I was given a copy of George Hook’s autobiography, ‘Time Added On’ a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fascinating read.
I didn’t know much about George Hook. I can’t say I had ever given him much thought. He was just there. He was there each afternoon doing his radio programme on Newstalk, a Dublin radio station, from 5-7 pm. He was there in the studio each time there was a rugby match on the television.
If someone had pressed me to comment on George Hook, I would have thought he come from a comfortable middle class family and had been university-educated. I remember listening to him on the car radio one evening last year at the time of the Bloomsday centenary, discussing James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ with a university professor.
It is remarkable, then, to read of Hook growing up in Cork in the 1940s and 50s, where there was a constant struggle to make ends meet; and to hear of him spending his years in business, ‘kiting’ cheques rushing to the bank by three o’clock each afternoon to lodge just enough money to keep the bank manager and creditors away for another day.
I’m not sure I particularly like George Hook; but, then he does say that if you read his book and think well of him, then he has failed in what he wanted to say; I won’t use the description he uses of himself! What I do feel is a sense of admiration for him. Listening to him on the radio, I no longer just hear an irascible, opinionated and pugnacious broadcaster; I also hear the voice of the little boy in growing up Cork with his mum and dad trying to make the best of things; I hear the voice of a man who drove the streets of Dublin each evening because he was afraid to go home in case his creditors caught up with him.
The best autobiographies are always by those people who have come through adversity. There is something about going through difficulties and having to struggle that can bring out the best in a person and make the story more interesting.
In the Bible past experiences of going astray and pain and struggle are formative to people’s faith. Paul writes to the Philippians, ‘But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ’.
I think Paul would have understood George Hook, and all who have similar stories.