Monday, 1 October 2012


Good song, wasn't it, the 1980 Police hit single 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'.  With its hooky riff and off-the-tongue lyrics, throbbing with the guilt, shame, excitement and self-loathing of a teacher who fancies one of his pupils - a girl 'half his age' - the Grammy-winning song from their album Zenyatta Mondatta hung around forever, and was even re-recorded and re-released in 1986.  It's still played on the radio, thirty two years after its original release.  Remember the line 'Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov'?  Wasn't this Sting confessing to his own 'Lolita' moments from his days teaching English in a school? We did wonder, and some of us asked.  He always and vehemently denied any autobiographical inspiration. Well, he would, wouldn't he.

Poor, misguided Megan Stammers now finds herself cast in some quarters as a latter-day Lolita:  a 21st Century variation on the theme explored so uncomfortably by Vladimir Nabokov in his celebrated 1950s novel. Why was twelve year-old Dolores 'Dolly' Haze, aka Lolita, presumed to be a sexually precocious child for becoming intimately involved with her stepfather Humbert Humbert?  Why was this girl the temptress and Humbert, an ageing professor of French literature, the victim? The man, said to have been inspired in part by the extra-curriculars of Lewis Carroll and Charlie Chaplin, was a child molester. How did this 'funny, charming' novel get away with making it the minor's fault? I read this as a teenager, as many of us did, and still find myself wondering. 

My children will tell you how obsessed I have been by the Megan Stammers/Jeremy Forrest case;  how I sat glued to the news reports, bereft at the sight of both sets of parents speaking in press conferences - an ordeal for even the most seasoned, let alone those who have never before had to face such a thing. How we all, including my fifteen year-old son, found ourselves weeping with relief when Megan turned up. The obvious reason is that I am a mother of two daughters.  One is grown-up enough to live independently and to take care of herself, which of course never stops me worrying myself sick. The other is still a schoolgirl, and just thirteen.  I drive her to school in the mornings because I live in fear of her being snatched off the streets, bundled into a car and murdered like Milly Dowler. On the days that I allow her to walk back with her friends, my heart is in my mouth until I know that she is safely indoors.  All manner of nightmares invade my mind while I am supposed to be working. At least, I think, I know she is safe at school. But is she? 

I cast back to my own final year at secondary school, when a seventeen year-old classmate became involved with a twenty eight year-old drama teacher down the road at the boys' school. Our two establishments were collaborating on a co-production of 'Romanoff and Juliet' - Peter Ustinov's modern take on the Shakespeare tragedy (guess the storyline). Most of the rehearsals took place after hours at the boys' school, where the play was eventually staged. Were the rest of the cast shocked when we saw our friend wander off down the pub with the teacher who was directing the production?  I think we were, actually.  Shocked and impressed. The relationship scandalised two sixth forms.  We knew what they were up to. She wasn't making it up. But no one did anything about it.  Our schools both turned a blind eye.

Married Jeremy Forrest came on like a lovesick mongrel to Megan - at fifteen, half his age  - writing her songs and love notes, getting a tattoo in homage and holding her hand on a plane. What was a pupil doing sitting next to a teacher on a twelve-hour return flight from Los Angeles in the first place?  Not in our day. Her school and the local authorities were aware, yet did nothing. They didn't even inform Megan's parents when they eventually saw fit to investigate Forrest. For this, heads if not Head must roll. Body parts should tumble, too, in the Rochdale sex gang case.  Young girls were deliberately targeted, made to asume the blame, the authorities knew and did nothing, and must now pay.  Well, sure: there's a book in it.

But would a book on the Savile scandal be a book too far?  I think so. Esther Rantzen and others now reckon that the former DJ was clearly a paedophile. Singer Coleen Nolan reports that the fright-haired yodeller was 'all over her' when she was only fourteen. How's about that, then? BBC bigwigs were aware of the rumours, yet did nothing:  perhaps wary of trashing the image of such a high-profile charity do-gooder whose magnanimous reputation reflected so well on the Corporation itself.  Jim fixed it for himself? You have to wonder. At least ten women have now come forward with claims of sexual molestation. At least one has found courage enough to admit that he raped her, and has told the Daily Mail the gut-wrenching tale of her illegal abortion. The mother-fixated, tracksuit-wearing Roller-driving, Gary Glitter-defending nutter got off Scot-free during his lifetime. His 'disgusted' family are now up in arms that such allegations are being made against a  deceased individual no longer in a position to defend himself.  If only the Mail had been more on the ball. Their coverage of the 'Savile scandal' is all too late. 

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