I did not set out to do this but when I realised what I was up to, I did it anyway. I had a play staged last week – unusually, I also acted in it – and pretty much the entire idea flew out of my typing fingers once I’d stolen the first line.
Now, to be fair here, the play performed is something like the sixth draft and I think now that at least two of those were entire blank-page rewrites. But from draft 2 onwards, I knew what I wanted and it is at least in gigantic part because I could hear the characters and I knew what the first line would be.
The only trouble is that I appear to have waited four decades to use that first line. Here’s a ten-second clip that I present to you as evidence.
The first segment is from forty years ago: Lou Grant, episode 1, Cophouse by Leon Tokatyan which aired in America on 20 September 1977. I don’t know when I saw it here in the UK but probably 1978. Still, 40 years or 39, that line has stuck in my head for no apparent reason. I mean, Lou Grant was and is special, there are issues it raised and characters it had that I can trace my current opinions and beliefs to. But “Excuse me, that’s my desk, okay?” can’t be one of them.
The second segment is from last Saturday. In Time by me.
For completeness, let me say that the first segment of that clip shows Ed Asner, sitting, as Lou Grant, and Robert Walden as Joe Rossi wanting his desk back. The second shows Nadi Kemp-Sayfi, sitting, as Jemima and William Gallagher as David, wanting his desk back.
That’s me. Forty years on, I am a writer. And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise since it’s taken a fair bit of effort and work, but I’m also an actor. Maybe only this once. But I have acted alongside a real actor, I’ve acted alongside Nadi Kemp-Sayfi.
I don’t want to examine or think about how that happened because I’m afraid if I do, it won’t have done. Or that it somehow won’t have been the startling success it was.
But I tell you, it’s a Dear Diary moment. Thank you to Cucumber Writers for inviting me to join them for this one production.