Friday, 16 August 2013

Innocence Until Proven Guilty

I lost my innocence many years ago. It was nobody’s fault. It just happened. My body got longer and hairier and I suddenly realised that the action figures I no longer played with were no longer anatomically correct even though they hadn’t changed, I had. I still pulled the girls pigtails, but not quite as hard as I did before, and I didn’t run away as quickly, and I was secretly so pleased when they easily caught me. And that was that. Boom. I was all grown up. Well, I was anatomically correct for an adult but I hadn’t changed. Confused? You get the idea of growing up then.

The things that you can console yourself with as you age are your memories. Fixed, firm and fair in your head. Revisited for pleasure as traffic-free reminiscences when modern life often threatens to overwhelm you with its demands for multi-tasking wi-fi lifestyle choices of reduced-cholesterol phone upgrades; or so it often seems. The theme park of the mind but with no queuing, no rain clouds and no cheese sandwiches that have cooked in your vinyl rucksack and smell of heated Tupperware or spilled Ribena. Imagine walking down a sunny coastal path every day for what seems like forever. You know the path, you know the way and you know that the sun will always beat down pleasantly on your back for the journey. These are our childhood memories. I know I said the theme park was but allow a troubled man to mix his metaphors. Who wouldn’t want to revisit either at the drop of a synapse?

Of late my rose tinted specs seem to be more prick than petal as I’m forced to re-remember (which is troubling because I don’t remember if that’s a word) my childhood memories and make angular adjustments to those well-worn sojourns.

Something is happening with my childhood and it’s happening to yours. The safe haven of the past is suffering from a leak and the jagged present is rushing in. The sunny coastal path is being eroded, we’re not too sure of the way there, or back, and the sun is being covered by large black clouds. The theme park is closed for repairs. The one that’s at the end of the sunny coastal path. The one that’s being eroded. Confused? You get the idea of our predicament then.

The British TV actors and presenters that have recently been arrested and charged and accused of crimes of historic sexual abuse reads like a Who’s Who of the flared and flamboyant 1970’s. Off-screen the decade was dour if you were an adult. If the electricity didn’t cut out in the evening, if you could bury the dead, if the rubbish was collected, if inflation didn’t eat your earnings away to nothing, if you could get your head around decimalisation then you were doing OK, for the 1970’s.
For us kids it was just a kaleidoscopic decade of, well, kaleidoscopes for one, but colour TV, grass-stains, telescopes, lime-flavoured anything, long hair, wide trousers, short shorts, footballs, theme tunes, cartoons, top tens and wigwams. That was just the weekends. During the winter nights the TV was home to our heroes and idols, whose depravity we couldn’t imagine, hidden as it was off-screen, behind the curtain, behind the smile, behind the catchphrase and theme tune, out of shot, out of sight, out of mind. For the time being when the time being was the 1970’s.

What was it that drove many to act like that?  Was it simply because they could? Was it a power trip? Were they weak? Bored? Sick? Evil? Yes. Yes all of those.

So we all have had our childhoods re-invented by the very people that originally shaped them. As silently as their crimes went unnoticed we have experienced a creeping, pernicious alteration to our national psyche. A simple theme tune can now kick out the warm glow that once formed forever and replace it with darker thoughts that you can’t help but play host to but don’t want to acknowledge. A catchphrase once mimicked in the playground and playing fields now hides a darker, broken tale that no one'll fix. Why did this happen? Are we somehow responsible for the change? Did we do enough? Is it still going on? How many more? How’s about that then?

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