Let me take you back to the time when 1970s brown-and-orange was about to give way to the brave electric-blue world of the 1980s.
Like most teenagers, I spent much of my time day-dreaming. Camped out in the spacious attic of my parents' rural bungalow with Radio 1 and a bag of sherbet lemons from the newsagent's shop, I eagerly devoured the Sunday papers and imagined life in the fast lane hundreds of miles away.
All things were grist to the mill, from reviews of films I would not see for years (our local flea-pit had by then reinvented itself as a bingo hall) and descriptions of up-market restaurants to avant-garde fashions which, had anyone ventured out in them in my local high street, would have rendered the townsfolk helpless with laughter.
In my mind's eye, far from my sagging corduroy beanbag in the loft, I happily trawled the bookshops of Charing Cross Road and listened to records in HMV, then headed for the South Bank for coffee or browsed the rails in Oxford Street, choosing an outfit for supper round the corner at the Wardour Street Pizza Express and a trip to the Screen on the Green for the latest must-see film.
Naturally, at the end of such a busy day, I would need a place to lay my head - a sophisticated city pad with all the amenities - and I had already chosen the address. Dolphin Square had it all; a central location, concierge service and historical significance, not to mention the reflected glory of the rich and famous then in residence.
It was, as far as it could be at such a distance, an informed choice; I knew the layout of the complex and had a good idea of what some of the flats looked like inside thanks to the newspaper's property section and a detailed article or two. Fascinated by the stern 1930's architecture and design, I could have described the entrance halls or the corridors with a fair degree of accuracy or drawn from memory the central fountain which appeared in every property advertisement.
That familiar image still catches my eye whenever I see it, although it is more likely now to appear in the News section. Research has shown that teenagers are capable of absorbing and retaining a phenomenal amount of information and some of it, at least, was still there thirty-five years later when Dolphin Square acquired its sudden public notoriety and tarnished my innocent juvenile aspirations.
I neither intend nor want to delve into other people's darker territory with this post but, in the context of certain allegations dating back to the 1970s, I think it worth pointing out that, to my certain knowledge, it was possible at the time for a fourteen-year-old who had never seen London to construct an imaginary life there in meticulous detail from nothing but the Sunday papers, television and a tattered AtoZ.
(Footnote: Reader, I did not pine in vain. I'd like (albeit belatedly) to thank my wonderful mother for my sixteenth birthday treat - a day in London, bookshops, coffee and all, culminating in a blissful spree in the Oxford Street TopShop.)
1 hour ago