All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Monday, 14 April 2008

Our Mortal Spotlight

For those who don't know, Mark Speight was a very popular kids' presenter on British TV. Spending time with young children, you inevitably end up watching some of their shows and you get to know the regulars who liven up their TV channels.

For all intent purposes, Mark (because I guess that's what he would have wanted me to call him) fitted the bill of a perfect childrens' entertainer. He messed around, mimicked characters and basically did everything that was expected of him. I also remember that he was a pretty dab hand in the art department too. The kids watched him eagerly, in the same way as they would any other TV presenter.

A few months ago, things turned nasty for Mark and the children's world in which he inhabited took on a very adult gloss. Firstly, his fiancee was found dead in the bath, having inbided a cocktail of alcohol and drugs (never a good idea if you want to guarantee seeing your grandchildren) and he was subsequently arrested for being complicit her suspected murder. This was a very far cry from the jolly image he portrayed on the multitude of programmes he fronted.

He was released without charges and her death was ruled as being a tragic misadventure. The latest news, this morning is that, after disappearing for a week, he's now been found dead in Paddington station, allegedly as a result of his own hand.

The whole episode is extraordinarily sad and not something any of us could have forseen a year or so ago.

But what do I tell my kids? How do I explain that this TV presenter, whom they laughed with and at, has taken his own life because he could not (understandably) cope with the death of his fiancee (and I shudder to think how I could explain her passing either)?

I know that the children's morbid fascination with the minutiae of the case will know no bounds, but notwithstanding this, what about their loss of innocence and trust in the people whom they bring into their lives, through sitting in front of that wretched contraption?

I'm probably worrying far too much about this. They will no doubt go to school, hear the entire sorry story from their friends and move on, because kids are like that. But in a way, that frightens me even more. Should they really become so insensitised - to the extent that this man's death will mean nothing to them?

I like to believe that the people I watched on TV as a kid, led impeccably decent lives. I know that I'm being naive, but it's one of the small shreds of innocence that is still enbedded in my psyche. It's not that I see these presenters as role models, because they are only human and doing a job they are paid to do, but still, they are part of the scenery that I looked upon as I was growing up.

In short, they are a little memory spark from my childhood.

Mark Speight and his fiancee (also a children's TV presenter) deserve to be remembered more for the memories they gave to little children, than the sordid and sadly unforgettable manner in which they exited our mortal spotlight.

That said, the world I live in now is not one that I would have wanted to grow up in. Maybe when I was a kid, TV presenters wouldn't have thought of dicing with death, or for that matter, "partying" - which was the word Mark used to describe the last night he spent with the woman he'd hoped would be his wife.

I'm definitely getting old.

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