I reached double figures in November 1969. The 1970s embraced all of my teens, as well as some of the most formative years of my life (so far).
The past, they say, is a different country. I think it is several different countries, because my experience does not tally with the victims of the seemingly abundant celebrity sex offenders. I had a very sheltered upbringing and an all-male senior school. Girls were aliens who didn’t play football and cricket, did not like rock music, and who preferred to avoid gang-huts and silliness.
The seventies are a minefield of fallen or falling idols, and even those who have cleared their names have quietly drifted away. The seventies make for some very selective viewing as sex-offenders are excised from the archive TV channels. Anyone who follows Top Of The Pops 1979 has to adapt to gaps in the viewing schedule as some of the DJ presenters are now considered unsuitable for consumption. It feels like my past is being re-written. Looking back is to see an increasingly incomplete picture, a canvass edited as the awful are being removed.
I was never a fan of Jimmy Saville – I found him odd and annoying. I did like Rolf Harris who struck me as an anodyne entertainer. At one time I could recite all of Two Little Boys, and enjoyed a giggle at The Court Of King Caractacus. I was charmed by the wobble-board, and did try to see if I knew what it was yet. Seeing his fall from grace makes we wonder what else is to come out, who will be next.
It cannot be just me who wonders how we created a society that allowed so much abuse to happen. This is not just lapses of judgement by isolated individuals, this is collaborative, organised, systematic wrongdoing – aided by those who preferred to look the other way, rather than question and hold to account. It looks like elements of The Establishment were at best complacent, arguably culpable, and certainly derelict in their duty.
It does make me wonder about the past, the years that I am often nostalgic about, albeit always aware of some grim realities. Whilst those who have been caught should be punished, has the system that allowed this to happen changed? I do not know. But I do know that as shocking as the revelations are (and thank goodness for Operation Yewtree) I am more appalled by the apparent ‘so what?’ culture that was evidently in place three decades and more ago.
In my sphere, politics, sex scandals are frequent news. None, in my experience, come close the apparent depravity shown by Cyril Smith, a Liberal MP who came across as a person of integrity and honesty – oh how we were fooled. Although not of the same order, Chris Rennard has much to answer for.
All of us have feet of clay, anyone can do stupid things. Everyone has a past, is entitled to their past, and should be allowed to move on. What is utterly wrong, though, is a conspiracy of silence and acceptance.