The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and the art of the snub.

I met Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, once, many years ago, when she still looked like a boy. I suppose, in certain ways, she still does. For those who don't know who she is (and that would be almost everyone outside the UK), Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is a former socialite newspaper columnist, a tv presenter and, unexpectedly, if you ask me, a model.

It is likely that Tara Palmer-Tomkinson remembers me as well as I remember her. You see, when we met I was going through my "Lord Valentine the Misplaced", phase. This was when I took it upon myself to bring live performance art, to various unsuspecting places, as an 18th century dandy, "Lord Valentine the Misplaced." It should be quite clear why he was "misplaced".

I had been invited to a nightclub event, by the organizer of the event, who happened to be acting as Romeo, in a show of Romeo and Juliet in which I was Friar Lawrence (I made him Mayo Irish, with a very thick accent. The problem with it was that casting directors who came, were so convinced by the accent, they thought I normally spoke that way, and was "unsuited" to more mainstream work!)

Without prior warning, I decided to turn up as Lord Valentine the Misplaced. It was quite a popular move with most people there, since I had many an animated conversation with the curious guests, about, just why, I was attired, as I was. The only person who didn't ask me a single thing, was Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. She sat at my table, opposite me, gazing over occasionally in silence, when she thought I wouldn't notice, as if somewhat put out that I had upstaged her.

The thing about Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was that I didn't have a clue who she was. I made a classic social error, when the girl next to me (who was almost bouncing with enthusiasm at her idea), said to the boyish girl, or was it girlish boy, opposite: "You have GOT to write about him!"

Apparently, the unspeaking one, was a writer. "Who is she?" I asked my new-found friend, in the next seat.

"THAT," she said, as if I had asked where Earth was, "is Tara Palmer-Tomkinson!"

She was simply amazed that I did not know who Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was.

I looked across at the woman opposite and found that I still did not recognize her. Perhaps I had spent too little time attending to her column in the Sunday Times. I knew, at least, that she wrote that.

I tried, then, to speak to Tara, but she tried her utmost not to speak back. She determined not to be impressed by anyone except herself. This was, in fact, the most impressive thing about her.

The evening passed, as evenings do, in a blur of misheard names and forgotten faces. By the end of it, I knew only one thing: who I was, for I had determinedly not drunk a thing with alcohol in it. It is, after all difficult enough to be an 18th century gentleman in a 20th century world, without being drunk with it. If I had gotten drunk enough I might have forgotten how I had ended up two centuries out of date in the first place. It was better to remain carefully aware of the facts of the situation.

That weekend, I opened the Sunday Times, at Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's page, with one thought in mind: if Tara Palmer Tomkinson were truly a journalist, who truly wrote of the most unusual events of the week, the most striking occurrences, she would undoubtedly have written of our encounter.

I scanned the article with care. It was, as usual, about little more than Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Nowhere was there a single mention of the 18th century gentleman, Lord Valentine the Misplaced, who had failed to recognize her. It had never occurred to her that it is quite impossible for an 18th century gentleman to recognize anyone in the 20th century at all - so she should not have been offended. She should, instead, have been charmed that I had endured so long to meet her.

So, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was not, as I had been led to believe, a journalist at all. She was just another writer about the self.

The funny thing about our meeting, from the point of view of what journalists are supposed to be about, is that there was a lot more to my presence there than she ever allowed herself to understand. Lord Valentine the Misplaced was not a casual manifestation of the 18th century, but a very meaningful piece of performance art. She never, however, inquired as to my purpose at all. How curious that is, for a "journalist" to be so incurious. No doubt, a lack of curiosity, must be a product of all that "breeding" (for those who don't know, she had a privileged upbringing on an estate in Hampshire).

In a way, it was pleasing that she did not write of me, for it could only mean one thing: that I had somehow "got" to her. She had been put out, by my existence, in a way, that, by not acknowledging my existence, in her column, she was, in a sense, forcefully acknowledging my existence. Had she been less put out, by me, she would, undoubtedly have written of the encounter.

So, thank you, Tara, for your silence: it was all the acknowledgement I needed. A snub from a snob is better than any accolade.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:01 PM 


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