April 3, 1989, Marrakech The chic thing is to dress in expensive tailor-made rags and all the queens are camping about in wild-boy drag. There are Bowery suits that appear to be stained with urine and vomit which on closer inspection turn out to be intricate embroideries of fine gold thread. There are clochard suits of the finest linen, shabby gentility suits . . . felt hats seasoned by old junkies . . . loud cheap pimp suits that turn out to be not so cheap the loudness is a subtle harmony of colours only the very best Poor Boy shops can turn out. . . . It is the double take and many carry it much further to as many as six takes (William Burroughs, 1969)

Holiday in the sun: Mister Rotten makes the grade

THE British summer of 1976 was extraordinarily hotand dry: there were no recorded precedents. FromMay through to August, London parched and sweltered under luminous skies and the inevitable fog of exhaust fumes. Initially hailed as a Godsend, and a national ‘tonic’ in the press and television (was Britain’s ‘curse’ finally broken?) the sun provided seasonal relief

from the dreary cycle of doom-laden headlines which had dominated the front pages of the tabloids throughout the winter. Nature performed its statutory ideological function and ‘stood in’ for all the other ‘bad news’, provided tangible proof of ‘improvement’ and pushed aside the strikes and the dissension. With predictable regularity, ‘bright young things’ were shown flouncing along Oxford Street in harem bags and beach shorts, bikini tops and polaroids in that last uplifting item for the News at Ten. The sun served as a ‘cheeky’ postscript to the crisis: a lighthearted addendum filled with tropical promise. The crisis, too, could have its holiday. But as the weeks and months passed and the heatwave continued, the old mythology of doom and disaster was reasserted with a vengeance. The ‘miracle’ rapidly became a commonplace, an everyday affair, until one morning in mid-July it was suddenly re-christened a ‘freak disorder’: a dreadful, last, unlooked-for factor in Britain’s decline.