The Loss of Innocence

mourning women

I find that whenever I receive bad news — and I mean really awful news, the sort that demands knuckle biting and sobs so racking as to make my breasts semaphore a swaying grief to passersby — nothing cheers me up more than a quick glance at the letters page of The Berwick Advertiser.

Thus, on hearing the news that Rolf Harris has been charged with going equipped to commit noncery, I fled straight to the comforting arms of page 22. Only improbable punctuation and the inability to park on Marygate could offer me support at a time like this. Only the ritual thanking of every last person involved in a charity fundraiser — plus extended family members, pets, inspirational teachers and dead skin cells — could go some way in repairing a hole the size of a wobble board in a once fond wall of childhood memories.

To think I’ll never look at a didgeridoo in the same way again or laugh at Jake the Peg’s extra leg. And as for Two Little Boys, with Joe’s enthusiasm to have Jack climbing aboard his wooden horse, well it’s just all so distressing, isn’t it?

My childhood leans against the mirror of my grown-up self — an Instagram, glowing golden regardless of my artfully worn corners. Even as I study it, the image shifts, subtly altering reality by applying a filter of a care-free Bohemia to the gaping seams of hand-knits and hand-me-downs. The Boden marketing team must wet themselves over the acceptable poverty of the 70s.

It’s said that things were simpler back then, more innocent. Obviously not. But because we couldn’t understand the why of bad things happening, bad things didn’t happen. We believed — this is an entire population charmed by SodaStream and brown polyester, remember — that fame and money and stints on Blankety-Blank would be enough. Who knew that being loved by millions wouldn’t satisfy a hunger, only allow it to grow unchecked?

Rolf is the last domino in the line to fall, lying under the weight of Gary Glitter, Stuart Hall, Dave Lee Travis and Freddie Starr — crown princes to Jimmy Savile’s King Child Catcher; yet another piece in a messy and fractured pattern. I should simply return them to my memory, but I’m no longer sure they would fit back in the box. Or even if I want to keep them.

At this point I applied a firm mental slap. It’s a slippery slope between feeling sad for yourself and seeking past-life healing, and I was having none of it.

Painting of Joan of Arc

Dear Lord, Please, just once, could I not be blamed for screwing up every Tom, Dick and Harriet’s life 600 years from now. Amen, Joan xox

So as I said, I sought grounding from the Tiser’s letter page, that touchstone of purity of purpose and immutable, incorruptible innocence.

Sir — A call has been made to demolish the former Kwik Save site in Berwick to make way for a coach park.  Why demolish it? It already has a roof so make it into an undercover coach park.

Far more acceptable than stepping out into inclement weather, and on the subject of stepping out perhaps some thought could go in to replacing much of the cobbled area at the quayside with carefully thought out walk ways where mums with prams could walk and those with mobility scooters could enjoy the harbour-side along with those who like walking without the added risk of ricking an ankle.  I’m sure visitors would also appreciate the convenience.

James Gregory, Bridge Terrace, Berwick

Replete with shoddy paragraphing and following the Tiser’s rigorous etiquette for punctuation (see above), at first glance everything seemed kosher. I felt buoyed, lifted by the correspondent’s joyous ignorance in the face of structural engineering matters and exalted by his visionary use of tarmac on a quayside of historic significance.

But wait, dammit! Just like a child’s invitation to a TV personality’s dressing room, it was all too good to be true. This letter is too perfect. It’s as if someone has studied the flash points that trigger a typical Tiser correspondent to put pen to paper and passed them off as his own. Look at the unsound logic, the cavalier quest for convenience, the perfectly pitched querulousness. Then there’s the mention of mobility scooters, a small detail yet to the cognoscenti a universally recognised code for easy comedy. I can only conclude…

Ladies and gentlemen, the letters page has been fiddled with. Someone has taken its innocence, its eagerly waving heart, and duped it. Someone is laughing at its guileless nature like, like… well, okay, a bit like this blog, but oh so much crueller. The question is why, James? Why would you do such a despicable thing? Why, for the love of God, why!

As you can imagine, this revelation had me sliding further down the spiral of despair, but then it occurred to me — if I can’t understand the why of such a terrible thing then perhaps this terrible thing hasn’t happened at all. Yes, that’s it; that’s much more believable. There is some mad auld bastard out there wanting to make a coach park out of Kwik Save. Phew. Thank goodness. As you were everyone.

Not you, Rolf.



3 comments on “The Loss of Innocence

  1. I feel exactly the same way about Rolf Harris. The first record I ever bought was Two Little Boys. When the Savile story first broke I felt like my whole childhood had been retrospectively sullied, and just as I was starting to get over it, Rolf comes along.

    I’m not so sure that this letter is a wind-up. In Alnwick, where I used to live, there is a strong lobby wanting to see the replacement of the cobbles with tarmac. It is true that cobbles are very hard to walk on. Oh dear, now I sound like a Tiser letter myself.

    • It’s odd isn’t it? It feels like we’ve been living a lie. We’ll probably find out that Hartley Hare was a frequent face on the dogging scene and Bungle and George had a red room of pain. Sad times.

      Now, I have since heard on the grapevine that this correspondent has previous for mischievous letter writing. On closer interrogation, my sources *taps nose* were none the wiser as to whether the author meant every word he said or not. Which is a rather wonderful take on a nuisance call. Long may it continue.


  2. M Rooke, via email:

    Now that Rolf is potentially going down (“Can you see what it is yet?” never sounded so menacing as it does now), I think that we will become known as “Generation P”: the P stands for pixelated, as whenever those nostalgia programmes come on TV, they’ll be filled with pixelated images of children or stars who have been “unthought”. If they come for Ronnie Corbett that’ll be it.

    So, no Bay City Rollers, no Jonathan King, going for a moon (or was it to?), no Leader of the Gang (aw cummon’). How’s not about that then guyz and gurlz? The Hairy Monster always gave me the creeps but et tu Rolfus?

    Yup, either those bits of popular culture from our childhood will simply disappear from the archives or will be full of strangely pixelated images.

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