For a time my work brought me to a primary school, and there I found a melancholy little boy. He never seemed to smile and when the school photographer came round to take the annual picture he said: “Why, he looks just like Winston Churchill, doesn’t he? Come on, smile a bit for the camera, you’re so serious!” But the boy, who was about as rotund as Churchill, remained serious. He did indeed look very much like Churchill, a miniature Churchill; of course, not how Churchill looked when he was a boy at all. And, so I hear, he went on to become a powerful public speaker—the rare kind who speaks from the heart, as Churchill did—and even, if gossip is to be believed, gossip from my extensive network, a lover of one of Churchill’s great-grandchildren.
We become what we worship and I suppose in some way, unconsciously, this boy—he loved history, just like Churchill, I should add—had become Churchill; and that resemblance must have attracted the girl, drawn to the family archetype. They say that they met in a pub; she had inherited the family weakness for booze, and drank her allowance away clear across London every month.
Yet, being a Churchill, her liver was built for it. How strange it must have been to look down during sex right into those melancholy Churchillian eyes, so frequently plastered across History Channel documentaries and tabloid newspapers. It is bad enough to meet a girl’s father and then, later, in bed, see the paternal pattern fit to the jawline or nose—just imagine, one night, that you were in the throes of lust and realised, quite suddenly, that you were making love to Churchill. “We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the air…we will never surrender. Never.”
All that, if it ever really happened, lay in the future. As I went about the school I encountered this melancholy little Churchill, his face always downcast. His grades were terrible; even in his favourite subject, English. They say he was good at it once; and he received 10/10 for effort, though only 2/10 for results. His teacher was a bully, as teachers usually are—unable to bully adults, they become teachers to bully children. He was obsessed with cows and had decorated his classroom with cows cut out of magazines: sturdy farm cows from agricultural magazines mixed with psychedelic cows high on “E”, decorated with purple sun hats; it was the ‘90s, after all—at least some cows paid psychotropic homage to Oasis.
Eventually, the child’s grades spiralled so low—particularly in mathematics—that they rolled out the special needs teacher. This crazy old bat prodded the child with peculiar enquiries: “How do you imagine numbers, do you see numbers like letters? Do you say the numbers in your head?” I laughed at this dotty old crone and her theories. The problem with the boy was too obvious to me: his parents had divorced, and in the midst of the selfish sniping he had lost all confidence and interest in the world and given up.
The teachers—even if they allowed themselves to think this—could never say to the parents: “Well, we think his grades are so low because your divorce has screwed him in the head.” So they continued to speak bureaucratic nonsense about the latest psychological theories and whether he saw numbers as he saw letters and other fragments from educational theories probably long abandoned. You know, in schools today, they can diagnose you with ADHD, autism, transsexualism, dyslexia and on and on…and how many kids have I met who were geniuses in some respect but were “dyslexic” for certain exams? “I got extra time so that was good.” It helps to learn to game the system early. Yet it is all bunk—all the complex diagnoses—all a great stupid game that adults play so they do not have to speak the truth. They are asleep.