2013: Writer’s blog

BlogWk4Mon21Jan BlogWk6WedFeb6caravan BlogWk10TuesRoundhouse BlogApril26N BlogMay30 BlogWk26Friday Photo on 2013-10-03 at 10.23 #2 Photo on 2013-10-13 at 09.15 BlogTues17Deccapsule

Behold, a year in “selfies”, although taken with my laptop not my phone, and holding a variety of mugs in a variety of places, including my old bedroom at my Mum and Dad’s house, a dressing room at the Roundhouse, a dressing room in a car park in Glasgow and a hotel lounge in Cheltenham. Having this week parodied my gender once again and organised 2013 into a series of lists, how about a more considered review of the year? This time last December, I will have been glancing over my shoulder and bemoaning the loss of Word magazine. A year and half on from its demise, I can state that nothing has replaced it. What I can’t have known last Christmas is that I would stop being asked to deputise on 6 Music in 2013 and have thus spoken nary a word on the radio all year, apart from a couple of appearances on Front Row (for which I remain grateful). Maybe this is for the greater good. If I didn’t read out my weekly TV review in a little rectangle on the Guardian website, I would be a writer and a writer only. There’s something appealing to me about that, after more than 25 years of dabbling and failing to commit. Signing with Avalon in March 2012 helped to focus me on what I really want to do with my life: write scripts. (And edit other people’s.)

Pappy'sdoor

I think I’m right in saying that a year ago I had two comedy pilot scripts in development. One of those, Total Class for Channel 4, has since fallen by the wayside (I may as well name it now it’s dead). The other, for the BBC, has enjoyed a belated surge of energy with a top-level cast assembled around it with a view to a read-through for the broadcaster in the New Year. Fingers crossed for that. (The surviving script was commissioned at the same time as Total Class, but I’ve been working really hard on rewriting it from scratch.) In addition, I now have another sitcom in development, of which more presently, but which began life in February over a desk in the offices of production company The Comedy Unit in Glasgow when I was up to cameo in series one of Badults (which they produce and which I script edit). Below is a snapshot of Tom, Ben and Matthew aka Pappy’s, exec Gavin, me and producer Izzy at an early London session for series two of Badults, which is pretty much ready to shoot in early 2014. A very happy association for me. (Although I did the work in 2012, the first episode of Greg Davies’ Man Down for C4 also afforded me a script editor’s credit, which I was proud of when it went out. I also thought of the title.)

Badults2read11Oct

It’s been fantastic working on Badults (and appearing as “Andrew Collins” in series one, episode six) as it fulfills my desire to hang around with talented comedians – something I’ve always done – while essentially restricted to the backroom, which is where I feel most comfortable at my age. Anyway, fingers also crossed for what I’m calling “the Scottish sitcom”. The script now rests in the inbox of its commissioning editor – again, after rewrites; again, with a big name actor attached – and we await the thumb up or thumb down. It was ever thus, and will forever be. One can just about subsist “in development” but it’s a commission one dreams of.

To lose Word and 6 Music in less than two years has had quite an impact on my income at a time when money is an issue for all but the privately wealthy. (It was an eye-opener to discover this year that Virgin were more than happy to print an updated edition of my Billy Bragg book but did not have the funds to pay the author to actually write the new chapter.) There can’t be a soul reading this who isn’t affected by the continuing economic woes of austerity Britain. I can say without a doubt that I have never hated a sitting government as much as I hate David Cameron’s. It’s almost bracing.

Thatchercovers

When Thatcher died this year, I refrained from actually slipping on my dancing shoes, but it was sobering to remember a) how single minded and driven she was, and b) how fundamentally her free-market zeal changed this country. In Thatcherism’s place (she’d never have privatised the Royal Mail, remember), we have something potentially more terrifying: a bunch of self-serving, privately-educated, out-of-touch hereditary hoorays whose hatred of the poor and the weak and the old outstrips Thatcher’s. I don’t remember an issue that has made me so regularly angry as the dismantling of the welfare state, which continues apace and we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We are at the mercy of a political class with no empathy and barely any experience of ordinary life as it is lived by millions.

5206523594_60805d4fae

I do not wish to live in a country where food banks have to exist. Poisonous Tories like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey seem not just happy with the situation, they clearly think it’s the poor’s fault for having to swallow their pride and use food banks. There but for the grace of God, or circumstance, go any of us.

Daily_Mirror_2_5_2013StarRolf Daily_Mirror_11_5_2013Starstuart-hall-girl

The papers were full of ever more shocking headlines about celebrities and their alleged sexual misconduct (or in the case of Stuart Hall, no longer just alleged, as he pleaded guilty in April to the indecent assault of 13 girls aged between 9 and 17 years old, between 1967 and 1986). As with the Catholic priests before them, it seems all to have been about male power with these DJs, presenters and musicians. The crimes of Ian Watkins of Lostprophets struck a new low in November. If any good has come of all this, it’s the possibility that other victims will no longer remain silent.

Chris-Huhne

More perversion, but of the course of justice. As a Guardian reader not a contributor, I hereby protest the newspaper’s willing part in the rehabilitation of the sleazy liar Chris Huhne, whose columns it regularly and prominently prints, crediting him as a former cabinet minister and not as a convicted criminal.

BowieIsV&A

I didn’t get out as much as I might have liked this year. When one is watching the pennies, staying in and watching all that amazing telly that’s on seems a far wiser option. Holidays are for another epoch. However, the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A was a treat. So was a foreshortened trip to the Cheltenham Literature Festival, despite the rain. David Morrissey and Esther Freud’s evening for the charity Reprieve was the poshest thing I attended all year. The Edinburgh TV Festival was as reliable as ever: enjoyed seeing Kevin Spacey and Vince Gilligan live, and hosting Q&As with the Wrong Mans gang, Greg Davies and John Bishop, as well as catching Sarah Millican and Richard Herring’s latest shows. And to repeat the Wrong Mans experience at Bafta in London, this time with James Corden in attendance, was a cherry on a cake (splendid to meet Nick Moran, too). Professionally, it was a pleasure to interview Steve Coogan, Irvine Welsh, Judd Apatow and the World’s End triumverate for Radio Times.

ColinACgrab1c

While we’re in the approximate area of my profession, can I retroactively plant a tree to commemorate finally getting Simon Day’s character Colin on the actual telly? Common Ground was Baby Cow’s compendium for comic characters and Simon and I were chuffed to see Colin come to life, finally, even for ten minutes on Sky Atlantic, having previously written a 90-minute film about him for C4 and had it scrapped by an incoming exec back in 2006. (I wonder where I developed this thick skin?) I even had a cameo as a man walking past a bench, pictured above.

143mainfull2blur

As a writer I’ve been too busy for most of this year to blog as regularly as I used to. (I never even reviewed the Morrissey book or the end of Breaking Bad or Gravity.) But starting a new blog, Circles Of Life: The 143, was a tonic – and a healthy corrective to any ideas above my station I might have harboured: I may be “followed” by thousands on Twitter, but a mere hundred or so are interested enough to read my essays on the 143 best songs of all time. It really does feel like an exclusive little music-appreciation society, and I intend to plough on in 2014. I welcome your patronage.

I hate to sum a year up by saying it presented something of a holding pattern, but it did. Lots of groundwork was laid for potential growth in 2014. I’m grateful that circumstance has helped focus my ambition. And I’m grateful not to have had to use a food bank, or have my benefits slashed. All work is precarious, whether you’re in employment or self-employed. Telly Addict could go at any moment. Radio Times could do some sums and discover that it doesn’t need a Film Editor. The Scottish sitcom could be rejected, with compliments. But you must have faith.

They may not be in it at all, but we really are in it together.

And I was very pleased with my home baking, including the controversial grape muffins. Let us eat cake.

Muffins20JulLemonDrizzle2JunLemonGrapeMuffinsSep8

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9 thoughts on “2013: Writer’s blog

  1. I work in the NHS and the current situation wrought by Cameron and Co fills me with rage and despair.

    I will say no more, for if I do it will be rant that never ends.

    Happy new year:)

  2. Hello Andrew

    Just wanted to say thanks for your blog and the 143, which I’ve been enjoying – perhaps not least because I’d seldom have chosen the same tracks as you.

    I’m sorry that the producers at 6 Music have dropped you from their Johnny Dep list – although I’ve been pleased that they seem to be prioritising female presenters to cover when folks go away of late.

    I also want to thank you for something else, as the podcast for your show with Josie Long provided me with a way into 6 Music. I’d found the idea of a station which played the diverse range of music I like very appealing, but found the actual experience of it a bit unwelcoming, somehow – as though all the cool kids knew what to do, but they weren’t telling anyone new. I really appreciated your consistent positivity on that show, a certain naivety that Josie brought, and the general kindness of tone – which contrasted markedly with a self-referential, slightly smug tone which creeps in rather too often for my liking. (Although not very often on 6 Music, thankfully.)

    For me, you are at your best as a broadcaster when co-presenting, and since the sad demise of The Word podcast (which, heretically, I enjoyed more than the magazine) and exile from both 6 Music and 5 Live movie chat on Friday afternoons, I’ve missed having you in my headphones.

    with all good wishes for 2014
    Ash

    • Thanks for all your positive vibes. Much appreciated. I loved doing the things on the radio which you enjoyed, but times change, I guess. I’m an old man. Old men go out of fashion. (Except in scriptwriting, where age and experience are seen as good things!) Cheers. AC

  3. There are times in my otherwise fabulous life when due to shitty health I am forced to stay home and basically rest. Telly addict has been my compass, absolutely essential for hours and hours of meaningful enjoyable distraction. And I am only just getting into the music blog. Huge thanks!

  4. Happy New Year Andrew. Here’s to a succesfull 2014 for you.

    You remain one of the cleverest and wittiest writer’s out there, and through discovering your blog also one of the finest social commentators. Even if I disagree with you, you provoke enough thoughts for me to question my original thought.

    I first became aware of you through music so the emergence of the 143 is one of the highlights of the year. And hats off to the lady who started the spotify playlist.

    Keep up the good work .

    Neil

    • Thank you. That’s enormously gratifying. I must try and blog more regularly in 2014. I’d love to finish The 143 next year!

  5. Good luck for 2014, Andrew.

    I try to avoid “following” anything, so my reading of the 143 is selective. (Ultimately you don’t want to know what my top 143 songs are any more than I want to know what Mojo’s top 100 songs by Dylan are. Or The Dooleys.) But it’s a thing of beauty. Art for art’s sake is entirely justified, but if there’s the slightest ulterior motive then I wish you luck with that too.

    • No ulterior motive. I am long past the stage where I think anybody would publish my thoughts in a book! (Not when my own publisher wouldn’t pay me to update a book I’d already written.)

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