June 30

Why we’re so angry with Rolf Harris – and the day I spent at his house

Judging by the reaction on Twitter, the conviction of entertainer Rolf Harris on twelve counts of indecent assault has had a major impact on a large number of people. And it seems their reactions have been very different from their feelings about the similar convictions.

Unlike Jimmy Savile, who many people seemed to have thought was weird and creepy (and were therefore unsurprised when he was revealed to be a sex offender) Rolf Harris had a thoroughly wholesome reputation.

A lot of people have tweeted comments along the lines of “that’s ruined my childhood” and I tweeted in response: “Lots of people seem to be saying “that’s my childhood ruined” over Rolf Harris. Let’s keep it in proportion – and think of the real victims”

That said, I have a good deal of sympathy for the sentiment expressed. Like so many people growing up in the seventies and eighties, I grew up watching Rolf Harris on television. I liked his funny songs – and, as I have a brother, the song Two Little Boys always resonated.

About 20 years ago I spent much of a day at Rolf’s house in Berkshire interviewing him for an “At Home” feature for TV Times magazine. Meeting a television icon from your childhood can be risky, as I have written before, but Rolf was very pleasant.Rolf

Nothing was too much trouble and he even sat at his piano and sang Two Little Boys. Before I left, he drew a little caricature of me for me to keep. And to be clear, he behaved perfectly professionally. But then I was a young man.

In 2003 he celebrated 50 years in showbusiness and that September BBC staged Rolf At The Royal Albert Hall, which raised money for The Prince’s Trust, and I attended as a guest of the BBC.

rolf bbcWe played our little boy a couple of Rolf Harris’ old songs and he liked them so much I bought him a CD of Harris ‘Greatest Hits’ (Music critics: it was only a couple of quid…)

He went on to paint The Queen and was a key part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert. His status as a national – or even international – treasure seemed assured. A multi-talented man who appealed to everyone.

Then, just a year later, came Operation Yewtree and his arrest. Even if he had been found not guilty by the jury today, Harris’ reputation was fatally damaged by the case. His image as a wholesome family man was already in tatters by his own admissions in court.

But the allegations were very serious. This wasn’t a case of famous man simply using his fame to attract women for consensual casual affairs (often seen as a perk of being famous), this was a man who indecently assaulted children as young as seven.

The stereotypical paedophile is the loner, the stranger, the weirdo. We not expect them to be famous family men. The reality of stranger danger – perhaps the biggest fear of all for parents – isn’t as common as the perception of it.

According to Mumsnet, children are more at risk from someone they do know than from a complete stranger (66% of paedophiles are known to children compared to 34% who are strangers). It says statistically children are more at risk of abuse from someone they know.

The case of Rolf Harris perhaps finally puts to rest the myth that sex offenders are usually strangers, or loners. They often lurk closer to home.

And as for our childhoods, now tainted a bit by the revelations that someone we liked and trusted was actually a very dirty old man, we do really need to keep it in proportion.

We need to remember the real victims. We’re experiencing disappointment – and perhaps some anger; they suffered, and may still be suffering, real abuse from someone they had no reason to distrust.


(c) Steve Clark 2014

Category: Rolf Harris
June 13

Stunning views and lots to do in beautiful Dartmouth

My dream home would probably be on top of a cliff with a winding pathway down to a secluded beach with rocks pools and caves. Amazing views all year round – and in the winter, stormy seas and crashing waves.

Until I win the lottery and buy my dream home, the next best thing are lots of family holidays by the sea – and we had a great stay recently at Leonard’s Cove near Dartmouth in Devon.

Located in the village of Stoke Fleming in the beautiful South Hams district, Leonard’s Cove boasts stunning views out across Start Bay and a range of accommodation from camping pitches to mobile homes, lodges and cottages.

20140120_110538 (Large)We stayed in one of the lodges which are perched on top of the cliff at the lower part of the site – and it suited us down to the ground. The views were spectacular – and during our stay we experienced both atmospheric, windy weather and then bright sunshine and flat calm seas.
The lodge was very comfortable – plenty of space, nicely furnished and a real home from home feel. Most unexpected was the bathroom – a big wet room complete with underfloor heating and better than many upmarket hotels I’ve stayed at.

20140120_110343 (Large)Outside is a patio area, a perfect place to sit with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine!) and enjoy the great views. (Did I mention I like sea views?)

The South Hams area is packed full of things to do and places to go and the town of Dartmouth is an absolute must – great restaurants and coffee shops, castles and walks – and rather a lot of boats. Oh – and some great views…

Here are my top ten must do things in Dartmouth:
Go crabbing: Get yourself a crabbing net, some bait and a bucket and spend a lazy afternoon catching (and then releasing!) crabs by the water’s edge. My tip: the bait is very smelly so have some hand-wash handy!IMG-20130818-00512

Visit Dartmouth Castle: You can walk from the town to Dartmouth Castle which is owned by English Heritage – and there’s a very nice tea and ice cream shop (with great views….!) The historic church is very pretty too. My tip: Get a boat from the town out to the castle and then stroll back.

Go on a ferry: I’ve been going to Dartmouth since I was a child and getting there from Kingswear on the other side of the river Dart by car ferry always felt like a treat – and still does! If you don’t need or want to take your car then hop on a passenger ferry.
20140120_113120 (Large)Go on a steam train: While you’re in Kingswear you could take a trip on a steam train – the train goes to Paignton (and stops at Greenway).
Take a river tour: Sail down the Dart and keep a look out for Agatha Christie’s Greenway House which is now owned by the National Trust.

20140119_075959 (Large)

Get up early and have breakfast at Café Alf Resco: It is really no exception to say that this is one of my favourite cafés in the world (click here is another) – great food (proper freshly squeezed orange juice, local bacon and a range of cereals (Small Son’s favourite)), friendly staff, a nice vibe and it’s open from 7am (and staff are cheerful even if you’re a bleary-eyed parent out for early morning crabbing)

Have lunch or dinner in Rockfish. Rockfish is one of three restaurants in Dartmouth by chef Mitch Tonks (the others are the fish and chip shop by the car ferry and the more formal Seahorse).
Rockfish is brilliant – the food is delicious and the prices are very reasonable. And if you’ve got children then the Rockfish activity packs are priceless (quite literally as they are free).20140118_090303-002
Have tea and cakes in Saveurs - lovely service and great cakes. And they do dinner too. (Another place I’d recommend for eating is Kendrick’s)

Further afield then it’s well worth taking a drive out to Start Point. From there you can walk to Start Point lighthouse (which is open to the public at certain times and the old lighthouse keepers’ cottages can be rented out from Rural Retreats.)

20140119_113245There are obviously lots of beaches in the area but my favourite is Bantham – it’s very sandy but also has ample rock pools which kept Small Son occupied for many hours. (Incidentally, if you’ve got a spare £10 million, the whole village of Bantham is up for sale)…

After a lazy afternoon at Bantham it was back to Leonard’s Cove for a cosy family dinner… and time to watch the sunset (and enjoy a nice glass of wine…)



Our accommodation was provided courtesy of leonardscove.co.uk 

Category: Travel
June 10

Rik Mayall: Comedy god, but also a brilliant actor

Like all of us, I was stunned to learn of Rik Mayall’s death. He was true one-off, a comedy god – and, for those of us lucky enough to have met him, a thoroughly entertaining man off-screen as well as on.

I interviewed him eight or nine times over the years and found him fun, personable, sometimes challenging, but always thoroughly entertaining.

100001The first time was while I was a local paper reporter and he was touring in spoof rock band Bad News along with Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson. He came on the phone as Colin Grigson, his character, was rude about his fellow fictional band members and invited me to join him after the show for a ‘sherry or two’.

I grew up watching him in The Young Ones, loved The New Statesman, but my favourites amongst Rik’s work are some of his lesser known shows – and some which saw him using his great skill as a serious actor. His 1993 series for ITV Rik Mayall Presents (in which he played washed-up quiz show host, a man who stag night goes wrong, but then right, and a man whose night with a woman he met at a party doesn’t go as planned) was very, very good.

He was also excellent in the BBC One drama Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes: The White Knight Stratagem and I remember doing a particularly memorable interview with him on set (more on that when I can find the tape…)100077

He was also very good in Jonathan Creek in which he played Gideon Pryke, once again showing his skill at straight acting which is sometimes overlooked.

But there again, what a comedy tour de force he was. One of his lesser known characters, Kevin Turvey, (left) was a brilliant creation and Lord Flashheart in Blackadder was scene-stealingly awesome…

Here are my two favourite Flashheart moments:

Rik’s death at just 56 is a terrible loss to the world of entertainment, but most of all, a tragedy for his family.

PS: It feels a bit self-indulgent to include this in a tribute piece, but it is an example of Rik’s personal kindness and sense of fun: In my early twenties I was living in my own flat and during an interview with Rik I asked him if he’d be kind enough to do me an outgoing message for my ansaphone. He obliged without hesitation. Trouble was, the first one he did, was a bit on the rude side. Slightly fearful that one of my grandmothers would phone up and hear it, he then did a second one, which I was able to use…. (I’ll try and find the tape of the original version!)

Here it is:

PPS: Clearly, this sort of thing wasn’t isolated. Look at this lovely card Rik did for Karen MacLeavy’s Dad.

Category: Television