"Whenever I look at photographs like this today, unless it is a parent or family member taking the picture, I am reminded of the fast changing times over the past sixty years.
To know that this woodland picnic would never happen today is a sad reflection on the society we have become in little more than half a century. I recall as a growing child in the sixties, the scarcity of the crime of murder or the violation of a child by an adult that is more common today. Indeed, if ever a murder occurred in the land, it was so rare an occurrence that it would automatically command the front page of every national newspaper. This was a time in British life when the sanctity of childhood was protected in ways that would be unimaginable today. This was the era when one's neighbours automatically kept an eye out for every child; when abandoned bicycles could be left by hedgerows for hours in the certain knowledge that they'd still be there when the cyclist returned, and when no neighbour locked their door until bedtime, whether the house was occupied or not!
Don't get me wrong, My knowledge of history tells me that child abuse and even child prostitution was common within families and society way back in Victorian times. It is as though time stood still between 1950-60 and that 'a window of propriety and common decency' existed for a decade where decency ruled the land and decadence was temporarily banished. This magical window that I enjoyed for much of my childhood years through the late fifties was akin to a kind of Brigadoon that we found in Britain.
I'll never forget the magic of the 1954 musical film starring Gene Kelly and Van Johnson who are on a hunting trip in Scotland and become lost in the woodlands. They happen upon Brigadoon, a miraculously blessed village that rises out of the mists every hundred years 'for only a day.' This was done so that the village would never be changed or destroyed by the outside world. Once a villager leaves Brigadoon the spell is broken and the village vanishes forever to them. Any outsider who wishes to stay within the village and their way of life must stay in love with someone in the village strongly enough to accept the loss of everything he or she ever knew in the outside world.What a beautiful Christian message for present times.
By the late sixties, society had abandoned all thought of its moral crusade and the age of free love, drugs and 'letting it all hang out' came of age. My happy and carefree childhood days that I'd known had vanished and angry protests became the thing of the day as the love of one's neighbour went out the 'window of opportunity' and 'grab as much for yourself as you can' came in.
By the seventies and eighties, society had become unrecognisable as all manner of heinous and vile crimes were committed against children and all manner of vulnerable people. Old folk would become the frequent easy targets of muggers and young women would increasingly experience sexual discrimination and be offended against by offences of assault and rape. Even innocent children who were often in vulnerable situations found themselves the targets of sexual predators; often it was their step-fathers or other relatives, with their mother turning a blind eye or not believing what was going on beneath her nose.
My twenty-five years as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire were mind blowing and were never dull, but to tell the truth, despite the people I was able to help, I was ready to retire on the grounds of ill-health at the age of fifty-two. I felt soiled by the sin of humanity.
During the 15th December in 2010, I visited Haworth for the first time in thirty years and saw Sheila (my Cyd Charisse) sitting in a cafe on the Main Street. That was the day my window of opportunity opened for me once more and since then, I've been transported back to living my life out with the woman I love in my West Yorkshire Brigadoon." William Forde : March 11th, 2017.