I am a little late to this and I am conscious that many readers of this blog might not be aware of Clive James, the writer and broadcaster who died very recently – but I am happy anyway to add my tribute and memories of a great man.
Many of his eulogies use the word ‘genius’ which I happen to think is a little excessive. In general, I think genius is over-used in the arts and is better reserved for the sciences where very clever people create technology for satellites and drugs that can tame cancers.
Not that Clive James was not a very clever man. The testimonies are unanimous; he was a great wit, writer and broadcaster.
I appeared twice on his TV chat show – (so, a man of impeccable taste, also) – but there is another more ingrained and personal reason why I held him with such affection.
As a boy growing up, I was always in awe of the people who could make my dad laugh. Tom Sharpe, the author. John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, David Jason the actors and Clive James the wit and writer.
Clive James’s famous book, Unreliable Memoirs had my dad in raptures and I imagined at the time what a gift Clive James had, being able to write such a book. A book that gives so much pleasure he will never meet and this must have had a bearing on my very odd choice of career. Not that I claim to write like Clive James you understand nor to have written such a book. As I have said on this blog before and in my book, Eclipsed, I failed English Language at school and none of my teachers would ever have endorsed my career choice.
So given this context, appearing on his television show – the unimaginatively titled, The Clive James Show - was a surreal experience for me. I appeared twice and he was always very kind to me and I regret not having the time to explain the impact that he’d had on me via my dad.
This blog post is poignant because my dad also died this year and I write this post on Friday, 29th November which would have been his 85th birthday.
The nuclear family – mum, dad and two kids – might be a relic of the past. Families are much more fractured now. Marriage is out-of-fashion and in my opinion, far too many dads are absent from their children’s lives. And stating that this absence is a great disadvantage to their children is not a criticism of the mums left with the workload and responsibility.
I am unashamedly old-fashioned on familial matters and what is best for children. I am big advocate of dads and especially so for boys – which is my only sphere of experience, given, I was a boy myself and we only have boys in my own family.
And boys need dads because I think on a sub-conscious level, boys have a need for their dad’s approval. A hard wired desire for affirmation which has the effect of spurring on a child to achieve and thereby gain such approval. This is only my opinion and I might be wrong but this was certainly the case in my life and the time that I had to impress my old man.
And whatever is made of my output to date – my books and my stand-up - much of it was achieved with this objective in mind – not-to-mention the six mouths to feed also, obviously.
And as such, this might make me a little fretful now…
Because, if I was chasing patriarchal approval all my life – and this accounted for my ‘successes’ – then I worry that my children might strive less in their lives because in the case of Tom at least (and for now) he must know already that I am proud of him and time therefore to ease off the gas, perhaps?
I hope not. And I suspect not also.
And finally, this post is poignant again, since the great Clive James died of leukaemia, or blood cancer and The Brothers Trust is about to republish Open Links, my novel that was first published in 2014 and with all proceeds going to the Anthony Nolan Trust.
The hope is to have copies available ahead of Christmas this year. And this hope remains with the printers in London (Catford Printing) doing their level best at this frenetic time of the year.
For now at least, Open Links will be available as a paperback only and sold via www.thebrotherstrust.org and we will print as many as are required - to help grow Anthony Nolan’s register of bone marrow donors with the ultimate prospect that someone, somewhere and at some time will be saved from blood cancer.
And this is something that we can all be invested in and proud to help achieve.
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