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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Send in the Clowns

It's fascinating how your tastes change as you get older. I used to hate Petula Clark and her sugary songs like "Down Town" and "Don't Sleep in the Subway" (why would a well brought up aspiring middle class school boy want to do that anyway?).  I used to think Arsenal were a lot of snotty nosed up starts who weren't worthy to screw on the studs of MU players. Now I think they're brilliant.

Mind you my view of the relative merits of "The Rolling Stones" as compared with "The Beatles" have remained the same over nearly half a century. Ever since that famous debate I had with a school mate in 1964 in the Upper Sixth,  I have held the strong opinion that the "The Stones" were over educated London snobs compared to (not sure whether it's "with" or "to", so I'm hedging my bets) those loveable working class Merseyside Mopheads. Musically they weren't too bad - except I did think it was a travesty that their very mediocre version of the song "Little Red Rooster" should reach No1 at the end of 1964.

Which brings me to Janet Street Porter. In her early days in TV I used to think she was possibly the ugliest and most nauseating presenter in the world. It didn't help that I frequently confused her name with Nyree Dawn Porter who was, for me at least, my fantasy girl friend. The fascination of "The Forsyte Saga", her long dresses and sad, oh so longing eyes, turned many a male teenager into an Adam Adamant, ready to snatch her from her loveless marriage to Soames Forsyte.

Now I have a lot of time for Ms Street Porter. She's funny, incisive and is seriously accomplished. As Editor -At-Large for the Independent on Sunday she has frequently provided thought provoking editorials. Today's is a case in point.

Her target is the media circling Cumbria like wolves on the scent of blood. This is not a news story - it is an ghoul show. I fully agree with her comment that: "The killings in Cumbria resulted in a tidal wave of voyeurism fuelled by modern media driven to fill airtime." She is surely right to highlight the gruesomeness of a nine year old who witnessed one of the shootings being interviewed live on "Sky News". Or the mother of Derrick Bird, who is greeted not only with the devastation of having two sons taken from her but by a pack of journalists encamped outside her door.

How is the public interest is served in subjecting the poor woman to such treatment? Or interviewing a young boy who has just seen a man have his face blown away?

How does that illuminate this tragedy, except in the half light of commercial interest and ghoulish ratings competition.

Two years ago I wrote about a visit to my aunt in Egremont to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary.  It was a joyous occasion, I met my cousins after some 20 years and I spent a couple of days with my half brother in what must be the most dreadful hotel in the North West of the country! There was a huge party in the town's Community Centre, with much arthritic dancing to long forgotten tunes of the 1950's and 60's. It was also an opportunity to learn more about my father and much time was spent round the dining table looking over old photographs and hearing my aunt's girlhood reminiscences about my father.

This week on Facebook my cousin, one of my aunt's sons, had discovered that one of Mr Bird's victim was killed just around the corner from where they lived. I don't know if she knew them, but Egremont is not a big place so it's possible. She knew the policeman who died in the floods - he was a neighbour. 

So much of what has happened this week is incomprehensible. For many in the area it is beyond their worst nightmares - unimaginable in an area renowned for its beauty and tranquility.

Of course, in the nature of things, people, not least those closely affected by this tragedy, yearn for some explanation, some context; some way of dispelling the darkness that we fear might dwell in the hearts of us all. Unfortunately the behaviour of some of our press only reinforce that fear.


Tenon_Saw said...

I'm glad you have written this; it means I do not have to do so (thanks also to JSP!)
Also, I thought I was the only person to remember Adam Adamant - I used to love it as a kid.

Barry Coidan said...

Dear old Gerald Harper... so suave, so sophisticated, so '60's. He's one of the lost 50's and 60's TV heroes, that included Richard Greene (Robin Hood), William Russell (Lancelot)and Conrad Phillips (William Tell).

It's strange how memories colour your reactions and feelings. When I saw William Russell for the first time in "Corrie" It was a shock after such memorable roles as Sir Lancelot and Dr Who's companion. An even greater shock was to turn up to church in the 1970's to hear him read one of the Christmas lessons. I was too scared to speak to him.

All this has me googling like mad, when I should be down the allotment!!!