Contents and introductions

70th birthday speech 2011

'National Grids' 2002

'Touring the Tour' 2003

'A Short Break' 2003

'Nowhere Fast' 2004

I'm not what anyone would call a prolific writer – indeed I seem to need some outside stimulus to take pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

For 'National Grids' the stimulus was more general than for any of the others. It was just the beginning of what has blossomed into the 'British identity' debate. It's entirely fictional except that many of the bits happened in different contexts and 'Tom' who did utter the first line of the piece, is based on an activist in NATFHE my union. The other characters are less definite in their provenance.

'Touring the Tour' With the approach of the centenary of the Tour de France in 2003 I had the notion of writing a piece, based on various trips Sue and I had done over the years in the Alps and the Pyrenees and other bits of France, which I would then try and sell to some periodical or other. But it grew and grew and was threatening to become a book – so I just dumped it on friends as a cheap Christmas present.

'A Short Break' Another cheap Christmas present. Here's what I told my victims at the time.

'A couple of months ago some friends had the whole party in stitches for what seemed like hours with an account of their holiday misfortunes. Having become reckless since retirement at the end of August – and having had quite a few glasses of wine, I opined that it would make a good short play – well farce really – and was challenged to make good my boast that I would have no trouble writing such a thing.

The result is the attached. Its only merit is that it is all true (given that since I wasn't present I've had to imagine most of the dialogue). The only 'artistic licence' taken is that Scene 2 actually happened not in Madrid but in Rome on a previous occasion.

It will not give Alan Ayckbourn, still less Tom Stoppard, sleepless nights – though Ernie Wise might have been be just a bit worried. Hope it gives you a few laughs. Oh, and if you think Bond-Pastor is an unlikely name, you should hear the real one.'

'Nowhere Fast' This was the result of another 'dare'. In this case it was the result of a conversation on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry during the Great Dieppe Trip. Discussing William Morris's News from Nowhere with, among others, David Lepper, we were speculating what a contemporary 'utopian' tale might be like. I decided I'd do a 'realist' version and this was the result.

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