Very occasionally, you get to have a conversation with someone who you have regarded as something of a hero in your life. Or you get to meet someone who you have been a big fan of for many years. Usually this moment is life affirming, it confirms everything you had hoped this person was going to be. Meeting Rolf Harris while filming the BBC programme "Rolf on Art" was one such moment. He was everything I had hoped he would be, and more. Charming, self-effacing and a genuine down-to-Earth nice bloke. Fair dinkum as most Australians would say. Similarly meeting Cherie Lunghi on the same day was good for me too - for more than one reason! And then again, there are times when you meet or have contact with a hero - and everything turns to dust, disappointment and disillusionment. Last week, after some encouragment from friends, I emailed Terry Deary, author of the wonderful "Horrible History" books for children. I have for many years gone on record stating that Mr Deary was a big influence on the style and presentation I bring to my Good King Hal days - I felt I was presenting history to children in a way that he would celebrate and encourage. I wrote to him to tell him this and to ask, in a very humble and polite way, as to whether I could ever hope to be involved with promoting the Horrible History series in any way. The response I got was quick, and startlingly savage. Seldom have I received an email that I expected so much from, and yet instead all I got was a verbal kicking from Mr Deary.
I will not go into detail with what Mr Deary said - it was hurtful and unpleasant in the extreme. I responded by apologising for bothering him and mildly rebuking him for such a rude email. I got another response, far longer and far more savage, this time likening my dressing up and getting paid to present humorous Henry VIIIth days to children as to me dressing up as a variety of infamous modern day murderers and re-enacting their evil acts in front of impressionable innocent children for money. Thankfully, particularly for his rapidly expanding bank balance, Mr Deary has no qualms about selling lots of books of amusing anecdotes about Henry VIIIth and a variety of other historical despots and tyrants for school children. His similarly destructive and rabidly anti-teacher and anti-school views were equally shocking.
Suffice to say, I shall never even bother to recommend Mr Deary's works ever again - something I have done at nearly every school I have been to since I started.