If Anthony was telling this story, he'd start with the money. It always comes down to money, he says, so you might as well start there. He'd probably put, "Once upon a time there were 229,370 little pounds sterling," and go on till he got to, "and they all lived happily ever after in a high-interest bank account." But he's not telling this story. I am. Personally, I like to start with the patron saint of whatever it is. For instance, when we had to write about moving house for Literacy Hour, I put:
by Damian Cunningham,
We have just moved house to 7 Cromarty Close. The patron saint of moving house is St. Anne (first century). She was the Mother of Our Lady. Our Lady did not die but floated up into Heaven while still fairly young. St. Anne was upset. To cheer her up, four angels picked up her house and took it to the seaside in Italy, where it can be seen to this day. You can pray to St. Anne for help with moving house. She will watch over you, but not do actual removals. Anne is also the patron saint of miners, horse-riding, cabinetmakers andthe city of Norwich. While alive, she performed many wonders.
The patron saint of this story is St. Francis of Assisi (11811226), because it all sort of started with a robbery and the first saintish thing he ever did was a robbery. He stole some cloth from his father and gave it to the poor. There is a patron saint of actual robbers -- Dismas (first century) -- but I'm not an actual robber. I was only trying to be good.
It was our first day at Great Ditton Primary School. The sign outside says, "Great Ditton Primary -- Creating Excellence for a New Community."
"See that?" said Dad as he handed us our lunches and left us at the gates. "Good isn't good enough here. Excellence, that's what they're after. My instruction for the day is, Be excellent.' The instructions for supper I'll leave on the fridge door."
One thing about me is that I always really try to do whatever Dad tells me. It's not that I think he'll go off and leave us if we're a problem, but why take that risk? So I was excellent first lesson. Mr. Quinn was doing "People We Admire" for Art Hour. A huge boy with a freckly neck nominated Sir Alex Ferguson and listed all the football trophies United had won under his stewardship. A boy called Jake said players were more important than managers and nominated Wayne Rooney for individual flair. Mr. Quinn was looking around the room. To be educational about it, football was not taking him where he wanted to go. I put my hand up. He asked a girl.
"Don't know any footballers, sir."
"It doesn't have to be a footballer."
"Oh. Don't know, then, sir."
I used my other hand to hoist my hand up higher.
"Damian, who do you admire?"
By now, most of the others were into players versus managers.
I said, "St. Roch, sir."
The others stopped talking.
"Who does he play for?"
"No one, sir. He's a saint."
The others went back to football.
"He caught the plague and hid in the woods so he wouldn't infect anyone, and a dog came and fed him every day. Then he started to do miraculous cures and people came to see him -- hundreds of people -- in his hut in the woods. He was so worried about saying the wrong thing to someone that he didn't say a word for the last ten years of his life."
"We could do with a few like him in this class. Thank you, Damian."
"He's the patron saint of plague, cholera and skin complaints. While alive, he performed many wonders."
"Well, you learn something new."
He was looking for someone else now, but I was enjoying being excellent. Catherine of Alexandria (4th century) came to mind. "They wanted her to marry a king, but she said she was married to Christ. So they tried to crush her on a big wooden wheel, but it shattered into a thousand splinters -- huge sharp splinters -- which flew into the crowd, killing and blinding many bystanders."
"That's a bit harsh. Collateral damage, eh? Well, thank you, Damian."
By now everyone had stopped debating players versus managers. They were all listening to me.
"After that they chopped her head off. Which did kill her, but instead of blood, milk came spurting out of her neck. That was one of her wonders."
"Thank you, Damian."
"She's the patron saint of nurses, fireworks, wheel-makers and the town of Dunstable (Bedfordshire). The Catherine wheel is named after her. She's a virgin martyr. There are other great virgin martyrs. For instance, St. Sexburga of Ely (670700)."
Everyone started laughing. Everyone always laughs at that name. They probably laughed at it in 670700 too.
"Sexburga was Queen of Kent. She had four sisters, who all became saints. They were called -- "
Before I could say Ethelburga and Withburga, Mr. Quinn said, "Damian, I did say thank you."
He actually said thank you three times. If that doesn't make me excellent, I don't know what does.
I was also an artistic inspiration, as nearly all the boys painted pictures of the collateral damage at the execution of St. Catherine. There were a lot of fatal flying splinters and milk spurting out of necks. Jake painted Wayne Rooney, but he was the only one.Continues...
Excerpted from Millions by Boyce, Frank Cottrell Excerpted by permission.
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