Give Them Wings — An Autobiography by Paul Hodgson
A Personal Review by Rob Punton
Two people have asked me to write a review of Paul Hodgson’s autobiography Give Them Wings, one is the author; I am happy to oblige them both.
Below is a picture of Paul and me in 2014. I can’t give you a school picture our school did not go in for those.
When you read an autobiography, you tend to know something of the author and want to know more. In this case, it is no different, even though I first met this person over fifty years ago.
Paul and I became acquainted when he joined me at Percy Hedley School; we were placed into the same “family” of six boys and Miss Elsie Ferguson was given the difficult job of being our House Mother. An unfortunate woman — a theme that Paul would return to many years later in the title of his first film.
There is a saying about close friends that goes ‘brothers from different mothers’; well, we became ‘brothers from the same house-mother’. Some of the misadventures, misdemeanours, he mentions in his early chapters — I sat wheel to wheel with him in their operation. Some he led on, others I led.
For the next nine years we were as thick as thieves, if you excuse the phrase.
When we left school, we lost contact as we both struggled to make our mark on the world and gain our independence.
From the first pages of the book, it is obvious that there are two great loves in Paul’s life: the first being that of his mother; the second, a close second, being his love affair with Darlington Football Club.
Let me deal with the latter first. Even when a young boy Paul was a ardent Quaker fanatic. Not the religion (although he follows them religiously). If you remember the advert for milk where the young scouse lad proclaims “Accrington Stanley who are they!” — well, at our school, a chorus of “Darlington FC, who are they?” went up whenever he said he supported Darlo, but he never shrunk from his support.
After reading his book you will be able to pass a PhD on Darlington Football Club.
Paul must have criss-crossed the country numerous times over a lifetime to cheer on his beloved boys. However, a much more important function was to provide him with a number of strong, valuable friends who helped him overcome some hard times in his life, as well as achieve some highlights in same life.
I must have met his mum sometime during our shared school days, but however hard I try, I cannot summon up an image of her. Regardless, from the loving way Paul portrays her in his book, Mrs Alice Hodgson must have been a wonderful woman and a magnificent mother. Their relationship is a great model of how a mother son role should work. I’ll leave you to read the book to find out what I mean.
Both these loves were the reasons he never moved from his beloved hometown of Darlington.
Give Them Wings also deals with his struggles to find a career, which to his credit went from clerical work to filmmaker. How many people can claim such a CV regardless of being disabled or non-disabled?
His tales of his adventures around cared support and transition into direct payments and employing Personal Assistants are quite amazing and mirror my own experiences.
I must admit his charity works also amaze me: several sponsored walks raising lots of money for many good causes. I tip my hat to both Paul and to Paul’s best friend, Ian Carter, for their efforts. Ian must have had not only blistered feet from pushing his wheelchair for those many miles but also buzzing ears from Paul’s endless chatter.
I am happy to say that Facebook brought us back into contact and myself and my PA, Darren, were able to join Paul, Sean, and Ian for their first film premier “An Unfortunate Woman” in Darlington.
Darren and I were also lucky to be invited to attend Paul’s wedding to Jennifer in 2017. Where I gave an impromptu speech as Paul cringed behind me on his wedding table as I told everyone some school day tales. (I can never resist an audience).
As well as sharing some life experiences, Paul and I share a very dark sense of humour which individually and collectively has go us into trouble; thankfully, our shared quick wit can also get us out of trouble. I suppose that is one of the few things we did learn at Percy Hedley. This volume of work shows Paul’s lifelong trend for sticking his middle finger up at those doubters who didn’t believe he could succeed.
It is also a validation of his mum’s belief in her son’s potential. We must remember there are many parents out there with the spirit and determination of Alice Hodgson. We can only hope that this story can inspire those struggling in these hard times; regardless of your circumstances, with hope, determination and the correct support you can succeed — or as my mate Clenton would say you can thrive not just survive.
I strongly recommend you read this amazing book, which is well written, as well as being a ripping yarn. It tells how a boy turns into a man who stands firm, overcoming everything life can throw at you. A tale of family, friendship, and love.
Whoever gave Paul wings, no one can deny he took them and flew high, strong, and proud. Long may that continue.
Finally, it gives me great pride to be able to call Paul my friend and brother.
You can read more about our adventures in my blog posts about my school life. Chapter one here…
I talk a lot about Paul in this chapter
Below, I provide links to the GTW Productions website and their Facebook page; also the Amazon UK link where you can buy Give Them Wings. A great book. I urge to buy the book and, when the film comes out, go and see it.
GTW Productions website:
GTW Productions Facebook page:
Give Them Wings Amazon link:#socialChange #SpecialEducation #Robert #GiveThemWings #bookReview