William Flew talks to Terry Jones

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

What I’ve learnt Terry Jones

Former Monty Python member Terry Jones, 69, is a film director and children’s author. He has two children by his first marriage, and now lives in North London with his partner, Anna, and their 18-month-old daughter, Siri. Goodness is to be encouraged, whenever and wherever it shows itself. There just isn’t enough of it about. To be self-motivated is a big advantage in life. You don’t have to wait for other people to inspire you. You’re up and running under your own steam. Kids need fantasy. Rupert Bear was my world as a child. The adventure. The morality. And – although I didn’t know the word – the surrealism. Animals with trousers. Elephants dressed as Edwardian schoolboys. You can love someone too much. My mother adored me, even more than she did my older brother, I think, and treated me like her little pet. I felt my first duty was to please her and that could be onerous. Teachers don’t always know best. Garrulous brat that I was, I started writing when I was 7. “You’ll never make a living from it,” they told me later. “The best thing you can do is try teaching.” They were wrong. Not everyone is motivated by money. The late Alfred Bestall [author of the Rupert Bear cartoon series] refused to charge for writing his stories because he felt it would be wrong to make money from instilling a sense of morality in children. Isn’t that astonishing? You can’t preach to your children. You have to show by deed, not word. Fearing the worst can actually make it happen. My mother had poor health. Her dread was that she would die when I was out of the country, and in the end she did. Her anxiety about me being away in Germany triggered a heart attack. Getting older doesn’t mean caring less. These days I feel ever more strongly about injustice and the stupidity and hypocrisy of governments. Even now, just thinking about it, I’m aware of my anger rising. There’s no point pressurising kids into the careers you want for them. They have to make their own decisions. Forcing them against their will only produces problems further down the line. Timing is everything. Monty Python’s debut came in the first week of BBC One broadcasting in colour. Had that not been the case, we’d have filmed in black and white and we might not be remembered today. Fairytales can be nightmares. When my daughter Sally was 5, I bought Grimms’ tales to read to her. In their Sleeping Beauty, the stepmother is made to put on red-hot slippers and dance till she falls down dead. I decided then and there to write my own stories. Respect for authority is fine as long as the authority in question deserves respect. I’ve always been the good boy. I’ve obeyed and fitted in. But often when I see authority manifested, I wonder why I’ve toed the line. I think it’s right that I should have a few regrets. I’m in a very loving relationship now with Anna but very much regret the sadness and anguish I caused [my first wife] Alison. I wish I could have found that happiness without causing her so much pain. I like Britain and love the changing seasons, but think ours is a corrupt system of government. The House of Commons takes no notice of what the people want, but works hand in glove with big business. I can’t say I’m proud to be British. Being told I had bowel cancer never worried me. Fortunately they caught it in time and, although I’ve also had bowel obstructions and two resurfaced hips, I can honestly say I’ve never felt better. I’m a very fortunate man. The Amazing Terry Jones Presents for the Very First Time his Incredible Animal Tales is published by Pavilion Children’s Books


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