To Oxford this week, the city of spires and steeples, quadrangles and gowns, bicycles and Dons. The oldest university town in the English speaking world, founded in 1069. The university where 28 UK Prime Ministers cut their teeth and 72 Nobel prize winners learnt their onions. A city of world renown academia and a perfect destination then to record the audible version of Eclipsed, surely one of the greatest works of non-fiction literature in the narrow genre of dad/child animosity. A funny story about a hapless dad and his gilded son. A tale of some pain and hurt (Dom’s), some euphoria (Tom’s) with a happy and climactic ending to boot. What’s not to like?
In fact I have already recorded the manuscript and done two days of retakes also (fat tongue), so this session was for Tom and I to reminisce on some of the anecdotes therein. You can see my thinking now… Eclipsed read by Dom and in conversation with Tom.
Our hour in the booth together felt like an end to a long and rather extraordinary process of hard work and happenstance. A tale which began when Tom could not even walk and the unlikely circumstances whereby Nikki spotted that her first born could dance. Something I missed completely and I might even have kept quiet about if I had. Thank God for his mum then because it would lead to the West End and Billy Elliot and from here to Thailand for the filming of The Impossible and finally to a red carpet in Los Angeles.
This was 2012 and from this point we had no real plans, some hopes but little expectations. We know the form; another child star extinguishes. And no blogs either because Tom’s ascent (or decline?) could be seen online and did need to be chronicled.
And who knew what lay ahead?
Later this year, the third instalment of Tom as Mr Peter Parker will hit the screens. Who knew, indeed. All with no drama school or even drama lessons. A story that happened to a normal kid from an almost normal family. It is barely believable, only it happens to be true and I am the lucky person who gets to tell it.
And speaking of barely believable stories…
The studio which I used to capture this literary landmark is called Electric Breeze, located on the Cowley Road, a little along from the famous Magdalene College and the beginnings of the oldy worldy Oxford. Tom was keen to see some of the town and it being a nice day, we decided to take a walk.
Over the bridge of the river Cherwell and quickly we come to Magdalene College. Founded in 1458, it is one of the highest achieving colleges with alumni including Oscar Wilde, Dudley Moore, J R R Tolkein (Lord of the Rings), CS Lewis (The chronicles of Narnia), Andrew Lloyd Webber and a raft of others. Graduates who must have done very well for themselves since they have bequeathed a financial endowment to Magdalene of some £332,000,000. Nice! Great things have happened at this hallowed college, including the development of penicillin. A medicine which would change the world as we know it.
And Magdalene happens to be in the news just this week but for less auspicious reasons when the current students of Magdalene have voted to remove a photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of England since 1952. Queen of England for 68 years.
And the reason for the removal of Queen Elizabeth’s portrait?
Because the Queen is not considered to be a welcoming image for the students of Magdalene and particularly for the students of colour attending this august institution.An unusual position given that Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Commonwealth which includes countries such as: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Jamaica, Dominica, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Namibia…
The great and the good have attended Magdalene College, Oxford. Many of its alumni receiving national honours like knighthoods from the Queen. No doubt, the current crop of undergraduates are dreaming of similarly illustrious careers ahead and I suspect will drop to their knees toot suite to receive a gong from this ‘unwelcoming’ Monarch.
“Who goes to this college, dad?” Tom asked me and with this in mind, I thought of how to respond.
The very cleverest kids in the world is the obvious answer but it didn’t feel appropriate in this new context. I thought carefully and Tom waited patiently.
“Highly privileged children. Often from very wealthy families and attend elite and very expensive schools. Kids with good ability who happen to be highly educated and become expert at passing exams.” I answered.
Tom gave me an odd look – as if to say – what the hell does that mean?
In more plain speak then…
If the student who conceived of the idea to remove the portrait of our Monarch and those students who voted in favour of it are our future Prime Ministers and leaders, then God help us all.
The audio book of Eclipsed will be available shortly via this site and elsewhere (possibly?). This is the plan but you should know that I have many plans and they often go awry.
A revised print edition of Eclipsed, not an update but with some new anecdotes is also coming soon – unsure when exactly, but soonish… and maybe with a new jacket and a hard cover version also… who knows?