I’ve been waiting all week to tell you something but instead a completely different, pretty much entirely forgotten memory has come back. I’d vow to you that it was entirely forgotten, except that obviously I’ve remembered it.
It’s about a friend I had in school. I won’t name him, chiefly because I cannot quite grasp his name across all these years – but we fell out. I’m not sure when it was now. Fourth year of school? Fifth? No idea. Plus I’ve no clue what happened, though I suspect that’s not just because the chasm of time involved. I’ve a sense that didn’t know then, either. I remember it hurt. It was one of those where your friend is suddenly someone else’s friend instead, you know the thing.
But as I close my eyes, really squeeze them tight shut and try to remember his name or even just picture him, what I’m seeing instead is a Doctor Who book. For some reason, and who knows why, the closest thing I’ve got to a concrete memory is of his reading a Who book called Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks.
I hope he was a Doctor Who fan, that it wasn’t just the book he’d happened to pick up out of the school library. Because he should’ve stuck with me, kid. For this week I’m the one who got to make an obituary speech about Terrance Dicks at the Writers’ Guild Awards.
More than 200 of the UK’s finest writers watched me speak – and so did Terrance Dicks’s family. I’m not sure which made me more nervous, but his family being in the room, these writers, the sheer honour of talking at those awards and the unimaginable privilege of being the one to deliver this writer’s obituary, I was shaking before I started.
I’m relieved to tell you it went fine. Actually, solely since it’s you, I’ll tell you that it could not have gone one pixel better.
But if it was all the thinking about my own reading of Dicks’s novels back in the day that brought this old school friend to mind, this has coincidentally been a bit of a week for nostalgia all round. And not all of it good.
I’ve been watching Alan Plater’s 1990s episodes of Dalziel and Pascoe, remembering the stories he told me about its production, and getting weirdly sentimental about the days when mobile phones were bricks and there were still Dillons bookstores.
I’ve been reading one of Isaac Asimov’s books, The End of Eternity. When I was a schoolboy, I thought it and he were marvellous. It didn’t take much growing up for me to spot that Asimov writes like a schoolboy, but still the ideas in that book are tremendous. Unfortunately, this week I learned that Asimov used to go around snapping at the elastic on women’s bras. And reportedly rather than shaking some woman’s hand once, he shook her breast instead.
Cheers, Isaac. Made me queasy. I read your autobiography, I want to un-read it now.
Fortunately, though, there was one more thing this week. Something much nicer.
This week I can tell you of a 1970s legend whose reputation will never be tainted. He might have a world-size ego, but this time he earned it, he deserves to think this highly of himself.
At the Writers’ Guild Awards this Monday, I met and shook paws with Hartley Hare.
He presented the Best Children’s Television Award with his friends Nigel Plaskitt and Gail Renard. (Danger Mouse won, by the way. I punched the air when I found that out, I was so pleased.)
Anyway, follow me for a second. You know that at an awards show, there is a winner and there are runners-up. The presenter says who has been nominated before they read out the winner’s name, and they also say a little something about each show.
There was nothing different about how it was done at these awards, but it was in every way different for me because I wrote the descriptions of the children’s shows. I wrote the descriptions that Hartley Hare read out.
I have written dialogue for Hartley Hare. And I got to be the one to pay tribute to Terrance Dicks.
Take that, you Horror-of-Fang-Rock-schoolfriend-somebody thingy thing.