You will understand why I did it though?
Imagine the scene. I am sixteen years old, waiting to see a man who is not keen to see me. Mr McMahon. A man with a big responsibility. A maths tutor, handsomely paid by my parents and charged with getting me a maths O level. Two fails already, the pressure mounting. My dad is pessimistic and especially when I assure him that I am 110% confident of passing next time.
Sitting in Mr McMahon’s home, under his stairs and waiting while he finishes up with some other dullard, I have strict instructions not to approach his tank which is opposite me. Not a war tank, like a model but a fish tank, poised on its own plinth, all lit up and containing only one fish.
You can see my temptation now?
Mr McMahon, a gruff Irishman who did little to hide his disdain for boys like me even although we paid his mortgage. A big man and suitably foreboding, his word was rarely defied.
But, come on, it’s a blinking real life flipping piranha fish…
His on-going lesson still had ten minutes to run, so I had time and the necessary equipment which I had brought from home and for this very purpose.
What I hadn’t accounted for though, but I now understand well, is that Mr McMahon was a man of a certain age and one who drinks a lot of coffee and possibly to stay awake. But it meant that he required frequent toilet breaks and these were difficult to predict.
To get to the lid of the fish tank I needed to stand on a chair which is how he found me. I had stabbed my thumb with my compass (what else are compasses for?) and I was squeezing blood in to his fish tank. I hoped to see the piranha go ape-shit-mental. Only it didn’t. It barely even moved unlike me when Mr McMahon appeared.
And it is with this aquatic violence in mind that I tempted my youngest son, sixteen year old Paddy down from his Broadband lair with the prospect of watching the movie, Jaws.
As ever I made the school boy error of being too exuberant. This movie had rocked my world but will it do the same for Paddy?
No is the honest answer and I have some sympathy. Ironically, it has much less teeth than I remember.
Another dad fail then but undeterred I demanded another movie night – and this time I went for a movie that really couldn’t fail…
Its star, James Caan has some form in this area. While my eldest son, Tom was making The Impossible in Alicante (the tsunami wave sequence) he contracted an ear infection and was bed bound for a week. I was flitting back and forth as my gigs permitted (do we remember when we gigged?) and I arrived back in Spain armed with a bunch of movies for Tom and I to gorge on and bond over and including Rollerball which I hyped out of all recognition. Barely twenty minutes in, Tom was asleep and I needed to reassess how easily pleased I was in childhood.
But Misery with Kathy Bates and James Caan is a success. Not as well received as The Shawshank Redemption which we have already chalked off in lockdown (another Stephen King, so maybe The Green Mile beckons) but very much enjoyed.
As you will recall, Misery is a story about a famous author caught up in hell and it presents some parallels with my own life but which wouldn’t have occurred to me on first viewing.
Not that I am a famous author or that I am locked up with a female psychopath.
But that James Caan’s character suffers enormous pain associated with his writing. In this instance, unimaginable pain with repeated compound fractures of his legs and feet. But surely his pain is salved by his bountiful sales? His book tours, festivals, signing and general acclaim.
In the movie we see him after his ordeal in Manhattan. Smartly dressed in a suit. Walking to an expensive restaurant albeit with a limp and a cane but so what?
As literary hurt goes, try enduring the pain of writing a novel that no one reads?
I’m only suggesting this but most unread authors would snap their own legs if it meant a trip to Hay and the chance to share a green room (marquee) with Joanna Trollope.
I did finally gain my maths O Level by the way and no one was more delighted than Mr McMahon because he would never have to see me again. But I suspect that his Piranha missed me terribly.
Your suggestions for films for Dom and Paddy to bond over gratefully received in the comments.