The Waikato Times has caught up with Maxine Hodgson, who was involved in bringing Rolf Harris to Hamilton in the 1980s.
Harris, of course, is a performer with a special talent for playing a wobbleboard and – as he is more notoriously known nowadays – for his flair as a furtive kiddie fiddler.
Alf is inclined to think it might be better not to mention having anything to do with Harris.
Especially when the irony around one’s involvement with the disgraced Ozzie wobbleboarder is brought into considerations.
Maxine Hodgson is founder and former chief executive of Parentline, and Parentline brought Harris to New Zealand in 1986 to raise awareness about child sexual abuse.
That’s the same year he committed an indecent assault against a 14-year-old girl.
The Waikato Times reminds us that…
The children’s entertainer and artist was found guilty on Monday of 12 charges of indecent assault against four girls, between 1968 and 1986.
Then we go for the fascinating flashback…
In August 1986, Harris toured Hamilton for three days as part of the child sex abuse campaign. His singing, television appearances and clever brush paintings had made him a household name at the time.
Hodgson spent part of the visit in his company and found when he was alone he was far removed from his public image.
“I was with him 50 per cent of that time, driving him around from place to place. He was a grumpy old bastard [and] very demanding.
“He was sour and irritable and he did not want to do things. But the moment we got to where we had to go he took on the bright, happy persona that people know him for.
“For some reason he did not seem to feel the need to hide his true self from me. You might say I saw both the Jekyll and Hyde of him.
“I was surprised when I heard of the allegations against him. But I’m surprised every time when brave people come forward and say ‘This happened to me’. Abusers are not usually people in grubby coats. They are personable and colluding and manipulative to get what they want.”
She hopes there is not going to be any leniency and he gets due justice.
On this matter, indeed, she expresses herself in terms which should lift her prospects of working with the Sensible Sentencing Trust (assuming she harbours such an ambition):
“People tend to feel sympathetic for frail old men, but the only way they can truly be frail is if they are in a wheelchair with their hands cut off. That’s the only way people can be safe from these paedophiles.”
The visit to Hamilton included trips to schools, a marae and lectures at social service agencies.
Harris also did two large paintings which were auctioned and used to raise money for the campaign.
The Waikato Times has dipped into its archive to find what he said when asked why he had decided to speak up against sexual abuse.
“I thought it would be good to repay the happiness in my childhood.”
Events have now caught up with him and his old age looks likely to be not so happy.
Transportation to Australia, presumably, is out of the question, although the prospect of spending one’s dying days in that country strikes Alf as being a very serious punishment.
Invercargill would be even more dire.
Oh, and let’s not forget that 10 years should be added to whatever sentence he is given to express society’s thorough disapproval of anyone who plays an accordion in public.