Wednesday 20 September 2017

Staff only: Flaubert, death metal and the cross-dressing Windsors

E Grade

I've just finished reading Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot -- a sort of extended essay with pompous musing and a bit of history thrown in around a biog of the author of the novel Madame Bovary.

Pretentious book, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody and although I consider Madame Bovary to be to the nineteenth century novel what Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is to 1970s rock music, I have to admit I found the writer Gustave Flaubert as revealed in Barnes' book a pain in the neck.

That was until just before the Easter break when our school held a fancy dress egg hunt in the school grounds in aid of charity. It was then that I finally accepted and understood Flaubert's apparently unreasonable disdain of everything in the world that he inhabited, all sorts of things that I personally rate: trains, marriage, love, Europe, industry, even 'progress'.

In the late nineteenth century as far as he could see, it was all going in the one direction. Towards a world where conventional behaviour was reinforced in every walk of life and that this would lead to a huge war one day.

And when you look at everything that led up to the Second World War he was pretty spot on.

So, back to our school grounds and a sunny day populated by boys in babygrows, leprechauns, an Easter bunny and of course lots of cross-dressing.

Yes, there's a 14 -year old girl dressed as a priest, sporting a moustache, and look, there's a Polish boy, a hardcore death metal fan with very black hair and very white skin who in his spare time makes knives -- he's wearing a pink dress and very perky false boobs.

And then there's Edward, the surprisingly camp member of the town's number one trouble-making dynasty, the Windsors, the bane of the local constabulary, the lords of the unfeasibly huge bonfire, the unchallenged stars of CCTV.

Most of the Windsors didn't turn up today -- they're in bed, in court or in jail. My colleague Róan Shine, who valiantly attempts to teach Irish to the hyperactive pest, had warned me with a "wait till you see Edward Windsor!" But nothing could have prepared me.

Edward is in full Mariah Carey regalia -- tight black dress, perfectly proportioned cotton wool false boobs and killer pink stilettos. "Look at me!" he thrills, "I'm only glorious!"

I give him a manly slap on his bare back and gush something about him being brave, but it's not just me; everybody admires his lack of inhibition and sense of fun. There's no question but that he is accepted and liked for what he is.

Thinking about that day, not just pupils and teachers in daft costumes laughing and competing to take the craziest pictures of each other, but also the fact that pupils from Poland, China, the Philippines, Russia and God knows where, are all mixing with the local kids, then I think that this is probably more the kind of world Flaubert might have liked.

Irish Independent

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