Celtic Illumination, page 375, Education is light, lack of it, darkness.
Despite the fact that I was an up and coming star in the learning disability world, well; to the people supported and hopefully most of the staff, I was a star, those in charge, the social workers, felt, I think, that I was more of a pain in the arse; it was all still secondary to me. Apart from being the best dad in the world I was determined to be the most famous Irish novelist of the twenty first century and still have at least two days a week off. Once I had re-arranged all the procedures in the house where Jimmy and Andrew lived things settled down. I could put on a nice film for Jimmy and Andrew was happy to watch as long as there was a steady supply of beer. This allowed me to stay in the dining room and write, or read, which can be as equally important.
There was still a flow of suggestions, plots and plans between Jeffrey, my literary agent, and myself. For some reason the celebrity world had really thinned out and there really was no one of quality about and those that did fall within my remit were all as gay as a bag of chocolate marbles. I hated gay men, they were always well dressed, usually with fit bodies, great well paid jobs and they always seemed to be happy, bastards. My next prospective client was a fellow called Craig Revel Horwood, an Australian dancer. He came to prominence on one of these daft celebrity dancing shows with his acerbic wit delivered with his drag queen persona. It was nothing new to me to work for gay men or even a drag queen. Jeffery and myself were still chasing the thief Paul O Grady and his boyfriend manager Brendan Murphy. The final contact between us was when I had spoken to Murphy, and I still have every word of the conversation preserved on tape, when he actually apologised and agreed that we should move forward with the book deal.
Murphy agreed to allow Jeffrey to set up the best publishing deal that Jeffrey could find for the two Lily Savage books I had already written, and that they had read and loved, and we would see what happened, I agreed not to write the third book until we could see how successful the first two were. So once again Jeffery and myself complete our end of the bargain, I have the two novels typed, edited for the umpteenth time and ready to go, Jeffrey has secured a publishing contract, a cheque was waiting for me in London all Murphy had to do was sign a bit of paper. We were used to waiting around for Murphy and O Grady, Jeffrey still thinks the funniest time was when he tracked them down on to the Orient Express, I didn’t think it was funny then. And I didn’t think what Murphy did next was funny either. Murphy went and died.
O Grady now had his excuse to go to ground, but I refused to let him rest and still wrote to theatres, where he was appearing, advising the venue manager that Paul O Grady was a thief and a liar and he should be careful while the fellow was on his premises. I wouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush but Craig Revel Horwood made me cringe a little. I know we are all supposed to live in a more enlightened era, but after years of being brought up as a Catholic in Ireland and then years in the British armed forces, it had been beaten in to me that homosexuality was wrong, even though I could probably claim that my first boyfriend was a priest, not that I knew what the pervert was up to. To get a bit of background on Craig Horwood I read his biography. He was very open and truthful about his life and on the one hand I admired him for having the guts to do what he did, but on the other hand my upbringing had me throwing buckets of holy water at him and shouting, in a very Monty Python sort of way “Unclean!! Unclean!!”
He freely admitted that while surviving as a struggling actor in Australia he operated as a drag queen and prostitute. His big break came along when a wealthy admirer offered him a free around the world trip in exchange for one years’ worth of sexual favours as and when required. Craig says that the man wasn’t exactly repulsive but the deal was too good to refuse. Despite the fact that occasionally my Catholic education backed up with the instilled armed forces revulsion towards homosexuality, I would find myself having mini outbursts of Tourette’s. But I have to admit I kind of liked working with gay men; I liked the frivolity, the gayness of it all if you like. Whatever project I was working on, for a gay person, would always involve music and of course with Craig being a dancer, and choreographer, it made things that much more believable.
On top of all the hassle from London and the gay mafia, not to mention the ridiculousness of my new managementspeak role in Liverpool, I still made sure I had time for my children. We still went fishing and hiking, dragging my poor mother in law around every mountain, lake, river and beach in North Welsh Wales. We always claimed that the children could do as they wanted, career wise, but of course, as parents, we were lying, every action and every word we spoke to them would be to guide them along one route or another. They were teenagers now, well; the eldest three were and they all attended a school in the next town. It was called Cross Hall and it was supposed to be a very good school, well; it was supposed to be ten times better than the existing schools in Skelmersdale.
You may think my poor regard for social workers stems from the learning disability and mental health world, but you would be wrong. My attitude toward them was only reinforced there; it was at school where I first held them in contempt. At Violent Hell we were all expected to become doctors or dentists, lawyers or surgeons or barristers or even priests, real jobs. There would be a secondary level of acceptable positions like architect, or vet, or pilot. For this we would be expected to attend Trinity in Dublin. If you were too stupid to get a real job then you would be considered a failure and would go to Stranmillis teacher training facility. However if you were too stupid to become a teacher, you could become a social worker, and that is where my attitude stems from. Since then social workers have not let me down in helping me to maintain my estimation of their abilities, unfortunately teachers haven’t fared too well either.
Like any parent I knew that my children were quite able, I had put a lot of time and effort in to their upbringing. The one statement from a parents teacher evening at their primary school was, “We don’t know what you are doing to them, but whatever it is, keep it up.” What I now found was that each school had one or two good teachers, the remainder were run of the mill. At each parents teacher meeting you would find one teacher who was strong and disciplined who the children would respect, and this would usually be the best teacher. Gerard the oldest boy did what he was told, as did Jane, but James was running rings around them. They couldn’t handle him.
Gerard’s plan was to finish Cross Hall then move on to Sheffield University where he would study electronics, while being sponsored by the RAF, which he would join as an engineering officer on completion of his degree. The deputy head at Cross Hall called me in one day and told me that his own daughter had become the first girl from Cross Hall to be accepted to Oxford University to study medicine and that he hoped Jane would be the second. We were impressed, not just with Jane but with Cross Hall. James was a real boy, he couldn’t sit still for a moment, he had to be doing something, as long as it was outdoors. He really was, and still is, a most beautiful boy, six foot six tall and a smile that could melt your heart at twenty paces. He’s almost as good looking as his father too.
James refused to do any homework at Cross Hall, it was boring, the subjects were boring, the teachers were boring, he was turning in to a parent’s worst nightmare. It was bad enough for a parent to think that their child might waste their natural talents but of course the school now had league tables to contend with, comparing them against other schools. They could see that James would be a negative mark against them so one day I got a call from the head teacher, He explained that James had problems but there was a solution, a specialist team was coming to the school to assess the more difficult children, would I give permission for James to be assessed? Stupid question, the more I could find out about what made James tick, the better.
It was some time later that the head teacher rang me to say that the assessment had been carried out, not just on James but on a number of children at the school. I could see that this was nothing more than an exercise to manipulate their statistics. James had been graded as above average. I told the headmaster that this was great news, that as James had been officially assessed as being above average, then I could expect him to achieve above average grades in his upcoming exams. Seems that once again I didn’t understand things, but I quickly explained to the head teacher that I did understand, only too well. I explained to him that in my opinion most teachers at his school were hopeless and that if my son didn’t achieve above average grades then he too would have proved himself to be utterly useless. The telephone went quiet for a moment or two. The head teacher informed me that he was just finding my address and asked if this was still where I was living. I told him it was. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘I think I’ll have to pop around and we can sort this out on your front lawn.’ Probably shows that perhaps not everything you are told as a child is true.