ‘considerable’ service or meals are provided, you are not protected under the Rent Act”

Sharing furnished flats: either joining an existing group or setting up with friends. Price: about £4 10s each for larger self-contained flats (flats for two, about £6 10s each). Pay weekly or monthly in advance, deposit of about one month’s rent (returnable on leaving in good condition) and you may be asked for references.

What to expect: A bedroom (possibly shared), a sitting-room, kitchen/dining room, bathroom/wc, all exclusive to your flat (flats which share bathrooms with other flats are slightly cheaper). Furnishings would include blankets, fridge, cutlery etc. Sometimes sheets, iron”

Unfurnished flats: Price varies from the same as furnished to as low as a third. Advertised ones expensive, cheaper through Estate Agents (not accommodation bureaux), cheapest passed on from friends. Council rates are extra (£1-3 per week) so are the fixtures and fittings (see Law section). In mansion blocks you sometimes get hot water and heating included. Rent is usually quarterly in advance and references are important.

Security: You can’t be thrown out even when the lease expires, and the rent can’t be put up without agreement of the Rent Officer

The average earnings of £28 for a man works out at £1456 per annum remember. GLC was the London local government. They were seen as a rival by Thatcher, and their powers were later devolved to a patchwork of borough councils because they were basically too powerful for her tastes.

Buying a Leasehold Flat: Price depends enormously on how posh the area is- same flat would be three times as much in Chelsea as in Westbourne Grove: from say £5000 for new or newly converted 3 rooms, k&b with central heating. If lucky you can get a 90% mortgage from the local council, GLC or building society, which means you’ve still got to find £500 cash deposit plus all your legal, moving and furnishing costs. Repayments over 20 years would be about £14 a week plus rates, ground rent and a ‘service charge’. Getting a mortgage is difficult unless you’ve got a secure, respectable job. Even then the maximum mortgage you can expect is 2.5x your gross annual salary before tax. Mortgages are only ever given to one person, never to two or more jointly”

Squatting: If you manage to squat in an empty house you can’t be sued for rent but you are liable for rates and damage. But of course it’ll cost you a bit making the place habitable. And although they can’t refuse to connect supplies, gas and electricity boards may ask for large deposits.

Security: Poor! Sooner or later you will either be (illegally) thrown out or you’ll have a writ served on you to quit (see law). There are hundreds of empty houses in London – most belong to local councils who leave them empty for years before their rebuilding scheme gets underway. Many of these have already been broken into – look at basement doors and windows – so you can enter without breaking and so without breaking the law.

Behave as though you’d every right to be there: let the neighbours and milkman think you’ve rented it, or are the caretakers: don’t do anything to upset them. This way you may get away with it for years, but be prepared for a visit from a council official. Invite him in, show how well you’ve treated the place, ooze charm and offer rent (they won’t accept). Really convince him that you’ll leave without any fuss when the time for demolition comes but make it clear you’re not going before then. What’s more you happen to have a journalist friend on the Observer staying with you who’s interested to know how the council behave … In other words convince the council a) you’re not going to cause any trouble if left alone b) you’re going to make a big stink if they try to move you c) it would bring them bad publicity – this is the most important point

I write from three years of blissful experience of living behind hoardings in a block of disused houses in Chelsea along with varying numbers of friends, a hedgehog, two rabbits and five geese running wild – I flooded one of a fairyland of seven overgrown gardens for them. But we were pretty careful – even about showing lights above hoarding level.”

Squatter’s Rights: The law protecting squatters dates from 1381: None from henceforth make entry into any land and tenements but in case where entry is given by law; and in such case not with strong hand or multitude of people but only in peaceful and easy manner.

It is thus a criminal offence for anyone to attempt to evict squatters by force- a court order must be obtained. But in practice the police and magistrates turn a blind eye to violence being used against squatters. Further, there is no criminal offence in entering and using empty property – unless you do so by force. And if you remain 12 years the place is absolutely yours to keep or sell.”

David Cameron’s government criminalised squatting in 2012

Rent Acts: You can check with the Rent Officer whether the rent for your flat has been registered, without your landlord knowing. If he’s charging more, you can get it put down. If you think the rent is unfair, apply to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who will refer you to the Rent Officer. You can also claim a refund of any increase in rent of unfurnished accommodation over the last two years if the rent has been increased since 1956 without the Rent Officer’s approval. This applies even when tenants change.”

Casual Jobs:

Note: The UK didn’t get a minimum wage law until the 90s, however the rates quoted here compare very favourably with the rent and bills quoted earlier

Market Surveying: If you look fairly straight you can earn £2 10s to £4 a day interviewing people and filling in questionnaires. It helps if you can say you’ve done it before, or worked as a reporter”

One day’s work pays most of the rent in the average flat-share

Street Selling: You can sell magazines in the street without a licence though you may get nicked for ‘obstruction’ (the handful who sell Black Dwarf cause far more ‘obstruction’ it seems than the hundreds of Evening News sellers) but the publishers pay fines as a rule. Try selling a magazine you like – or this book. You have to pay in advance, but what you don’t sell is bought back. Time Out small ads is where magazines advertise for street sellers and that’s where I’ll advertise when I need them.”

Busking: Last summer saw a big increase in the number of buskers: there weren’t enough pitches to go round. The etiquette is that can play where you like until the established claimant of that pitch turns up. Money is good: even in a subway a single singer can make £2 an hour without much hassle except the occasional ‘move on’ from the police.”

Modelling: If you’re glamorous don’t try modelling: there are others. Ads for inexperienced models lead either to modelling schools who are after your cash, or men out to exploit you in other ways. But if you look odd, you’re made.”

Escorts: Agents like Norman Courtney (493 5073) supply partners (mostly girls) for draggish evenings out. You get £3 plus dinner, plus taxi home, and it’s strictly respectable; no sex, no home phone number, and rigid hours. But…”

Prostitution: is not illegal, but soliciting is. So it’s quite within the law to take up offers from the person who’s just spent £12 or so on you as his or her escort. The offers do come, but can be refused without any fuss because it’s strictly against the agency’s rules”

I looked up “Norman Courtney” out of interest, but found nothing more than newspaper classified ads from the era looking for “glamorous girls”

Waiter/Waitress: Go round bistro-type restaurants at about 6pm. Say you’ve done it before. Expect to work 6.30 till 12.30 for share of tips. Pay £3-5, often with a small basic pay or guaranteed £2. Avoid the places with ‘Waitress Wanted’ card always in the window rather than find out the reason the hard way”

Barmen/Barmaids: Try the pubs you like the look of before they get crowded. Say you’ve had experience, get £1 to 30s (ie £1 10s) an evening basic, extra on tips and fiddles.”

Brass Rubbing: About two hours careful work produces a £5 rubbing – if you can sell it. But you have to pay the church – often £1 – and in the summer you have to book ahead”

Every time I’ve taken kids on trips to cathedrals for work I think of the lost riches I could have had from getting into brass rubbing at the right time.

Selling door-to-door: Encyclopaedia Britannica (now American owned) say all their salesmen earn over £40 a week: ring Mr Stimpson (930 5379) who will exude enthusiasm – or walk right up his garden path, 18 Lower Regent Street, at 10 any morning.

Art: If you’re an artist, you can do very well with small works of art up to £10 going from door to door. Best areas are outlying rich suburbs like Richmond or Kingston. Etchings are in demand -and fetch as much as drawings. It’s the personal touch that sells art – the buyer wants to be able to tell his friends ‘Yes, it is nice – the artist told me that…’

Incidentally, if you’re not an artist, a bit of artistry will produce quite saleable works such as cut-out felt pictures.”

This gives me a fantastic mental picture of a load of hippies knocking door to door in Surrey trying to sell framed Fuzzy Felts

Con: Of course real rewards come from real enterprise. A friend got questionnaires printed and sent them with covering letters to would-be debutante’s mamas. ‘If you wish for your daughter to be included in next year’s Debutantes Directory please return the enclosed form with remittance of 3 guineas’. He did publish the directory – by post only 15s (two duplicated sheets of names)

3 guineas was £3 3s ie 63 shillings

Typewriters: Service Typewriter Company (222 5425) hire portables at £2 a month, £10 deposit; electric £6-8 per month”

The phone:

In this era a lot of people didn’t have a home phone or had to share a party line with the neighbours. The phone was also hard-wired into the wall, and handsets were only available direct from the phone company. The phone and postal services were the same company at the time- the GPO, who had a monopoly on communication. They were split up and the phone company privatised as BT in the 80s

“In London this service has been getting worse but still isn’t as bad as in Paris. And long-distance calls are comparatively cheap here.”

“I have been told that the management consists of army lay-offs, which may help to explain their crippling bureaucracy and inefficiency.”

“There are a lot more extra facilities available than publicised: almost an anti-sales policy. There are also many ways of using the phone which are prohibited – you are not even allowed to tape record your conversation – though in practice no-one stops you.”

“The system is wide open to cheating: the operators cannot even tell what number you are ringing from. Then there are the people who get operators to connect them free by pretending to be operators themselves, and others who use call boxes to ask distant friends to phone back reversed charges.”

“Instead of plugging these obvious loopholes the Post Office employs its own corps of private detectives to track down fiddlers regardless of cost. For example calls made by someone using a false credit card code are chased up by a detective who rings the same numbers and makes surreptitious enquiries about the caller.”

Answering services: You can get companies to take messages for you, like Adphone 734 5351 for £11 15s a quarter during office hours. You either give their number or get put on transfer service so that anyone phoning you is given their number by the operator. You then ring the company to find what messages have been left or they are posted to you daily for £5 per quarter extra.”

Answering machines: The GPO only approve machines rented by a few big companies- Robophone 603 4361 etc. They charge between 25s and £3 a week and you have to sign a contract to rent the machine for at least three years.

There are also unapproved Japanese machines which have the advantage of being portable (they’re not wired in) for about £150 outright sale: phone Mr Kelly 935 1320”

So renting an answering machine was almost as much as renting a room in a Zone 1 or 2 flat.

“To prevent others using your phone: Get a small padlock which will hook through a hole in the dial. The GPO also provide a phone with a lock at a ridiculous price: £3 to fit plus 6s a quarter”


These were the days before contactless or Oyster cards – a lot more was in the hands of ticket collectors

Buses: cost 6d a mile up to 6 miles, 4d a mile over, except Red Arrow buses which are 9d as far as they go. Bus fares go by the number of fare stages (indicated by black corners on bus stop signs) that the bus passes while you are on it, so you can save by walking a stop to or from a fare stage.”

Underground: prices are similar except for short journeys in Central London: 1s for the first mile, 8d a mile for three miles.

Many people cheat on the tube by walking on without a ticket: at their destination they tell the ticket collector that they got on at a station within the minimum fare range. London Transport counters this by occasional checks when no-one is allowed into certain stations without a ticket, so those without tickets are arrested if they say they got on at one of them. So if you notice a few extra officials at the barrier, this is probably what’s happening. If you have lost your money, tell the ticket office or bus conductor who will take your name and address and let you travel on condition that you repay.”

“Suburban trains: Fares are about 4½d a mile for short journeys, 3½d for longer ones. You may travel without cash if you give your name and address. “ 

Travelling to the country:

“Some idea of the cost of public transport: to Edinburgh as example:

Air: day £10 booked, £8 standby; night £7 16s, £6 standby

Train: £5 14s

Bus: £3 from Victoria coach station

If you are out of cash, you can still travel by train if you say so and promise to pay on your return: ask the booking clerk.”


“Suddenly, everyone is talking about living in communes. And, although there are far more people talking than doing, there is now a fair sprinkling of thriving communities around the country”

“A lot of unformed communes comprise city people who want to get away from the hassles, poisons and corruptions of the urban system. They hope to set up a completely self-sufficient unit, eating the food they produce with the aid of nature, not fertilisers or machines; without any need for money or influences from the outside world. This romantic idealism is hard to realise.”

There is a lengthy directory of communes to join. Here’s a few:

Eel Pie Island Commune: The population is around forty. They include several couples, two with children, and intend to continue by becoming an arts centre: meanwhile individuals acquire funds through busking etc. The island complete with disused hotel is rented for £20 per week, but is due for demolition. The police frequently search the island for missing people, but not for drugs.”

The Kingsway Community: ‘We intend to create a society, moved and sustained by the example of Christ in which we deal with each other as brothers and sisters’ – though they say Christianity is not rammed down your throat. The thirty to forty members include three couples, a few registered junkies, a couple of alcoholics ‘and incredibly, also quite a few straight people’. They want communication with other similar minded people.

The Trans Sex Trip: ‘We used to be called the Chapel of Isis Commune, when it was more an idea than a fact. It consists now of four people living here who are all transexuals or nearly so”

“Visitors include transexual people, kinkies, astrologers, Commune Movement people – and some actually write first!”

“Politically we appear to be a heck of a mixture: one MOB/CM type non-violent anarchist and theosophist-gardener (little me), a fairly straight Labourite , a rather conservative believer in Armies and the Boss Man Answer (the Chairman Mao) and a liberal minded Irish RC.”

“As changes occur, I hope they will be in the CM-Gandalfian direction, while retaining something of the present transexual basis”

The Rochester Commune: 9, Central Park Gardens, Rochester

This is a group of eight, mostly from art backgrounds – dress designing, illustrating, photography and fine arts- who work together in their various skills for money: they have had posters printed and hope to go on to pottery. Their aim is to get a place far away from the hustles of straight life where they could be as self-sufficient as possible, growing their own food.”

This is my hometown. I was interested to find out where it was, because the street name was unfamiliar. Turns out to be an obscure side road off of City Way, about a mile from my dad’s house. The house is an ordinary 1930s terrace- I wonder what the neighbours thought of the commune at the time?

The Findhorn Trust, Findhorn Bay Caravan Site, Forres, Morayshire, Scotland

About twenty people aged 20-70 (the men are mostly young, the women old) living in comfort in modern caravans and chalets: something inbetween a holiday camp and a barracks. They are in commune with the nature spirits who help them produce nearly all their own food – in spite of the planes overhead from the RAF base next door.

Action is not taken as a result of meetings or discusstion but by the Word of God given daily to one member and imposed by her husband, the founder. Cards lie around printed with the words EXPECT A MIRACLE.”

I looked them up and they’re still around.

Mystical groups

“The Aetherius Society, 757 Fulham Road, SW6 (734 4187)

‘On a Saturday morning in May 1954, George King was given a Comand to: ‘Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of interplanetary parliament’. Through him, the Aetherius Society with branches in Australia and America functions ‘to propogate Vital Transmissions from the Master Aetherius, the Master Jesus, Mars Sector 6 and other Highly Evolved Cosmic Intelligences.’

Power Circles are organised during a ‘Spiritual Push’, when the giant spacecraft Satellite No 3 is brought into orbit of this Earth by that Great Cosmic Master- Mars Sector 6. The society holds frequent meetings. On Sundays they hold Divine Service at 11am and Spiritual Healing at 3pm at which all are welcome.”

They are also still around- Wikipedia page

Druid Order, 77 Carlton Avenue, Dulwich, SE21 (693 4748)

Run by Dr Thomas Maughan, a Homeopath of about 70. Open meetings alternate Fridays at 7.15pm at Caxton Hall, also midsummer ceremonies at Stonehenge.”

The Process, 2 Balfour Place, W1 (493 4741)

A wealthy religious commune with a branch in Paris and two in the States. Members wear black with silver crosses and can be seen with stylish capes selling their magazines at Notting Hill and Piccadilly Circus. Open meetings on Fridays with a Telepathy circle (10s), occasional lectures and film shows. Open til 4am on Friday and Saturday nights, with meditation at midnight costing 5s a time.

The doctrine includes absolute personal responsibiliity: whatever you do or is done to you is ultimately caused by you – including your situation if you happen to be born poor or black, which has resulted in them being called ‘fascist’. The object of life is to get back to the God-like state that we were once many incarnations ago. Some of the methods were once based on Scientology from which the name ‘Process’ comes”

There is a very lengthy and even creepier Wikipedia article about them here

Scientology Church, 68 Tottenham Court Road, W1 (589 3601)

An American organisation who attempt to spread religious enlightenment using quasi-scientific methods and terms. A range of courses is offered to ‘clear’ oneself – ie to reveal one’s hidden potential. The also do ‘auditing’ – a method of un-earthing the causes of one’s troubles using an ‘E-meter’ which is similar to a lie detector. Their road to becoming ‘clear’ runs through some hundreds of pounds, though it is possible for impoverished students to pay their way by teaching the method as they climb their hierarchical ladder.

They still have this shop. In the early 80s when my mum was heavily pregnant with me, she was temping at Senate House for UCL nearby. The Scientologists were always standing outside with bribes like free sandwiches to lure people in, and saw a pregnant woman walking very slowly to get some lunch as an excellent target. They never did succeed. Of course in those days the Scientologists were still an obscure cult.

School of Economic Science, 11 Suffolk Street, SW1 (839 6415)

This institution advertises their two introductory courses in Philosophy and Economics (£3 each for twelve weeks – you may attend any day of the week you are free). Although the initial courses may appear to be general, they have a strong leaning towards the philosophy of Ouspensky. The school is in fact a vehicle for his doctrine, and the courses a way of filtering out would-be followers.

My manager at an old job grew up in this cult. He was in general a very mild-mannered and kind  man, but he would always become really agitated and passionate against cults, and especially seeing adverts from the “School” still trying to use cheap educational courses lure people in to the cult he was still trying to pull family members out of. More details about the “School” here.

Exorcism– Practiced by Fr Neil-Smith, St Saviours Vicarage, Eton Road, NW3 (772 4621)

Encounter Groups: The idea behind encounter groups is that in everyday life we suppress or distort our expressions of feeling so that they are acceptable to society.

In a group, society’s rules are dropped to some extent, depending on the particular group: they vary considerably

Introductory groups can be quite exhilarating – the more so if you are exceptionally inhibited. They consist of such things as trust-situations, touching and smelling people. From these loosening up meetings two types of group may develop – sensitivity and psychodrama.

Sensitivity groups are for developing sensory awareness.They involve very delicate touch and sounds; silence, group feeling, meditation.

Psychodrama means enacting a situation that is real to one of the group. There are two techniques which help – the director can ask two characters who have got ‘stuck’ (repeating the same argument perhaps) to swap roles; an onlooker in the group who identifies with a character can speak for him or take his place. When psychodrama works, the enacted situation becomes a real situation with the characters doing what they feel. People are liable to break down or be violent – it’s important that the group leader/director is both sensitive and in full control.”

Encounter groups, and mammoth 24-hour marathon sessions were all the rage at this time, but people later identified serious issues with consent and manipulation with this type of approach

There’s a long list in the book as well of different campaign groups and underground newspapers.

 Social Security

“Social Security is not just for the destitute – don’t think that because you’ve got savings you should be living off these.”

“You cannot claim any benefit before your 26th National Insurance stamp, but to get full benefit you need at least 50 stamps in the year ending five months before your claim”.

Here is the scan of the basic rates- this is the money you got ASIDE from rent. Unlike today’s unsurvivable payments, these are more reasonable when compared to the other costs in the book.


I’m guessing at the time this was the latest and most progressive thinking on the topic. Times and mentalities have certainly/hopefully moved on since then. The whole thing comes across as a strange mix of being ahead of its time in terms of supportiveness, while being utterly clueless and patronising. Note as well men vs girls.

There’s also a much more useful directory of bars and restaurants and organisations to contact.

“A small minority of homosexual men are the obvious camp queers we all recognise, and an equally small percentage of lesbians are butch. The actual proportion of homosexuals among both men and women is one in every twenty, according to surveys carried out in Britain and other countries in the west, and this applies to people in all walks of life.”

The inescapable conclusions is that we must all know men and girls who are homosexual without it occuring to us: this was borne out by those I talked to when I researched this section.

I met a couple of lesbians who were both very pretty girls of about thirty: one had been married with children without her having any idea that she was homosexual. This appears to be common among lesbians – a girl can play the conventionally passive role with a man without emotional involvement. It must be because of this passivity that sensitive lesbians tend to be so cut off: girls in general don’t go hunting. Homosexual men are more fortunate in this respect, though it’s only the few who are happy with a camp image.

Like everyone else, their personality may be aggressive swinging, serious or shy. And their relationships may be tender, passionate, romantic or promiscuous.

No-one is sure what makes a homosexual and there’s not much choice about it, they just are. They may suppress their feelings but that still doesn’t make them feel warm towards the opposite sex. True bi-sexuals, who can have emotionally warm relationships with either sex are very rare, though of course anyone can have sex with anyone else.

The most common problem among homosexuals – particularly lesbians – is isolation, where their emotions get completely bottled up, known to no-one but themselves.

As a result of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, adult male homosexuals are no longer punished by the law for their private sexual relationship (Females never were). Some legal anomalies still remain however. Of these, the most serious is that men between 16 and 21 can still be prosecuted for private homosexual behaviour”

This legal loophole was only closed in 2000.


“The sexual revolution has meant that we can enjoy sex without guilt or anxiety. But unfortunately this liberation has brought some bad side effects with it: the pressure to conform to have sex is just as bad as the pressures to abstain; secondly there is a tendency for sex to be treated as something technical and without emotion.”


“It’s not confined to dirty or promiscuous people – gonorrhoea is the second most common contagious disease after measles, and you may have it for years without knowing.

Most VD clinics seem designed for unclean people who should feel ashamed: at the West London Hospital you are not allowed in the main entrance; you have to go around the back (along with the coal) down to a cramped subterranean room. There a man in a kind of box-office calls you in and firmly bolts a wooden hatch before asking your name in a semi-whisper, ever so carefully avoiding looking you in the eyes. He then gives you a number which is used instead of your name, so that only you and he need know who you are – I’m surprised they don’t issue masks.

There are one or two clinics that treat you with respect, like Middlesex Hospital’s new James Pringle House or University College Hospital. However all the clinics listed can cure you- some just add a touch of punishment as part of their free service.”

There’s also a long list of various STDs and their symptoms much the same as you’d find in a modern guide. However of course this was the days before HIV.

Contraception by Stephanie of Time Out

“Everyone knows about oestrogen and progesterone (some people can even spell them) and the vast waves of them which are drowning the country, giving thousands of women scarcely out of school thromboses, turning men into women by contaminating the water supply, and encouraging fornication and wife-swapping in the suburbs. But what a lot of people don’t know, and should, is how to get hold of some.”

“Department of Health policy is to make contraceptive advice freely available to all who need it, but in many cases doctors feel it against their principles to give contraceptives to unmarried people, and refuse – which is fair enough, because for the government to be able to over-ride the individual consciences and feelings of the medical profession would be an alarming precedent. But nevertheless, the unsympathetic attitude of some GPs must cause a lot of worry, abortions and illegitimacies.

Contraception is available to anyone determined enough, and a girl who is sure that she wants it, and of a fairly strong nature, will always manage to get it. But social pressures are often too strong for girls less sure of themselves – and these are likely to be less mature and not able to cope with a pregnancy”

There then follows a whole list of advice and contacts for getting hold of the pill or a cap if your GP is obstructive, medical information about different contraceptives, information and contacts for abortion and price comparisons for condom brands.

“Pills cost from 11s 6 for three months to 8s 3 a moth. Basically the higher the cost, the higher the dose of P and O, so if you are put on an expensive brand and either the cost or the high dosage bothers you, ask your doctor if there is any reason why he recommended that one for you.”

The pill is now free in the UK, and formulas are much milder than in the 60s.


Heroin is the drug with the junkie image. It can be eaten (tastes bitter) but is more often taken by sniffing or injection … it is fairly easy to withdraw a user. What is really difficult is to make life without the drug satisfying to him.”

Cocaine: … its illicit consumption is now very rare: it was once used to reduce the down effect of heroin”

Barbituates: These are not as easy to get addicted to as injected opiates, but the addiction is more dangerous. In Britain about half a million people take them regularly of whom some 100,000 are dependent… Mandrax is similar in its effects and rather more dangerous.”

Barbituates are no longer regularly prescribed as sleeping pills for exactly those reasons, and Mandrax is no longer officially manufactured at all.

LSD: … baby-sitting for someone on a trip can be very boring so have a book or sewing with you. He may feel independent and superior but in fact is suggestible and needs your security continually”

There is a very weird assumption there that some man’s girlfriend has to act as the Acid Mummy.

There’s also a very thorough rundown of different brands of prescription amphetamines like Preludin and Methedrine, which were widely available in the 60s. Cannabis is listed at 20s per 8th of an ounce. Mushrooms get a brief mention, but synthetic drugs like MDMA or Ketamine were virtually unknown at this time.

The price list for alcohol shows beer and cider as being very cheap- 2s 7 for a standard pint bottle (ie 572ml), wine as more expensive 12s a 750ml bottle, and spirits extremely expensive at 52s per 572ml bottle.

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