Whilst most 11-year-olds were out discovering girls, a certain Black Country-accented – and rather camp – Mr Tom was busy nurturing the Grundy media empire.
In addition to the weekly family newspaper and radio show, I founded ‘TGTV’ where I’d hand over to myself, and back to myself, within my bedroom ‘studio’ – all with Yamaha keyboard accompaniment. CNN, it ain’t! (Though our levels of journalistic integrity are probably comparable). Highlights include: An epic magic show (including incredible Uri Gellar-style spoon bending), news & local weather, early evidence of self-righteous hippy conscience and Santa NOT caught on film.
After digitizing and restoring many hours of VHS footage, I put together a few other compilations, including a medley of numbers from my primary school band. We toured other schools in the West Midlands performing unique renditions of Barbra Streisand hits, ‘The Theme from Lovejoy’, Bryan Adams’s ‘Everything I Do’ etc…
I recall feeling particularly rock-n-roll, as – although I was offered ‘lead keyboard’, I rejected it in favour of remaining on ‘bass keyboard’. Be sure to look out for bonus footage of yours truly playing ‘Boy With Limp‘, in our splendid production of The Pied Piper. Oscar-worthy.
The spring, the unnecessarily verbose ‘16th Parent’s-Also-Appreciate-Teachers Drive’ took place. (One does have to wonder about the use of the word ‘drive’, which suggests that reluctant parents require some degree of coaxing and persuasion to display gratitude towards their children’s long-suffering educators)
[N.B. The controversial element on the front of the postcard is not the fact that the teacher is clearly a freakin’ owl, but rather that he is accepting a gift over the value of HK$50 from a student, an act which is highly illegal in Hong Kong as per strict civil servant contractual anti-corruption guidelines.]
Despite my apparent popularity in the school (which I measure simply by the number of times a child holler ‘MMISSSTTAAH THHOOM‘ in my general direction), I usually receive surprisingly few cards. Indeed, like on Valentine’s Day, the postman delivers only a world of disappointment and rejection – with just a handful of students brave enough to pen their cards in English. Below are this year’s prime specimens…
Fig 1. – “Thank you for teach me English”, says Cherrie. The bitter irony...
I penned the following letter to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park shortly after a visit this summer…
Dear Mr Zeman,
On the morning of Saturday March 14th I bestowed my presence upon your fine aquatically themed leisure park and was surprised to discover that you apparently enforce a strict dress code. Indeed, had I have known that your establishment required a certain impractical distinction to its guest’s attire whilst wolfing down candy floss, fraternising with sea mammals and tackling the ‘Abyss Turbo Drop’; I may have reconsidered donning a bright yellow chicken costume. However, one failed to recognise any such clothing directive in your small print.
Whilst admiring your charming flurry of flamingos near the entrance, I was accosted by a staffer who offered me tickets to return at another time, sans rooster outfit. Upon challenging this audacious offer, I was informed that certain fellow visitors could potentially mistake me for an employee. I delicately reassured the over-zealous worker that should an unlikely misinterpretation occur, I would graciously elucidate that my appearance as a giant six-foot-white-boy-chicken was solely for my own exclusive enjoyment, and that any enjoyment experienced by third-parties was purely coincidental.
I recall 18-months ago asking a colleague if the children will ever tire of barking my name as I walk around the school. “No, never” was the response – and indeed, dozens of excitable Hong Kong kiddywinks continue to holler ‘MISTA THOOOM’ in my general direction, only to giggle and run away when I enquire as to what they may require of me. ‘Say What You See’ is certainly the order of the day. Every day.
Occasionally, however, an open-ended question will follow and, more often than not, the main concerns are one’s comparatively absurd height or hair colour, or the reasoning behind my surprise appearances in the local press.
I therefore felt it prudent to collate some of these queries and respond to them forthwith!
Mr Tom, why your hair is golden?
Child, the unusual pigmentation of one’s cranial hair follicles is due to the modest concentration of melanin present and a variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (Mc1r gene), which is located on chromosome 4. It features an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance and is characterised by low eumelanin levels. Additionally, phenotypic expression for lighter skin and red hair are interrelated. Thus, in conclusion, Mr Tom’s hair is magic.