Only when the older boy uncurled from the floor and introduced himself as 'Adrian the editor' did the family reveal itself as something extraordinary. Adrian Lisle, 13, is in charge of a computer magazine with a circulation of 80,000; Alex, 11, is its letters editor; their parents, Robert and Joy, are the boys' employees.
Four months ago, Adrian told his father that he wanted to compete with the 50 or so computer magazines already on the market, by starting a new one 'for people who do not understand computer lingo'. Mr Lisle laughed; then looked at his own prospects. His property firm had recently collapsed and he was doing anything from taking part in car-boot sales to distributing mail-order catalogues. After some market research he decided: 'All right. Let's have a go.'
The first issue of Game Mania carried reviews, advice and information on hand-held games machines and home computers, written in simple language. Adrian and Alex wrote the articles; Mrs Lisle did the typing and telephone calls; Mr Lisle arranged the advertising and design.
Adrian predicted a circulation of about 30,000 at 95p each. The first issue sold 54,000 copies. 'The original idea was to persuade readers that if they bought our magazine, they could learn the computer lingo then go back to their regular magazine. Now we want the readers to buy ours and no one else's,' says Adrian.
The brothers earned pounds 100 each for the first issue. Mr Lisle reluctantly admits that he earned pounds 3,500. Since then the boys have brought out two more issues. Mr Lisle now has enough money to 'publish four more in the next four months'.
Alex says he is not really interested in how much money his father makes. He says Mr Lisle needs the profit to pay for the brothers' education and to 'bring us up'. The boys attend St Lawrence College, a local public school in Ramsgate, Kent, where fees for the two are pounds 3,500 a term. In time, Alex says, when the magazine 'goes glossy', he will take a salary increase. 'I'll use this money to pay for my own education. I want to be in control of my life.'
Mr Lisle looks on proudly and says: 'I want my kids to be two of the few children in Britain who paid for their own education from their own earnings, after tax.'
Both boys are dyslexic. Their parents sent them to private school because they feared they would not get proper attention in a state school. Alex says casually: 'Oh yes, I'm quite seriously dyslexic. I can hardly spell. But being dyslexic has only made me more determined.' Mr Lisle is dyslexic too. He also has a Birmingham accent. He says the combination has been lethal in his career and he does not want his children to suffer from similar prejudices.
While the two boys are out surprising the world with their initiative, both parents stay at home to do routine work. Away from the protective family unit, the boys appear lost. They sit in bedrooms decorated in an anonymous 'adult' way with king-size waterbeds and delicately flowered wallpaper. In acknowledgment of their 'child' status, Alex has a couple of stuffed animals on top of his cupboard; Adrian, two Madonna posters on the wall.
'My parents have always taught me that if I put my mind to something I can achieve anything,' says Alex, whose voice has not yet broken. 'Some of the people at school think my brother and I are a bit odd. Some friends ignore me, or suck up to me, or get jealous. Others don't care at all. I try not to talk about it because I get embarrassed a lot - I get embarrassed about everything in fact.
'I don't really regret setting up the magazine, but I have found that the enjoyment of playing computer games has worn off. It has become a job.
'Some of the letters are a bit hurtful too. One wrote to me saying: 'Answer this question you waist-less gob. If you don't correct my spelling I'll hit you.' They call me rude words too - like dickhead. I would like to put the letters in the magazine, but we are not allowed to put in rude words. So I show them to friends instead.'
Adrian, who looks and acts far older than his 13 years, has noticed that more girls than usual have been chasing after him since he started the magazine. 'They think it is cool to go out with someone who has been in the newspapers,' he says. 'Sometimes I feel lonely. Other times I feel I have lots of friends. But mostly I feel lonely. What satisfaction do I get? Well, I feel proud when I see the magazine, but I do find that I am less concerned about the look of it and more concerned about the money. If the magazine gets really big I don't want to carry on with it. I'll sell it. I wouldn't look back.'
Two or three hours later, Mr and Mrs Lisle are still watching the huge television. Adrian was curled up on the floor, silent and teenagery again. 'They are intelligent, aren't they?' is Mr Lisle's first question. 'We love to work in this family - career is everything,' he says. So what was he doing when he was 11 years old?
'Well, I suppose I would have spent my time playing football, swimming even. But I can't tell my kids what to do, can I? I'd have to lock them up on an island before I could lead their lives for them. They wouldn't be happy.'
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