I was fighting in 1968 - for chocolate biscuits

By Simon Round, May 23, 2008

As you are probably now aware, this year is the 40th anniversary of the cataclysmic events of 1968. There has barely been a newspaper or periodical which has not run lengthy articles about the revolutions and protests of that year. Up to this point I have veered away from telling the story of my part in the events as they unfolded, but seeing as everybody else is telling tales of demonstrations and riots, I don’t see why I should be left out. So here is my untold story of 1968.

Actually, my account differs from many you will have read because, as activists go, I was quite young — four-and-a-half in fact. This does not make the story any less dramatic.

Take the demonstrations, for example. In Czechoslovakia they were fighting for control of their own country, in the US they were demonstrating against war, in Paris, they were fighting for… well, your guess is as good as mine. In North-West London, there were two main areas of contention — my human right to biscuits, preferably of the chocolate variety, and my right to stay up past 7.30pm.

There were missiles thrown — I believe two or three instances when toast soldiers were launched in anger. There were barricades erected (mainly of teddies) and the roads were blocked by vehicles — well, the front path was blocked by my tricycle, which my dad tripped over. As a result, I was held in solitary on the naughty step for at least five minutes.

Although I was a leading activist, I was not alone in my battle. My older brother, Jeremy, planned to stage a walkout. He had packed his bags and was ready to leave the house until, that is, he was informed that it was schnitzel for lunch — his favourite — and he was prevailed upon to stay. (He later revised his plan and staged a sit-in instead, right until the end of Blue Peter.)

Many of the dramas of 1968 were played out at educational establishments. My experience was no different, though the location — Mrs Foster’s nursery at St John’s Wood Synagogue — has not hitherto been highlighted as one of the main centres of student unrest. There were daily protests and occasional violence. I recall milk being spilled at playtime, assaults involving play-bricks and children wandering off the carpet at story-time with no regard to convention.

Of course, we kids were different in those days. We used to take substances long-since banned — drugs like Junior Disprin, for example. There was Butterscotch Angel Delight, which could be transformed into a dangerously sweet dessert. Then there was subversive literature. While college students studied Oz magazine, children would gather in small groups to discuss Enid Blyton — now thought too dangerous for young minds, except in censored versions.

The question everyone asks about 1968 is what did all the turmoil actually achieve? After all, the Vietnam War rumbled on, Prague was occupied by the Russians, and the French students… well, they went back to studying.

However, I secured some crucial concessions that year. Baked beans and liver were no longer served at tea-time after a short but violent reaction, about which it’s best not to go into details. The bedtime riots of the spring eventually meant that baths were put back until after The Magic Roundabout, and my brother got unfettered access to The Beano every weekend.

The world would never be quite the same again.

Last updated: 4:32pm, September 23 2009