They leant Morrissey his languor. Completed Jarvis Cocker. And gifted your editor a headline. But scriptwriter and novelist Stephen Potts found them disappointing, at first – and we’re talking about… well, read on to find out.
What object are you writing about and what were your first thoughts when we told you?
1950s NHS glasses. My initial reaction was disappointment – had I been defined by my day job and age? – but seeing the possibility for play, I warmed to the task, especially when an obvious theme of duality emerged (looking through versus looking at). A famous old hymn gave me the title, again on the same theme (before versus after). And I was off.
What lost object from your own childhood would you like to own again, and why?
A pre-decimal penny, squashed flat after placing it on a train line. They normally squashed into an ellipse: I found this one, rotated it, squashed it again (now into a perfect circle) and found it a second time. Here was medal-shaped evidence of tenacity and imagination. I’d show it to my own kids now as evidence of foolhardy risk-taking.
Hop into my time machine and it will take you back to one specific hour of your childhood – where and when do you want to go, and why?
I was 11. Standing on a flood-damaged footbridge, I looked down to see the earth literally open up under my feet, and the remnants of the bridge crashed into the swirling water. Now I see how, but for a matter of inches, my life would have ended at that point. But I was blase then: could I have learnt from this?
Can you surprise me with one unusual fact about your childhood?
I won a Blue Peter badge for jumping on a pogo stick 1463 times. Soon afterwards Blue Peter had a kid in the studio, pogo jumping on live TV, who had only managed 947 jumps. I mean, not even 1000 jumps! I was outraged at the injustice, then told myself I could have gone longer but got bored. I never jumped again.
What’s the earliest thing you can remember writing?
A short story about mountaineers getting trapped in a blizzard, and their communication with base camp as the storm mounts. A teacher suggested I re-write it as a radio play, and for the first time I saw how form and content need to fit together. A lesson I tried to apply 40 years later, when my first radio drama was broadcast.