“Only takes one match to burn a thousand trees”

I feel conned; a bit like when I found out that  there was no Father Christmas; that the rumours I’d heard at school were true and the whole thing was an elaborate hoax; only more so.

How could I have been so stupid to believe – the chimney, the mince pies – the flying reindeer, oh for God’s sake how could I have been sucked in by such a charade?

It seems so obvious in the cold light of day, now, looking back in hindsight.

How did I not see it?

Today Rolf Harris will be waking up in prison; he’s a paedophile apparently.

Wow. I never saw that coming. Really? Rolf? I feel conned.

Just like Sir Jimmy and the others already bagged in “Operation Yewtree” and of course a  whole host of as yet unnamed celebrities who are currently pacing their kitchens at four in the morning (every morning) waiting for that ‘knock’ on the door. He’s been eventually caught, found guilty of all manner of despicable crimes stretching back over a number of years, and will probably die in prison.

But Rolf and the others, these are people who I spent a lot of time with (not literally of course) as a child; they helped shape me, they educated me, I looked up to them for guidance. Of course with the luxury of hindsight I guess they were generally a creepy bunch of old men who perhaps spent a bit too much time with children. So it stands to reason I suppose that some of them turned out to be in it for the wrong reasons.

But Rolf, really?

What a Twat.

As disgusted as I am that he managed to con us all, I’m also selfishly saddened that a little sliver of my life will now have to be packed up, filed away, and melted down like an unwanted waxwork at Madame Tussauds.

‘Two little Boys’, the wobble board, “Can you guess what it is”, War canoe (the song that Adam and the ants nicked for Prince Charming), that portrait of the queen with the dodgy teeth. The Stylaphone. The Didgeridoo.

All this and more will now be digitally and surgically removed from the nations collective memory.

But don’t worry the Ministry of Truth will make it all right again.

I’m not bothered that they might take away his OBE, MBE, and CBE (whatever they are) – though I think Sir Jimmy still has his, so he might get to keep them. I’m pissed off that if I accidentally sing “Sun Arise, she bring in the morning” in public (as I have been known to do in the past) people will now look at me with accusatory eyes as some kind of predator; they will put protective arms around their children to save them from my vocal grooming.

And accepting the fact that Rolf and Stuart Hall, and Gary Glitter and all those other men have committed dreadful crimes and have been or will be punished suitably for them, (apart from Sir Jim of course), isn’t it just a little bit sad that with their convictions we also lose some of that history that they helped create? In our race to erase their names from the pages of time, to damn their memory in the same way the Romans dishonoured traitors ‘Damnatio memoriae’ do we not also lose a little bit of our culture? For despite how loathsome they all are, they have each contributed a little to who we are today, and that cannot be taken away, simply by banning them from the TV.

I understand that the BBC are probably working overtime and getting all “out damn spot” on huge swathes of film footage going back over the last forty years to try to protect their image (as they must be getting close to the Catholic Church in the number of paedophiles employed competition), and they aren’t going to be playing Jake the Peg on the Breakfast show. So yes I realise we have to draw the line somewhere, we do have to exorcise some demons. But isn’t the superficial historical editing we do just missing the point.

Are we just writing them out of our histories to make ourselves feel better for not spotting it earlier?

So no more repeats of Animal Hospital, we lose some of the better episodes of Top of the Pops, we don’t have a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas”, and we don’t use ‘Tie me Kangaroo down sport’ as a strange way of saying hello to unfamiliar Aussies.

Is that it? Fairly painless.

The Royal family will have a few less Christmas cards to send each year, and we can all carry on like before; our conscience clear, our memories altered. The bad guys in prison. All is grand.

Or is it?

By removing them from our lives are we pretending that everything will now be all right? Admittedly I don’t want to be watching Stuart Hall rolling around on “It’s a knock out” whilst I’m eating my tea in front of the tele. But is it healthy for us  to try to forget that he has ever existed?

Because he does exist, I can hear his commentary now on “It’s a Royal Knockout!” – I made my own wobble board, and I even wrote in for Jim to fix it. I can’t airbrush those memories from my mind simply because those men turned out to be bad. Why should I?

It cannot go on forever, we can’t just keep chipping away at our reality, at our memories. Printing apologies for accidentally playing a snippet of a song, or for showing an impersonation, belittles the impact rightly and wrongly they have had on our lives.

These people existed, and hiding them in the cupboard under the stairs is not going to make anything better, or any problem go away.

What if there is a bigger problem? What if it isn’t just one or two fairly famous people fiddling with kids?

What happens when the next someone who gets sentenced is someone who is slightly bigger than Harris, Hall, Glitter or Saville? Do we write them out as well?

What about the next one and the next one?

Do we start block wiping years? Decades?

And then what happens if the someone after them who is convicted for similar crimes has had a much bigger influence in all our lives?

What happens if there is a really big name out there? Someone who is eventually uncovered after years of lies and secrecy and is just too big to forget, too important to airbrush out of history, too well known to melt down. And regardless of how many blue plaques you remove, or streets you rename, or paintings you burn they will not, or cannot disappear from our lives.

What do we do then?

How are we going to deal with that one?





One thought on ““Only takes one match to burn a thousand trees”

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  1. Well written Cliff. As someone who’s nickname as a young teacher was Rolf, I too feel totally sickened and betrayed by the recent revelations and verdict. I also agree, that to direct this revulsion to anything positive that came out of the lives of these people is self-defeating. Throughout history there have been many leading figures, whose personal lives and habits, would not bear the close inspection of today’s media but to remove them completely from our collective memory in many ways buries their guilt as well. The crimes committed by Saville, Harris etc. are totally unacceptable in a civilised society but to deny their existence and any positives that came out of their lives seems an easy ‘cop out’ that means we can sweep the whole thing away and pretend that it all never happened.

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