You Know You're Over 40 When…

Archive for the category “pop culture”

You Can Help Your Twentysomething Teammates In A Music Quiz

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It was enough to strike fear in the heart of any fortysomething.

It was a work night out.

But this time, I was game. Because this work night out was a pub quiz.

Like any normal person, I enjoy pub quizzes. And like any normal person, I never organise myself or others enough to actually go to any pub quizzes. So while enforced fun – a work night out – is, in some ways, this fortysomething British person’s idea of hell, I don’t mind it if the fun being enforced is something which I am too lazy to enforce upon myself.

So there we were: my colleagues and I, about 35 of us in total, in a basement bar off Oxford Street hired for our exclusive use that night. There we sat, with our free drinks and free sharing plates – two things designed to make us talk and mingle with That Person Who Works In That Other Department Doing That Job Which You Don’t Fully Understand (which they did – I found myself reaching for cheesy nachos at the same time as That Nice Chap Who Does Design Stuff) – while the quiz masters quizzed us. Masterfully.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing better than a pub quiz is the music round of a pub quiz – so imagine my delight when it turned out that this pub quiz was devoted entirely to music. Every round was a case of Name That Tune, if Name That Tune involved playing a song long enough for you to hear the chorus (and therefore usually the title), and didn’t involve people buzzing in when they could, in fact, name that tune.

Which probably makes it sound easier than it was.

I didn’t find the Noughties or the Nineties rounds that easy. But fortunately, four out of my five teammates were in their twenties, so they did. When it comes to Noughties music especially, I realise that it’s simply a case of me either not being familiar with the song in question, or being vaguely familiar with it, in the sense that I heard it once when I was walking around Primark but couldn’t tell you the title or the artist. (Similarly, I know the names of plenty of current pop stars and bands, but couldn’t name or sing a single tune by them – but I suspect that’s a subject for another You Know You’re Over 40 When… post).

But I knew I would come into my own. And that it would be during the Seventies and Eighties music rounds.

And sure enough, when those came along, my fellow fortysomething teammate David/Dave and I metaphorically rolled up our sleeves, took the pen and answer sheets, and prepared to do our worst. And by worst, I do of course mean best. Because a) we didn’t want to let our teammates down and b) as two of the oldest people in the room (my colleagues are, to a – young – man, in their 20s and 30s), I’m sure that we subconsciously wanted to show The Kids that old people do have a use, even if that use is only Seventies and Eighties music rounds in pub quizzes. Of course, I say ‘we’ but I can’t speak for David/Dave. Hell, I don’t even know what to call him. We’re pretty pally and he’s a nice bloke in his forties, so both of these things would indicate that he’s a ‘Dave’. And yet we’re not friends, as such, and he uses David in his work email address – both things which would make one err towards calling him ‘David’. As a result, I am permanently slightly terrified that if I call him ‘Dave’ I have overstepped a line of over-familiarity; but if I use ‘David’ I am being overly formal. Naturally, being British, I am most terrified of the former. I would rather David/Dave thought ‘Why doesn’t Andrea called me Dave?’ than ‘I wish Andrea would stop calling me Dave’.

But back to the pub quiz. Where, having played our joker on the Nineties music round, our team are comfortably, nay, smugly ahead; and where the Seventies and Eighties – aka the Fortysomething’s Specialist Music Rounds – are about to take place, and thus music-lovers David/Dave and I are about to be carried aloft on the shoulders of our younger colleagues.

The Seventies round included tracks by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and other people not called Bob, such as Buggles. The Eighties one saw the likes of A-ha, The Human League and Bon Jovi – and the fact that the quiz masters played each song for so long was an utter delight, as our table sang and half-danced along to every track, easily the loudest and seemingly most joyous team, partly because we were comfortably in the lead, and partly because we were drunk. The fact that David/Dave is slightly older than me, and thus has older/darker/maler music tastes than me, meant that we complimented each other perfectly – him leaping on The Jam, me leaping up on hearing Flashdance.

But while the beers and questions flowed, the night was to hold two unfortunate surprises.

One: we didn’t win. Despite having been ahead – and despite David/Dave and I being utterly confident in our answers – somewhere in between the second gin and tonic and fourth beer, somewhere in between the sharing plate of pitta with hummous and the sharing plate of nachos with cheese, something went wrong. We have no idea what. It would unfortunately appear that despite being over 40, I can still be guilty of an over-confidence one would associate with the young. That said, being over 40, I managed to console myself pretty quickly because I no longer sweat the small stuff in quite the way that I used to. Plus I’d had free nachos.

Two: the quiz masters named the Fifties/Sixties round the ‘Grandma and Grandpa’s Music round’. Yes, any pop music quiz which has rounds devoted to decades is bound to make any fortysomething with almost universally twenty- and thirty-something colleagues acutely aware of their age (and not necessarily in a bad way – we’d had a blast and our knowledge was definitely appreciated). But the assumption that the music of the Fifties and Sixties is what your grandparents listened to makes you acutely aware not just of your age but that you are living in a world where, rather like the one in The Truman Show, everything may look just as it always has, but occasionally you’ll notice that things have slightly shifted; that things aren’t quite as you feel they should be – because they’ve changed, despite you feeling unchanged.

Or to put it another way: you know you’re over 40 when the pub quiz masters are clearly much, much younger than you.

You Like The Same Music As The Prime Minister

FRANCE-BRITAIN-DIPLOMACY-HOLLANDE-CAMERON

They say that you know you’re getting older when the policemen start looking younger. Or as I will no doubt be putting it at some point: You know you’re over 40 when… the policemen start looking younger. And the doctors. And teachers. In fact, just about anyone in a position of authority.

Similarly, when you’re in your 40s, the Prime Ministers also start getting younger (as well as pluralised: the only thing worse than a Prime Minister getting younger? ALL the Prime Ministers getting younger). Yes, once you’re over 40, your leader is now statistically more likely to be the same age as you. Or at least the age gap between you is lessening. There was quite a gulf between me and Mrs Thatcher, for example – I was eight when she became Prime Minister, and as a result, I couldn’t relate to her very well. Chiefly because she wasn’t by all accounts a ‘pony person’.

But now? Now, I am 42 and our Prime Minister is 46. So I really shouldn’t be all that surprised that he and I share similar musical tastes. Although naturally I was surprised, and by ‘surprised’ I do of course mean ‘filled with a sense of disappointment bordering on horror’.

I imagine it was different in The Old Days. I doubt it was much of a surprise/disappointment/feeling bordering on horror – or quite such an indicator of the ageing process – to like the same music as the Prime Minister in, say, the 18th century. Back then, everyone listened to Music From The Old Days – or as it is known in some circles, ‘classical’ music – so your only sense of connection (or sign of age) would presumably come from liking the same classical music as the Prime Minister. I hear, for example, that Pitt the Younger was a sucker for a bit of Scarlatti.

That said, I’m sure that all our modern Prime Ministers have enjoyed classical music, too. Posh people tend to. And, modern or not, all British Prime Ministers are posh.

But back to current times – where the only thing worse than liking the same music as the Prime Minister is that the Prime Minister in question is David Cameron. Being reminded once again that I am now at an age where I could be ruling the country, but am instead mainly writing blog posts and watching cat videos, is galling enough. But, as a lily-livered, bleeding-heart, liberal egghead communist, learning that I share these tastes with Cameron is the icing on the cake that the Tories think the peasants should eat (while sitting in front of their massive TVs).

It’s only appropriate that I discovered this horrifying news through the most horrifying of channels, of course. The Daily Mail. It was this article which revealed Cameron’s musical tastes (and penchant for making pancakes of a weekend), and the first name that leapt out at me was First Aid Kit.

First Aid Kit are a wonderful duo who sound like they were born a) in the Sixties and b) in California, despite being a) in their 20s and b) from Stockholm. And I’ll be frank: the only thing more irksome than discovering that the Camerons like them (Sam is particularly keen, apparently) is guessing that they’re fans in exactly the same way that I am. I’ve listened to one First Aid Kit song over and over again, and their album a few times, but I’ve never checked out their full back catalogue or seen them live. I just know the Camerons are fans in this way too, ie. barely fans at all. I can’t even rise above them on this front.

But if the First Aid Kit revelation was a blow, the following extract was the knockout:

“Mr Cameron revealed his musical ‘guilty pleasure’ was listening to Bruce Springsteen.

Mrs Cameron ‘doesn’t like The Boss’ so he can only listen to him when she is away.

In 1985 he queued for hours to see Springsteen in France in ‘one of those concerts that went on for four hours.

‘That was my guilty pleasure. I queued for hours and I was right at the front and I just thought he was fantastic.

‘So, when Samantha is not around there is a little bit of Dancing in the Dark or something like that, or, Born in the USA, so that is my guilty…but actually I like his stuff like Nebraska and all the rather grim dark stuff, so that is my guilty pleasure I suppose.’”

As readers of this blog will know, I adore Bruce Springsteen. The man, the music, the person whose track Wrecking Ball has been covered so spectacularly by Miley Cyrus that it sounds like a completely different song. And so my thought process on reading the passage above went something like this:

1. David Cameron likes Bruce Springsteen. This is awful. Bruce is far too amazing to be appreciated by David Cameron.

2. David Cameron likes Bruce Springsteen. This is good. Bruce is amazing, and I’d like everyone to know and appreciate his music.

3. Except perhaps David Cameron.

4. Samantha Cameron doesn’t like Bruce Springsteen. Good. This gives me one more legitimate reason not to like the Camerons.

5. David Cameron thinks that liking Bruce Springsteen is a “guilty pleasure”. Good. This means I can go back to hating David Cameron again, and the world is in its rightful state once more.

Yes, with Cameron’s stupid, falsely self-deprecating statement – “that is my guilty pleasure” – balance was once again restored in the universe. To like a musician so much that you queue for hours to see him but at the same time be unable to wear your love for that music with pride – to feel that you can’t be seen to enjoy it without a veil of irony – is bad enough. But to do this about Bruce Springsteen, a man with more talent, smarts and empathy in his guitar-picking finger than Cameron has in his pancake-eating body, is staggering. And yet, of course, not. This is David Cameron.

May I suggest, Prime Minister, that the only thing you should feel guilty about is that, while listening to “that grim, dark stuff” of Springsteen’s, you don’t seem to understand its message (here are two handy links for you). Perhaps if you did, you wouldn’t dumb it down as a guilty pleasure – and, slightly more importantly, you wouldn’t be so inclined to push through policies that hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. If you want to feel guilty about something, may I suggest that it’s that – and not listening to ‘Nebraska’? Just a thought. Now, back to First Aid Kit: I’ve got an entire back catalogue to work through…

The MTV Video Music Awards Are No Longer For You

*Note: by ‘you’ I do of course mean ‘me’

Now, in all honesty, the MTV Video Music Awards probably weren’t for you (me) in your (my) thirties, either. But if anything was needed to reassure me further of this fact, it was the sight of this year’s VMAs.

I say ‘sight of’ but of course I didn’t watch it at the time, not being a) American or b) 16. I caught up with clips and GIFs and photos not even the following day but the day after, being a) British (it was a Bank Holiday weekend) and b) 42. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to know exactly what had gone down – as I believe The Kids say – at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards and could quite happily wait until I was back in work on Tuesday. Because apart from anything else, my job involves me knowing – and being surrounded by people talking and writing about – what’s going on in the world, whether that’s the Middle East or an awards show. (Also: cat videos.) This means that I tend to have a slight knowledge of a lot of things, as opposed to a deep knowledge of several. As a result, I would make a terrible Newsnight guest, but, I hope, a good person to have at a dinner party, as long as I could keep the conversation flowing. If someone were to ask me to explain the intricate, complex details of the crisis in Syria or The Only Way Is Essex, I would have to make my excuses and grab another vol-au-vent. Or whatever it is they serve at dinner parties these days. I don’t know. It’s been a while since I went to one, as all my friends have children.

And speaking of children: back to the MTV VMAs. Watching The Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana shaking her bottom and sticking out her tongue, watching Lady Gaga strutting around in a G-string and a shell bra, watching the audience scream for N’Sync… all these things made me feel old. And while I’m aware that saying something ‘made me feel old’ usually has negative connotations, I don’t mean it in that way. It simply made me realise that I am most definitely far, far older than the VMAs target audience. I am most definitely over 40 because…

1.    Billy Ray Cyrus holds more cultural significance for me than Miley Cyrus
Can I name a Miley Cyrus song? No. Can I sing along to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’? Most certainly yes.

2.    Watching Miley Cyrus prancing around being sexually provocative in underwear slightly fascinates me – I’m only human – but it doesn’t shock me
Instead, it simply reminds me of this. Which is why I wrote this.

3.    I see Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke and think of her as a daughter I want to protect and him as a dirty old man
He’s 36, so he’s pretty much of my generation, and thus should know better, frankly. Pop stars, honestly. I also realise Miley is of course an adult and can do what she likes (she’s 20) – but I am old enough to be her mother. Which means I’m old enough to have married Billy Ray Cyrus. Which, frankly, feels odd. Moving swiftly on…

4.    I understand what ‘twerking’ is but have no interest in it
In this sense, I am old, but not yet John Humphreys. If this blog was called ‘You know you’re over 60 when…’ the title of this post would be ‘…you don’t know what twerking is’. Fortunately, I am young enough to know that it’s The Latest Craze (see also: Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake) but will happily let my knowledge rest there. Like I say: a little knowledge about a lot of things. This would be dangerous if only it wasn’t mainly things like ‘twerking’.

5.   I understand who Robin Thicke is but have no interest in him
And I think it’s a shame that ‘Blurred Lines’ has such horrendous lyrics because it actually has quite a nice melody line. And nothing appeals to an Eighties child like quite a nice melody line.

6.    I look at Harry Styles and Taylor Swift being all rude/coy/mean with each other and think “Ah, teenagers!”
Wait. They are teenagers, right?

7.    N’Sync reuniting means nothing to me
As per no. 5. above, I’m an Eighties child, not a Nineties one. I would only get excited if Bucks Fizz were reuniting. (NOTE TO BUCKS FIZZ MANAGEMENT: PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.)

8.    I am still slightly shocked that people just step out in clothes like this
How on earth did One Direction know where to look? Plus, she’ll catch her death.

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Backstage

If I was to add a number 8 to that list, it would be this: that I realise the more things change, the more they stay the same. I may be surprised by Lady Gaga’s G-string (and note: I am not disapproving of it. I can’t abide the way some women criticise and patronise Rihanna/Gaga/Beyonce et al for their clothing/performances/photoshoots. This is, to my mind, slut-shaming, and we can’t lament teenage boys calling girls sluts if we, grown women, are doing it too) – but I also know that it’s been done before, a million times over. From girls screaming for Sinatra to girls screaming for One Direction, from Elvis’s pelvis to Britney’s schoolgirl uniform, young people will shock the old and make the establishment feel uncomfortable. That’s their job. Until they have actual jobs.

And as the VMAs proved to me, I am now ‘the old’, the establishment; and I watch a show like this (or at least clips or GIFs of it) feeling like an alien, like someone who is standing outside of something. I sort of get it… but that’s the whole point. I’m old enough to be the target audience’s parent – I’m not supposed to completely get it. And that’s just as it should be.

The VMAs has always been America’s version of the Brits: a popularity contest that rewards how many products have been shifted that year, and a live show that tends to be memorable for its shocking and/or car-crash moments. As a result, as an over-40-year-old, it is of course my duty to not take it too seriously, and to realise that I should leave it to The Kids. Maybe next year I actually will.

You Feel An Affinity With Female Stars Over 40

melissa mccarthy sandra bullock“Oh my god! They haven’t noticed that we’re over 40!”

First things first: I realise that feeling an affinity with female stars over 40 might not be something men feel. Both in the sense of an affinity with women; and also in feeling a similar camaraderie with male stars over the age of 40. This is, of course, because there are so many of them. You can’t go around getting excited whenever an over-40 man gets a leading film role/hosts a TV show/brings out a new album because then you’d live in a permanent state of excitement, like a puppy or a small child or a Radio One DJ. Successful men over 40 are the status quo. Literally, in the case of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt.

Such events are comparative rarities, however, for women – very sadly – which is partly why I’m so delighted whenever they occur. It feels as if every triumph of a famous over-40 female is in some small way a triumph for all of us. A small triumph for me, too.

I realise that when Meryl Streep picks up her awards she doesn’t mention me in her thank you speeches (I’ve tried telling her about it, but no: she continues to forget). And I am yet to receive my invitation to Jennifer Aniston’s wedding (Jen – call me!!). But now that I’m over 40, I feel connected to these women, by dint of the fact that we are in some sort of club. A club that’s FIGHTING THE AGEIST, SEXIST PATRIARCHY – with occasional breaks for gin and tonic.

I’m mentioning film actresses a lot because the cover story of the current issue of The Hollywood Reporter (apparently – I live in Brockley and thus there is a dearth of THR in our local newsagents) is all about the success of over-40 female stars in Hollywood; and as Catherine Bray notes in this recent article about the same subject, nine of the top 10-earning actresses in 2012 were at least 37 years old. Which is almost 40, right? (Remember: maths is not my strong point.)

The most obvious explanation for the success of these leading fortysomething actresses – such as Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz – is that they all became stars in their 20s, and their pay packets have risen as they’ve gained more experience and greater box office clout. That they’re continuing to be successful and powerful in their 40s is reassuring in itself – but one can only hope that this clout is maintained as they get older and that Goldie Hawn’s famous observation “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy” will, one day, no longer hold true. Especially the ‘babe’ bit. Although the woman that played that pig WAS terrific.

Of course, women in – or over – their 40s being successful and powerful shouldn’t be a big deal. But the fact is there’s still a long way to go. Another recent statistic showed that, out of the top 100 box office films of 2012, only 28% of speaking roles went to women (worse still: when they did speak, it was only to say “Help!”, “You’re my hero” and “It undoes like this”). The thrill of possibility that followed the successes of Bridesmaids (a film which proved that – shock, horror – you could have a comedy in which the protagonists just happen to be women) and The Hunger Games (a film which proved that – shock, horror – you could have an action film in which the feisty, occasionally violent, protagonist could be a young woman) seems to have died before you can say ‘Action!’. And as The Village Voice points out in a follow-up piece to the Hollywood Reporter story, by the time Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy’s comedy The Heat is released this summer, it will have been 84 (count ‘em!) days since the last major studio movie came out starring a woman. 84 days. 28%. You can’t argue with the maths. (Including six seconds: I think that was about the length of time Alice Eve stood in her underwear, for no apparent reason, in Star Trek: Into Darkness.)

But back to my close personal showbiz friends: the fortysomething female celebrities. As I say, there is no particular reason why I should be happy that Naomi Watts’ movie about Princess Diana is coming out – especially after seeing the first trailer. Or why I’m delighted to hear that Penelope Cruz will be a Bond Girl at the age of 40, and thus, for the first time in 007 history, be remotely close to the age of Bond himself (Daniel Craig is 45). Or why I’m secretly rather chuffed that Kristin Wiig turns 40 this summer and thus JOINS OUR CLUB *rubs hands*. But I feel all those things – and I feel them not because I’m a particularly huge fan of their work (OK, I am a huge fan of Wiig; just less a fan of Naomi Watt’s wig). I feel them because I, too, am a fortysomething woman. And because we’re all over 40, somehow we’re one.

(Note to self: Pitch idea to Hollywood for buddy movie called ‘Over-40 Club’. Tagline: “The first rule of Over-40 Club? You can talk about Over-40 Club, probably for too long if you’ve had a couple of glasses of white wine”)

 

Operation Yewtree Is Tarnishing Your Childhood Memories

Robin Williams once said that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren’t there.

I don’t remember the Sixties because I wasn’t there. I do remember the Seventies, however – not only because I was there, but also because I was a young child and thus hadn’t yet taken any substances liable to induce memory loss (although I suspect Space Dust came close).

I was born in 1971: the year of decimalisation, the year that Britain voted to join the EEC and the year that Jim Morrison died (clearly Britain joining the EEC was too much for him). I am the same age as Winona Ryder, Ewan McGregor and Disney World Orlando. Sadly I’ve never met Winona or Ewan, but if I did, I’m sure we’d have a lovely time, especially if we all went to Disney World Orlando together.

My childhood holidays in the 1970s were more likely to centre around static caravan parks than exotic sun-drenched resorts, but they were no less happy for that. I grew up in a safe, middle-class home where my siblings and I were loved – even if that love extended to taking us not to Disney World Orlando but to Butlin’s Minehead, instead. So, you know, we at least felt liked. In short, I was lucky enough to have a happy childhood.

Unlike some in the 1970s.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which I really wouldn’t recommend, unless you’re doing some sort of Bear Grylls-style endurance feat, in which case: hats off to you!) or living abroad (again, I really wouldn’t recommend this), you will have seen the almost daily headlines as a result of Operation Yewtree. And if you’re in your 40s, it’s likely that each of these headlines will have hammered a small but perceptible, unexpected nail into the coffin of your happy childhood memories of the 1970s.

Operation Yewtree was launched to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile, of course – a man whose life as a DJ, TV presenter, charity worker and marathon-runner had always seemed, until the abuse came to light, glittering. Literally, given those gold jackets of his. After the initial shock of the news wore off, many of us moved into “Actually… Jimmy Savile? That makes sense…” territory. But the initial shock was exactly that. Shock.

Because Savile had been the nation’s uncle. The creepy uncle, sure. But our uncle nevertheless. To those of us born in the early Seventies, our memories of him aren’t dominated by his Radio 1 work or even Top of the Pops, but by Jim’ll Fix It, quite possibly because it was a show which centered around us: children. Jim’ll Fix It made kids’ dreams come true and thus, as kids watching it every week, we were all touched by its magic. We giggled at the Boy Scouts eating their lunch on a rollercoaster. We gasped at the slow motion demolishing of cooling towers. We were, in short, green with envy at every kid who was lucky enough to get on the show. Everyone had a Jim’ll Fix It wish, even if they never wrote in. Mine was to perform the kid’s speaking part on The Land Of Make Believe with Bucks Fizz. Sadly, it never happened. Mainly because I never wrote in.

(Of course, we now know that Savile was displaying behaviour typical of an abuser. He actively sought positions where he was around young people; and he deliberately made himself appear exemplary – and thus, in theory, unquestionable – through his charity work. I highly recommend reading this fascinating New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell about an American sports coach who behaved in a not dissimilar fashion.)

As Operation Yewtree’s investigations have widened, what we’ve seen is nothing short of an unraveling. An unraveling of behaviour that at the time, if it was seen, was either swept under the carpet or considered acceptable; or if it remained unseen, was kept that way until now in part due to (understandable) fear. It’s also been an unraveling of names – a “who’s next?!” roll call of male celebrities who were at their height of fame in the Seventies and Eighties. Celebrities who mean a lot to you if you grew up in those decades – although some more than others, of course.

The naming of Freddie Star, Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck, Gary Glitter and Dave Lee Travis – and I hasten to add that it’s only accusations against these men at the time of writing, and that they deny them – hasn’t affected me greatly because I don’t have fond childhood memories of any of them. As a kid, each of those men either gave me the creeps (Glitter), had a career aimed more at adults than children (Tarbuck) or both (Freddie Starr). That said, my first memory of observational comedy was Jim Davidson on The Comedians remarking that you always want to have a wee when you first step into a bath. I’m not sure my remembering this means that I was destined to work in comedy or simply that I did always want to have a wee when I stepped into a bath. Either way, I don’t think Davidson’s career ever improved on that high.

Rolf Harris – who has also been arrested, and who also denies the allegations against him – was something of a horrible shock, even for a nice middle-class girl who was more from the Tony Hart school of art. Rolf Harris, who delighted generations with his drawings of half-men, half-kangaroos. Rolf Harris, who pretty much single-handedly introduced the didgeridoo to the northern hemisphere. Rolf Harris, who seemed like the long-lost relative from Australia that we never fully ‘got’ and always vaguely baffled us. And by ‘us’, I do of course mean ‘me’.

But my biggest “Oh no! Not HIM!” moment came – as I’m sure it did for many others – with the arrest of Stuart Hall. Jimmy Savile might have been our creepy uncle, but Stuart Hall? Stuart Hall was our fun uncle. We all delighted in his irrepressible laugh at the shenanigans of It’s A Knockout – a family show that we did all sit round to watch as a family, and all enjoyed equally. And who could blame us? What’s not to love about grown men and women dressed in enormous Frenchmen/ogre/penguin outfits carrying buckets of blue or red water, falling over and spilling most of it? It’s A Knockout gave us lessons for life. Sometimes you will slip up. Sometimes you will do your best, but still spill most of the metaphorical blue water. Sometimes you’ll get beaten by a Belgian.

But the sheen has been taken off these memories by what we know now about these men, and it’s impossible not to feel betrayed somehow; or at least to think that we were naïve or impossibly innocent. And while we were those things, of course – we were only children, after all – our parents were innocent to it, too. Not only did we trust these men, our parents trusted them to ‘look after’ us through the medium of the television. And television – especially in the pre-satellite, three-channel era – was the source of so many shared experiences, not just with our own families but with our fellow Brits. As such, it was a hugely important and formative part of our growing up, of learning how to navigate the world and the people in it.

Of course, the tarnishing of our memories is nothing, nothing at all, compared to what the victims of these men actually went through – people who truly had their childhoods robbed and their lives ruined. Unlike some, I don’t regard Operation Yewtree as any sort of witch- hunt and I am, above everything, gratified to see arrogant, monstrous abusers being exposed and punished for the crimes they committed.

And I also don’t want to allow these revelations to affect my memories of what was a happy decade. For me, the Seventies were days spent watching Take Hart and reading (la la la la la) Look-In magazine; days spent roller-skating up and down – mainly down, to be honest – our little cul-de-sac; days spent recording the Top 40 by putting a cassette player in front of the radio and trying to cut out Tony Blackburn’s voice. Sunny days (quite literally – remember ’76?) and sunny memories.

Partly to remind myself – and my fellow fortysomethings – of this, I compiled a gallery this week for Huffington Post: 30 Great Things About Growing Up In 1970s Britain. I’ve included a few choice examples below (just click on each image to read its full caption). Yes, there might have been bad things about the Seventies – clogs, for example – but sometimes I thank my lucky stars that it was the decade of my early childhood. And given the recent revelations, I thank my lucky stars that I was safe.

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