UPDATE - 28.12.16
In response to Bampots on Madeleine McCann Mystery, and to whom, many thanks :)
[quote="Bampots"]I must admit Cristobel....you have been extremely brave to say what you did....i did not get any impression you were in anyway supporting pedophillia![/quote]
Some do unfortunately Bampots, it is usually the first insult thrown if anyone is 'brave' enough to discuss this subject honestly. Accused paedophiles are not allowed to have any defence, because anyone defending them will be accused themselves. It's all pretty medieval actually. When someone, like Jim Gamble [who is no academic] states looking at underage images leads to heinous crimes, it is taken as a fact because he is the expert. I believe he also wanted to include watching obscene cartoons in his long list of arrestable offences. Does he have any evidence to back up these claims? Who knows, no-one dare ask him.
The Paedophile Hunters, men after his own heart, they like the cut of his jib and are exactly the time of people who would be attracted to his proposed vigilante task force. They too have great enthusiasm for rooting out and garrotting witches, all under the guise of 'look how macho I am'. And of course, ripping a paedo limb from limb proves how straight and heterosexual I am. Of course it does.
I know I go on and on about lucky I was to have such forward thinking parents, but I truly was. I was so outgoing that I made dear friends of every age and from every walk of life, I feared no-one. And I was always drawn towards the outsiders, those excluded. I've always taken the time and trouble to get to know the outsider and it has always enriched my life. It is probably why, as a feminist, I have never hated men! I had the best dad in the world, and men around me who took the time and trouble to teach me everything they knew, even though I was a girl, lol.
I also worked for 3 years as a support worker for those with mental health problems and learning difficulties. Of all the jobs I have in my life, it was the most rewarding. When the interview panel asked if it was 'empty nest syndrome', I gave a resounding yes. I grew to love all the clients I looked after, I was deeply touched by their innocence and simplistic view of the world. One client, a partially disabled guy in his 60's was fixated on cameras, videos and technology, but with learning difficulties, it was on an ongoing struggle. He worked at a local factory sweeping up, for which he got paid £9.40 per week (yeh, I know). On his way to and from work, he had a penchant for strolling through the local park trying to take pictures of children, school girls especially. He was picked up by the police several times and returned home, having been given a good talking to by the police, and full of tears and remorse. He was not a malicious or violent man. He shared his flat with another disabled guy who was a wheelchair users, and during the night when they were on their own, he looked after his friend. I, and indeed all the other carers, knew that he wasn't in any way a threat to children. There was nothing 'mean' about him, he was a child himself.
It does indeed chill me to the bone to think that 'Alfie' could be a victim of this horrendous form of public justice and punishment. He is a vulnerable old guy, in fact just the kind of guy who would be pilloried as a monster.
I have threatened, a couple of times I think, to tell the story of my close relationship with an adult man (not a relative) who I first met at the age of 4. Tom was an amateur photographer and I was a precocious kid who loved his company. So how did we meet?
As a small child I lived with mum, dad, my older brother (by 11 months), and our Landlord, in a small house opposite Holloway Sanatorium in Stroud Road, Virginia Water. It was a sanatorium for the rich and famous and the visitors arrived in chauffeur driven Bentleys and Rolls Royces. I remember them well because I once ran into the road chasing my ball, and a lady in a very smart suit got out of her car and smacked me! I remember all of us swearing secrecy because if my mum had found out, she would have smacked me too.
It was an idyllic place to grow up, it was pre 'Moors Murders' and the whole neighbourhood was our playground. There didn't seem to be any such thing as childminders in those days. My mum and dad worked shifts, my mum nursing and my dad in the kitchens. And we had lots of playmates, as most of our parents worked across the road in the hospital. We were the kids of doctors, nurses, porters, kitchen workers, from all sorts of backgrounds, mostly immigrant. My best friends were 3 little Indian sisters and a German boy called Heina who wore lederhosen. I loved the shock value of introducing Heina as my best friend, it was the early 1960's and it was great the way their eyebrows flew up when I said, and he's German.
Our houses backed onto a large paddock that was surrounded by nurses homes and staff accommodation and that was how I came to meet Tom, a wonderful man who became my next best friend. Tom was a single man who lived in the male nursing home and it was his job to deliver bakery goods to all the staff quarters. It was the era of Cowboys and Indians in the films we used to watch in a staff cinema within the hospital. It was at a time when institutions took care of their employees and their families - we also had use of an outdoor swimming pool and beautiful grounds. Tom in his slow moving electric cart full of goodies became the wagon train we kids used in ambush while pretending to be a tribe of marauding red Indians. Tom accepted our 'raids' in good spirits, often playing along and pretending to have been shot by an arrow, and we always came away with treats.
Tom was an amateur photographer and when he was off duty he would often come out to the paddock and take pictures of us as we played. I was fascinated by his cameras and what he was doing, and I became a frequent visitor to his room, where he would show me all his cameras and pictures and give me cups of tea and cakes. He was a quietly spoken and very thoughtful man, in retrospect he was shy with other adults, but with me, to my delight, he would talk for hours, and better still, he had the time and patience to listen to all my chatter.
I honestly don't remember how old Tom was, in the 1960's all men had the same hairstyle and all men looked old! From all the thousands of pictures I have, there is only one of Tom, taken by myself according to what's written on the back, where he looks in his late 30s. He always wore a suit, shirt and tie, and a rainmac he wore over the top on rainy days. When working he wore a brown hospital coat over his clothes. He was a very kind, mild mannered man, always smartly turned out, very well spoken and the complete opposite of my loud, crazy family, where you had to fight to get a word in.
When my brother started school at 5, I was the unhappiest child in the world. On his first day, I totally showed the whole family up by having a full scale temper tantrum in the playground, because he was allowed to start school and I wasn't! I had to be carried out of the school kicking and screaming. Not only was I irked (thus began the feminism), but I no longer had anyone to play with. I'm not sure if I latched onto Tom, or he latched onto me, but I began visiting Tom frequently when my brother was at school, and I soon brought him home and introduced him as my new best friend.
My parents were then, and in fact for most of their lives, irritatingly unshockable. They didn't bat an eyelid and gave him the same warm welcome they gave to everyone. I think they found him a little awkward to talk to, but they liked him. I did once ask my Dad many years later if he was ever worried about my friendship with Tom. He said he did of course, but the main thing was, I was happy. And because I was the type of kid who never stopped talking, I would give him every detail of where 'me and Tom went' and 'what me and Tom did'. I never kept anything back. Still can't.
I became Tom's muse, that is one of the main, if not the main subject of his photographs for the next 5 years, that is, up until I went into care. At the age of 21 I received a huge box of albums that captured and documented most of my childhood. One of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received.
It's difficult now to remember what Tom and I used to talk about, but we talked constantly as we walked miles and miles looking for nice scenery and locations for Tom's pictures. If he looked sad I would run up behind him and hold his hand, and sometimes I would just jump on him and give him a hug when he least expected it. I could always make him laugh. Quite often I would go back to his room with him and lay on his bed while he fiddled about with his cameras and negatives or sat in his chair. He was completely engaged in his photography, possibly somewhere at the lower end of the autistic scale. He was always striving for perfection, the right lighting, the right angle. Some of the notes that accompany the pictures recall how impatient I would get waiting for him to press the button, apparently I told him, he should be 'quick like me'.
Never in all the time I knew him and spent time alone with him, was there ever any question of anything sexual, and yuck at the thought. Tom only ever showed me kindness and friendship and respect and it breaks my heart to think what would happen to him in this hysteria led climate. Tom was a well brought up, highly educated man with impeccable manners. He found my quite frequent temper tantrums and fallings out with my family highly amusing - I would turn up at his door hating everyone and he would put the kettle on. He always managed to calm me down and even see the funny side. He taught me some great lessons for the bipolar that was to come.
I'm not naïve, and as an adult I have to consider there is a slight possibly that he got his jollies from the pictures he took of me, but I very much doubt it.
He was more interested in the position of the tree, the shadows in the leaves and the position of the sun, than he was in getting me to keep still. But even if he was, I don't really care because he never harmed me, all my memories of him are happy ones. One picture captures a moment when I myself and a pal meet Tom in a country lane, the dialogue on the back says we were running towards him [to smother him in hugs and kisses] when he told us to stop so he could take the picture. Kids don't greet abusers in that way.
I'm loath to discuss sexual abuse in the same blog as dear old Tom, but probably like many, I didn't go through childhood unscathed. At least 3 of my divorced mother's (uppercrust) suitors exposed themselves, and 2 of them thought I might like to look at pornography with them. One of them did actually touch me, once, then bought me a new dress in Harrods and let me steer his open topped sports car in a car park whilst I sat on his knee which was how the grope occurred.
Was I traumatised by any of it? Not at all, my honky tonk mumma taught me how to defend myself and not whine. Both good lessons. And I don't hate any of the men either. They were trying to get to me with kindness, not abuse, and accepted my rebuttals graciously. It pains me to see all of these victims claiming their lives were devastated by an inappropriate grope. I wish women would 'man up' (I hate that expression as much as the next feminist, but it's late and I'm tired, lol) and stop using the victim card. The world is full of men (and women) who will try to take advantage, and that applies at 6, 26 and 66, every age actually. I think the incidents described above will probably apply to many adults, especially where parents have new partners. And in most cases the grooming will be of the generous kind, rather than assault and battery. The majority of paedophiles woo children in the same way as heterosexuals and homosexuals woo their 'love interest', with kindness and charm rather than with shackles and masking tape.
The reality is, a lot of men do like very young women and adolescent girls and boys in a sexual way, there is no point in denying it. See Ancient Rome and Sparta. And the same applies to adult women leering at shirtless teenage builders and attractive young men. When I taught at college, I had two teenage students who brought to mind Adonis! I would fantasise about that whole 'she was 31, I was 17' song, lol, but only my female friends found it funny. They were both lovely lads, one black, one white, each stunningly attractive, with a thirst for knowledge and adored by the girls. One did actually ask me if it was OK to ask a lecturer out to dinner, and I gave him a firm no, though I was secretly chuffed!
I wonder when it became taboo to appreciate the beauty of children and young people. Happily history, literature and the Old Masters were able to capture the joy of childhood before the paedophile watchers and hunters moved in. Writers like Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll and JM Barrie enjoyed close, some might say, intimate, relationships with children and out of those relationships came the most wonderful children's literature, written by men who could understand the world from a child's perspective. They could bring the imaginations of those children to life and touch the big kid in all of us.
Distinguishing between what is and isn't the sexual portrayal of children only seems to matter to those who are looking for signs. I doubt people in the 15th century were sent into a frenzy by the cherubs genitalia in the masterpieces of Raphael. These hunters both official and official, remind me of the late, barmy, Mary Whitehouse, the kind of people who want to put a thong on Michelangelo's statue of David.
But back to dear old Tom. I am eternally grateful that I had parents who were so enlightened because my friendship with Tom was one of the most rewarding relationships of my life. I expect though, despite everything I have said, there will people out there, who will claim the relationship was unnatural. I accept it was unusual, but unnatural, not in the slightest. One of the joys of life is that every now and again we will meet another human being who will be on the same wavelength, it might be a stranger in the supermarket, a neighbour or a work colleague. And that attraction to that other person doesn't have to be sexual, it can be as simple as a shared sense of humour or a knowing look, we meet friends we like all through life.
My relationship with Tom wasn't one sided, that is, I was never under his control. I was a very determined little girl, a bold bitch according to my Irish Aunts. He had to show as much interest in making mud pies and catching spiders as I showed in his cameras. We were so in tune, he bought me a pet mouse for my 5th birthday that I insisted on carrying around in my pocket, to scare old biddies. My stories would make him laugh out loud, we had the same mischievous sense of humour.
I like to think that our paths were destined to cross, I was always determined to be a writer and Tom supplied me with a photographic account of my childhood, possibly one of the most treasured gifts wannabe author could ever receive. I guess I will never truly know if there was more to Tom's fondness for me than the constant photographs. Some will probably say, of course there was, are you mad? I honestly don't know, and not really sure I would want to, though I would be interested in the thoughts of others. This is first time I have discussed this in public, I think it is fear that people will take something that was so precious to me and degrade it.
We all thrive when we receive love and affection, and as a small child who regularly fell out with everyone, Tom was the 'constant' who always adored me no matter what. I returned to see him again and again because I loved the way his face lit up when I knocked on his door and I loved listening to him telling me how wonderful I was. If the best gift you can give a child is confidence, then he gave it to me in shedloads, I feared no-one, not even the brutal sadists and paedophiles who rescued me when I was 11. But that's a whole other story.