Look At It This Way - October 17, 2014

Rolf Harris on the Comedy Carpet
Rolf Harris on the Comedy Carpet
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Whenever history is set in stone it’s liable to get edited. Or vandalised.

Look at the sacking of great buildings and religious artefacts during the Reformation.

Or the defacing of statues over the ages. The chipping off of noses to spite an emperor’s face. The hacking of marble limbs to mar what was once beautiful –but fallen from grace.

The toppling of tyrannical leaders once held to be iconic.

For my money, art is art and should be left inviolate.

So two stories caught my eye this week.

One was the alleged attempted theft of the Eric Morecambe statue in Morecambe – streets ahead of our own tribute to the late Les Dawson in terms of 
location and exuberantly evocative angle.

Les’s statue makes me smile because I knew and loved him from the day he moved to Lytham with his late wife Meg and took me on a house tour which ended in the broom cupboard because – as he put it – “even the mice wear St Christopher medals here.” Years later I got the exclusive, on the basis of that friendship, when Les became a dad again. I even fended off calls from an irate agent trying to remind Les of the exclusivity of his contract with a national newspaper – while our cameraman was out front snapping “Lumpy” (Les) and “Pooh” (Tracy) together on the lawn. “I’m the housekeeper,” I told the agent.

I don’t think Les’s statue does him justice. It’s excellent but an approximation of the man I knew. I’d have loved to have seen him cast in Cissy and Ada pose – or at his piano. That would have made the instant connection with the light, love, and laughter of Les.

I never knew Eric. But that statue brings joy – sunshine in his smile – each time I see it.

People seem to think that statues have more, well, stature, but we have set history in stone here in Blackpool, too, our popular culture celebrated, feted, commemorated, by the Comedy Carpet.

The Comedy Carpet is one of the single greatest inspirational investments the council has made in decades. It will have the last laugh long after others have failed. It builds on the magic of the Mirror Ball in embracing the spirit of Blackpool. But not if we keep editing bits out as entertainers get caught out.

The Comedy Carpet lays out a sea of words, inviting us to skate across them.

Can we skate over the deeds of disgraced Rolf Harris with so light a spirit? He’s currently serving nearly six years for indecent assaults on four girls – one as young as seven or eight. Further allegations have been made – just as they were after Stuart Hall blustered his innocence. Harris’s jail term is seen by many as unduly lenient.

And now many want to expunge him from the Comedy Carpet.

If we had a statue of Rolf Harris in the town I’d probably help pull it down without a second thought – but words edited out after the event?

Maybe it’s the journalist in me, or the historian, but I rather object to the rewriting of history. Or the editing out of the nasty bits, the uncomfortable home truths, the private deeds of public figures once revered and now laid bare and rightly vilified.

I say we live with the words, and we learn by the words and, as we tread them underfoot, we remember that nobody, but nobody, is above the law, or beyond the law. Or should be.

But we don’t turn the Comedy Carpet into blankety blankness while we find acceptable entertainers to fill in as warm-ups until another big name falls from grace. Not unless we’re prepared to go down the satire route and replace errant abridged entertainers with – a yew tree.

Many wrongs do not make a rewrite. Just a rethink. They have their place in history. To show how the mighty have fallen.

Remember French Skipping?

I’ve lost touch with kids’ crazes – our lot are just into iPhones and Selfies and falling out with friends every few days via Facebook.
But I had to stop myself buying a pack of cut price Loom Bands the other day – because I liked the colours. I used to have a set of marbles for much the same reason. Hollies we called them back then.
We had gonks and trolls and funny little fruit shaped creatures stuck on pencil tops – and which I still find buried in the garden years later.
But rubber Loom Bands aren’t a patch on our elastic sensation – French Skipping. Remember that, children of the Sixties?
Rhymes accompanied increasingly complex moves … Peggy leggy in, peggy leggy out, peggy leggy in out, Peggy leggy ON.
It was like a skipping version of cat’s cradle. You had to jump loops of elastic – wrapped round your ankles, shins, even knees for the athletic.
I practised at home with little brothers pressganged into elastic, chair legs or even the bin. Tried it once with the lower rungs of dad’s ladder.
Big mistake. 
Peggy leggy OUCH.
I’ll stick with Pilates.