Every time I went to Oxford Street, somewhere along it I would see a little man, with a banner in his hand, shuffling along the pavement.
He never seemed to say anything, never seemed to be with anyone, wasn’t part of a demonstration or a cult. He didn’t grab people to tell them their sins or try to convert them. He didn’t preach. He just seemed to be an oddity – one of those oddities for which London has always been famous.
The message on his board was strange, too. It said: “Less passion from less protein”, and then under that was a list of the bad proteins – “meat fish bird egg cheese peas beans”. I don’t think punctuation was his strong point.
Besides, he seemed wrong for Oxford Street somehow. Not only wasn’t he some kind of religious revivalist or preacher, he just looked the wrong kind of bloke to be walking up and down with a banner. He looked like a mild, rather worn old man, the kind who really ought to be on an allotment or taking the dog out for a walk. There was no crazy gleam in his eye.
He always made me think of Pythagoras, who wouldn’t let his disciples eat beans. And yesterday, when I was writing about Govinda’s and Ayurvedic theory, I was reminded of him. So I looked him up on the internet.
His name was Stanley Green. And my idea that he should have been on an allotment somewhere wasn’t far off; he had, at one time, been a gardener. But he started doing his ‘protein man’ work in 1968, and from then on it seems to have been his entire life. He was still going strong when I started working in London in the early 1980s.
He took his own advice on proteins. He believed too much protein inflamed sexual desire – so he lived on bread, porridge and barley water. Alas, he is no longer with us – he died in 1993. (He now has his own entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, bless him.)
Although I’m afraid I couldn’t ever agree with him on protein – I like my steak tartare far too much and cannot resist a cashew nut – I think he had some interesting things to say to us. For instance his little leaflet (the title page of which you see above, and which he printed at home) warns us about the perils of the mass media. And he’d never seen Big Brother!
“BEWARE of the fun of indecent suggestions; of the amusement from the titillating scandal of private lives; of the diversion of the undress of low journalism etcetera. These things erode our morals and twist young minds.”
His devotion to duty, his steadfastness, and his utter burning integrity, are impressive. But I never did quite work out what was the meaning of the last line of his banner;
Photo credit: Simon Crubellier on Flickr