I know why I like writing so much, I can create my own world, which only mentions Brexit and climate change when I want it to, not every five fucking seconds. I’m not trying to disparage what the eco gang are saying, but I do think it’s a bit disingenuous claiming that the Government are not doing anything. I remember walking four miles home from school in the smog, created by the belching chimneys of Bradford. Now no one mentions smog. I expect a lot of people in Bradford might happily accept a little smog if it meant the jobs came back. I don’t have the answer, but claiming that if you don’t stick yourself to the top of a tube or climb Big Ben then you don’t care is not only wrong but also patronising.
Anyway, back to the smog. You see I always quite liked it, but at 13 or 14 I hadn’t a clue what it might be doing to the environment. It was atmospheric and you could imagine all sorts of dastardly deeds being perpetrated and the felons managing easily to escape punishment as they slipped into the darkness and gloom. Great story fodder. The London fog has given rise to many a dark and gruesome tale. So walking home, trying to make sure you were going in the right direction – yes it was that dense – I would concoct many a story.
I’m not sure why I have this overwhelming desire to tell stories. There’s no real history in my family, except for my dad who did some amdrams before he went off to war and was a bit of a raconteur, although I doubt he ever realised that. My mother was an avid reader – something she encouraged in me. But I think the real reason was a combination of timing, luck and my desire not to go to Uni or University as it was called then. I’d been introduced to the West Riding Youth Theatre and I loved it. A mixture of improvisational and scripted work. Perfect. So I decided I wanted to be an actor. At the time drama school was the only visible route into that world. My headmaster at Hanson Grammar refused to give me a reference – he was never keen on me – but it didn’t stop me. Whilst at the Rose Bruford School of Speech and Drama I did write a few things, in those days always under a nom de plume. I wasn‘t ashamed of what I’d written, I just wanted an honest appraisal and I felt by detaching myself from the equation, I might get one. On leaving Rose Bruford’s I basically went straight into theatre as an actor. I continued to write various one act plays etc., but for no money. The first piece of work I actually got paid for was a pantomime at Chesterfield Civic Theatre and even then it didn’t go out with my name on it. This time no pseudonym on the script, just the name of the person I‘d written the panto for. Did I care? At the time – no and even now it doesn’t worry me, I was happy enough with the fifty quid. If the script had sold all over the world and the royalties were pouring in, then I might have been a bit pissed.
The slide into script writing was gradual and definitely not planned. As I say all the time “If you didn’t pay me to write, I’d still write, equally so, you can never pay me enough.” As I worked on TV shows as actor, a lot of sitcoms – Terry and June, The Liver Birds, No Place Like Home – I also did the odd piece of drama like Coronation Street, Stan Bairstow’s series Cost of Loving and a Play For Today Chance Of A Lifetime. I’d already started writing ideas for TV, but working in the world gave me more of an insight and also actual scripts to look at. At the time it was virtually impossible to get hold of TV and film scripts.
So I wrote and wrote scripts on spec, the loft is still full of rejected TV scripts. But I believe that’s how I learnt my trade, by actually writing. Which brings us back to one of my favourite sayings: Writers write … simple as that.