Every day on my way to work I had to pass the Protein Man, Stanley Green. Remember him? He used to walk up and down London’s Oxford Street booming out in a sonorous voice ‘Buy my book’, and carried a sign proclaiming the dangers of proteins, saying that they caused lust. His solution was “protein wisdom,” a low-protein diet for “better, kinder, happier people’, and he’d sell you a 14-page booklet on the subject. He was very pleasant, and police and public were generally tolerant of his odd ways. He carried on being a human billboard for 25 years.
When he died in 1993 at the age of 78, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Times all published his obituary, and his pamphlets, placards and letters were passed to the Museum of London. I liked the way ‘And Sitting’ was added to the bottom of his ‘Do Not’ list on a separate little board.
Now Oxford Street only has the singing, dancing Krishnas to brighten it up, as the irritating shouty-megaphone-God bloke who used to stand at Oxford Circus has also vanished. London always had a tolerance for eccentrics, but we see less of them now.
The mad, it seems, are always with us. Right now, a rapidly increasing stream of New Age believers – or esoterics, as locals call them – have descended in their camper vans on the picturesque Pyrenean village of Bugarach, thirty miles from Perpignon. They believe that when apocalypse strikes on 21 December this year, the aliens waiting in their spacecraft inside Pic de Bugarach will save all the humans near by and beam them off to the next age.
According to eschatological beliefs and predicted astrological alignments, the world-end comes after a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and the so-called ‘Upside Down’ mountain hides a space ship. 100,000 people are expected by December, and US travel agents are offering one-way deals there. Needless to say, the French locals are hiking up prices and reaping fortunes from the credulous. I’ve got my eye on tickets for the after-party.