Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Why we hate a Singleton boring us with her sex life

Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph

Valerie Singleton. The name itself was — like Blue Peter and its world of famine drives and sticky back plastic — a vouchsafe for all that was good, decent and true. Val's lack of fuss, dignity and professional decorum earned everyone's respect.



That urban myth about her and Joan Armatrading? No comment and stiff upper lip. What class. No crawling to the media to 'set the record' straight. The fact there wasn't a scintilla of truth to it made her silence even more heroic. And now she's spoilt it all with a distressing kiss '*' tell.

Ok, we suspected Val wasn't the saint (who is?) we liked to think her to be. But the point was precisely that. We preferred our plaster saint. Why, Val, why?

Since she'd never before corrected the Joan Armtrading thing, why do it now?

And why drive the point home by revealing just how many men she's had over the years?

In a truly relentless and exhausting self-expose, Singleton — even the surname seems like a weirdly grim joke now — has relived them all in disturbing detail. The single ones. The married ones. Older. Younger. The sex with Blue Peter co-presenter Peter Purves. The brief affair with the guy with 'the reputation' that resulted in an abortion. The near-marriage to Pete Murray. The one-night stand with the bloke in Armatrading's band.

Did she mention she was "the complete opposite of gay"? Yes, got the picture, Val. But on she goes, telling how she was "ogling" boys from her teens?

First really enjoyable sexual experience? That'd be Greece , 1961. Then there were the 'BSE' ones. No jokes about mad cow disease, please. In Val-speak, that's Big Sexual Experiences.

Talk about the ones she'd made earlier. Did any male stray into the gaze of Singleton and escape without having his clothes ripped off? No wonder John Noakes always looked so, well, tense.

This is the sort of fodder you'd expect from some bimbo in a Sunday rag. Not from a 71-year-old woman with a distinguished career — Singleton also presented Nationwide and Radio 4's PM. Incredible as it may seem now, pre-Thatcher, she was, arguably, the most visible symbol that women had truly arrived. She was a symbol for her sex — she wasn't a sex symbol. It was an important difference. Sadly, her story reveals a typical, relentless Sixties heartlessness. It seems that her world view has been irredeemably formed by that terrible decade where the divide was between Uptight Squares and Groovy Swingers. Her real problem? She was a GS who was viewed as a US. How galling.

Her determination to show that she really was so liberated and iconoclastic reads like the pathetic confessions of a groupie. Here's me being naughty. Here's another one about me sleeping with him ... and him ... because I wanted to. It sounds like the braggadicio of the bar-room bore.

Bizarrely, for someone looking to put to rest speculation about issues of sexual orientation and identity, she sounds like nothing so much as a man. But what's equally perturbing is the streak of selfishness that runs through Singleton's whole narrative, never moreso than when she describes a short relationship with journalist Philip Geddes.

"Philip had a girlfriend, but I think he was very fond of me," she says smugly, describing how they shared many dates before he was killed in the 1983 IRA bomb blast at Harrods.

She heard he'd died just before she went on air and "doing the programme was incredibly difficult".

Yeah, Val, probably about as difficult as it would be now for Philip's girlfriend, if she is still alive, to read about how he cheated on her with you. But like a heartless hedonist, there's only one story in town — Val's.



Evidently, she's trying to tell us something, but what? That she's a goer? That she's not all prim and proper really? She's actually only answering questions that have really only been asked by herself.

It's a pity she hadn't just left it all alone. Allowed that vague air of mystery to surround her, along with the Armatrading stuff.

As the man said: "Never apologise, never explain. It looks like a sign of weakness." Val epitomised this and how we — and I mean women especially — admired her.

Do men have to explain their sex lives in public? Only to boast. It very rarely defines who they are and how the public see them.

In keeping schtum Val was in some ways staring down a male-dominated media world.

And now? We know Val had a "smoochy night" with Albert Finney " but we didn't make love". (There's a turn up.)

We've lost a champion and gained some salacious tittle-tattle. That the tittle-tattle is true — or even brutally honest — is neither here nor there.

Me? I preferred our plaster saint.

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