Their chosen fields

Tuesday 19th June 2012

MIKE enjoyed his cricket, but, from memory, pulled off fewer than one match-winning innings.

During an evening game in 1976, when neither of us had had much to do in the field, we sauntered into a chat as yet another opposition batsman returned to the pavilion.

“I’ve been watching that buzzard.”

What was to me a meaningless, distant speck, he knew was a bird of prey, on the look-out for supper. I suspect he had foresight too, which is why he spent staff meetings apparently doodling on a pad: stunning pen and ink drawings of  feathered friends.

I thought of Mike this week, when running a writing workshop in a school.

Not only was there a girl at the back, quietly adding lines to a drawing while adding lines to her group’s poem, but also the lad, thirteen, at a table in the centre of the room, casually twirling a biro from hand to hand, over and over again, like a restless spin bowler waiting for a new batsman to take his guard.

“Can you do the steeplechase as well? With a fifty pence piece?”

“Yeah. How did you know that?”

“I expect you’ll be a member of the Magic Circle before you’re thirty.”

He seemed as pleased by my recognition of his career plans as I was impressed by his dexterity.

Later, without any conscious wish to show off, but simply needing to practise endlessly, he held the biro horizontally between two upright fingers of each hand, made a rapid flicking movement… and caused the pen to disappear into the clichéd thin air.

It seems the boy attends a school where his passion isn’t frowned upon, but many teachers would, I fear, admonish such behaviour as a distraction, assuming a lack of concentration or deliberate mischief on his part.

We rarely acknowledge that children are just as capable as adults when it comes to doing more than one thing at once.

Nobody would ever have said that Mike, a fine teacher, wasn’t paying attention in staff meetings. We left about the same time. He is now Director of Public Affairs at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.







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