From ‘Alternative London’ by Nicholas Saunders (1974)

I was recently going through a bunch of books I picked up at a library remainders sale and found a copy of Alternative London by Nicholas Saunders from 1974. With practical information on housing, DIY, the law, communication, medical treatment, eating, sexual health, travel, spirituality and politics, it is a fascinating insight into life in London in the 1970s. Many of the tips contained within seem bizarre forty years later, while others are taken for granted nowadays. There are a few gems to share, but do not take any of this advice though, I can’t be responsible for anyone trying advice written by a weird hippy forty years ago.

From the section on communal living:

Visiting communes

Don’t expect a commune to be any more pleased to see strangers than a family – some welcome visitors and others find them disruptive. So write before you visit and don’t be upset if you’re not welcome. And if you do visit, be prepared to give – both in work, money and in being receptive to what’s going on.

From the section on free things:

Chimney pots are often handmade with little decorations.  I got some which I use as giant flower pots.

Abandoned vehicles

You can claim any car or motor bike that has been abandoned. Write to the registration department… Giving the vehicle’s number and description, saying that you believe it is abandoned and wish to become the owner. They write to the registered owner and if no reply in about three weeks will register in your name and send you a log book.

From the section on money:

Cash dispensers: There are slot machines that give you £10 at any time if you have got a card and secret code from your bank: ask. There are plenty of machines in London now.

From the section on work:

Door spys

Get a supply of those ‘see without being seen’ one-way door telescopes and the right size hand drill (that’s all you need to fit them) then go round to houses and flats asking if they’d like them fitted on the spot for a couple of quid. Several people have n been doing this successfully since the last issue. They cost about 85p from hardware stores.

From the section on libraries:

Public libraries

You don’t have to visit them. Ring any public library, ask for the reference department and they’ll look things up for you. They should also be to suggest books for you to read.

From the section on crafts:


Ask anyone who has one – they’re much better than blankets.

From the section on The Left:

Having joined any of these traditional left groups, your main task will be street and pub selling the party’s newspaper, trying to recruit new members, going on demonstrations and engaging in political discussions. The most immediate and practical way to get to know these groups and their ideas is to buy their newspapers, most of which are available in left bookshops.

From the section on travel:

Between midnight and 4am you can get lifts in newspaper delivery vans to suburban areas. Go round to the back loading bays of any national newspaper… Ask the van drivers if there’s a van going in your direction. It might help to say you work in the composing room or the process. You could get a free lift and tomorrow’s paper thrown in.

From the section on going abroad:

You’re not supposed to take abroad over £25, but no one checks. 

From the odds n bits section at the back:


A reader says that besides postcodes being useless to letter sorters… they could be used to feed computers with information about who you’re writing to just like the phone number printing devices do.

And have you noticed the self moving TV cameras on tall poles all over London? Installed as traffic observation, they enable the police to keep an eye on all the main streets – there’s one in Knightsbridge sticking out of the Hyde Park Hotel.

So there you have it, weird advice and information from the 1970s. There is a section of immigration law that I might blog about in more detail in the future – stay tuned!

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