Hey. I am starting to plan out a radio play, for BBC Radio 4. It’s a Christmas play. There’s no mad rush….. Christmas 2019.
Where will we all be by then? Brexit? Mr Trump? Putin? You, me? What will our mood be, I wonder? I’ll be 15 months older when it’s aired. Can’t write it with a cast in mind because no actor will know what he’ll be doing so far ahead.
But the story of Christmas is unchanging, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Just one teensy problem at the moment – when I proposed this play, five or six months ago, it had been inspired by a simple throw-away sentence as I listened to the age old story of the shepherds on the hillside. So I wrote a treatment and the BBC liked it and… Bob’s yer Uncle and Nellie’s yer Aunt ( I had three Aunty Nellies, one my Mum’s sister, one my Dad’s sister, one my Mum’s cousin. Gannon, Bourne and Shufflebottom. No jesting. All thin lipped and fearsome)
And here I am a few months later and the idea has gone phut. Flat as a pancake. So now, all I can do is pray and dream and brain storm until something else surfaces and then blag my way out of the old idea and into the new one, with the BBC barely (I hope) noticing.
It reminds me of a well known script writer, a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour and a bit of Maverick in his bones, who had a brilliant idea for a series, back when the BBC drama department was run by great enablers like George Faber and Ruth Caleb, and then Jane Tranter and Pippa Harris. He had a brief and enthusiastic chat , on the phone, giving them just the title, and they said “Come in and tell us about it” (that’s the way it was – have an idea, meet, enthuse, get a few words down… commission a script and within a few months if it had legs, you were away). So, being a Londoner, he got on a bus and headed towards Wood Lane, but half way there he realised that he had written nothing down and now he couldn’t remember a damn thing about it. No title, nothing. His mind was blank, It happens. Ideas are wisps of smoke, here , fading, going, shifting, going, going, gone. Well, the guy needed the work, he had a young family, so what was he to do? By the time he arrived at the old drama buildings on Wood Lane he had a completely new idea and he stormed into the meeting saying “Forget that one – forget it – it’s rubbish! I’ve got something much much better.” The ensuing series ran for about 5 years and it was fab.
Hutzpah. Writers need hutzpah.
If I could only remember where I left mine.