Wood. Some men make their living from wood. Or clay, or engines, or food packaging, or golf but me, I have made my living from children. They have sat in front of me in rows or giggled with me in drama studios. They have travelled with me on buses or listened to me in changing rooms. Every one of them has been different, unique. I have visited some of their homes. Berated some of them, comforted others, made them laugh, bored them, marked their books and exam papers, listened to their excuses and their dreams. Children. That is how I have made my living.
And when St Peter greets me at the gates of paradise and takes out his little black book or his i-phone or whatever it is that saints use to make final reckonings, he will surely quickly deduce that the best achievement of my life was fathering two wonderful children. Children again - even though our two babies are now fully grown adults in their own right - they're still our children.
Some men despise children. Many times friends and acquaintances have said to me - "I don't know how you do it. I'd be whacking them. I hate children" and I have even known men who have proudly boasted that they never bathed their kids or changed their nappies or pretended that spoons of baby food were trains going into dark tunnels. Yet I am glad that I played a full part in rearing our children and when on Father's Day my lovely, clever Frances writes, "I miss you lots and can't wait for you to get home" I feel it confirms that I have passed the fatherhood test with honours.
Don't get me wrong. There have certainly been a few children whom I have also despised for their big headedness, their uncooperativeness or their surly ignorance. I have met some total horrors. Some should surely have been exterminated at birth but most children I have known have been worth knowing with redeeming qualities and their own interesting stories to tell.
Here in Bangkok, I have encountered such lovely children. They address me by my name and appreciate my efforts for them. Generally speaking they look you in the eye and they smile. If you ask them questions, they try to answer. And they are so nice to each other - supportive, encouraging , instead of trying to score cheap points from one another. They seem to recognise that I am the adult in charge and they are the children. In western schools - not just in England - many children seem - for whatever reason - to have lost sight of that delineation, that natural hierarchy. Here are two of my Thai pupils - Mandy and Phrao, aged twelve - an hour after school had finished for the day:-