Full circle

You’re supposed to know when you’ve come full circle, you’re supposed to notice it happening.

And most of the time, I have. I can look very easily at how I was a Doctor Who fan as a child and now I write Doctor Who radio dramas. Actually, there’s a famous Doctor Who story from Tom Baker’s years called Full Circle and now I’ve worked alongside its writer, Andrew Smith.

Then there was Lou Grant, the television drama that is responsible for my becoming a writer. I watched it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the very names on the credits becoming as familiar to me as I understand football players are to sports fans. I haven’t completed that circle by now writing understatedly brilliant television drama, but once in a while those names on the credits are now names in my email inbox.

I can vividly see myself buying the new issue of Radio Times one week in 1996 when it announced it was going online with what would become radiotimes.com. I can vividly feel how I felt I’d missed a boat there, that I should’ve been involved somehow, that I wanted to be involved somehow. Shortly afterwards, I started working for them and Radio Times magazine plus radiotimes.com became probably my biggest single and consistent freelance writing gig throughout the 2000s.

Same thing with BBC Ceefax. I wrote for the teletext service on the Paramount Comedy Channel and was very glad to get to do it but really it was BBC Ceefax I was aiming for. Actually, I remember pranking my mother with a news story that looked like it was on Ceefax but I’d written up on a BBC Micro. (This was in the days of BBC Micros, it was before the day that pranking became a word. I was a rebel.) Not very many years later, I was leaving messages for my wife Angela Gallagher hidden in pages of the real Ceefax.


You knew there was a but.

Easily the biggest, most marked, most rattle-me-to-my-core full circle happened this week and I did not know until it was too late.

I ran a trio of writing workshops at Newman University. (My sister went there when it was Newman College. I thought that was the circle for the day.) It was at Newman and it was for the University but it was with school children. The university was recruiting, really. There was an open day, there was a tour and then three of us local writers each ran three of these workshop sessions.

There was an extra fun to this in that the school groups were divided into three and they each stayed in their room all morning, it was we writers who had to race around the campus. There was an extra eeek to this in that I’d run into a room that had just had a workshop run by storyteller Cat Weatherill or poet Alan Kurly McGeachie. Follow that, William.

I think I did. I know I had a good time, I hope the schoolkids did. At the end, when everyone was gathered in a lecture hall, I had a quick count and I reckon there were 100 kids. I think they were mainly from three or four schools and I hadn’t actually heard of any of those.


When it was all done and half the pupils had headed out on their guided tours of the campus, I was standing near some staff planning the next day.

And I saw the name of my school on the page.

My old school, the one I nearly named here but have spent so long decrying that a decent Google search and a bit of elbow grease could even build you up a picture of me libelling that place, allegedly.

Let me tell you quickly. I had fights at my school, not just fistfights with the other pupils but a political one with a member of staff whose oncoming nervous breakdown somehow made him want to have me kicked out. I had a careers lesson in which the teacher did not just laugh at my saying I wanted to write, he got the entire class to laugh with him. I should own up to having been a poor student, but this was a bad school and all I got from it were the kind of bruises that did help in journalism but let’s not give them any credit. And I also got a bucketful of embarrassing memories of just how much and just how many of my year I fancied, but fortunately that’s not the point here.

The point is that I’ve now visited a lot of schools as a writer and I have never come so close to my own one. They were going to be in Newman University the next day and I wasn’t. That was so close that I felt jolted.

So it was really more of a kick to hear “No, that’s today’s list”.

I turned to the students left and asked if any were from this school that again I just began typing the name of, you’ve got to stop me. But there were none. As I understand it, only a very few came from this place, it wasn’t one of the main schools who were there.


Without question, without doubt and unfortunately without knowing it, this week I taught some kids from my own school.

I’ve come full circle. I’m rather excited by this, I am certainly more than a little freaked. Maybe if I’d known it would happen, if I’d known it was happening, that would’ve been easier. But knowing I have done it and not being able to know which kids had been from there, it’s on that borderline between tantalising and disturbing. I’ll admit, since it’s just you and me here, that it did also make me feel old. It did also make me feel a bit strange. I’m wondering if this makes me square or loopy.


You’re supposed to know when you’ve come full circle, you’re supposed to notice it happening.



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