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Wednesday 11th December 2013

I finished the first draft of my script "Chedwood" this morning. Unusually I found the writing of this one pretty easy, my main problem had been finding the time to sit down and get on with it, but the characters already feel well-defined and it wasn't hard to work out what they would say and do in the given situations. I am very glad to have that out of the way before Christmas, though, of course, there may be some rewrites dependent on what other people think of it.

I am just suspicious as usually scripts are much harder work than this. It either means this is brilliant or terrible. But let's chuck it in the tombola and see if it gets picked out.

Tonight I went to the BFI to see David Baddiel introduce ET, a film that possibly surprisingly has inspired him. The 15 year old me would be disgusted. When this film came out in 1982 my friends boycotted it. As "punk" teenagers we saw it as commercialised sentimental crap, indicative of American culture overtaking our own. Of course none of us had seen the film, but we didn't need to see it to know that it was against everything that we believed in. At the time we were producing the scurrilous school magazine "Inkings" and one edition's cover was ET being beheaded with blood pouring from his wound and the statement "Something to smile about." (You can see it in the Headmaster's Son programme).

I recall my parents trying to trick me into going to the cinema with them, claiming they were just going to Weston-super-Mare for a shopping trip, but I smelled a rat and refused to go along. Like the Christians who would later picket Christ on a Bike I didn't need to see ET or have any idea of what happened in it to know that it was something I didn't want to be a part of. My group of friends had decided it was abhorrent and that was evidence enough for me. I wouldn't go with my family to enjoy this film together, but skulked at home, triumphant in my prejudice and rightness.

I think I have seen the film subsequently on TV (although most of it was unfamiliar to me tonight), but was glad to get the chance to see it on the big screen. I should probably have invited my family along so we could finally see it together. David had been similarly cynical when he'd seen the film in 1986 whilst on tour with the Cambridge Footlights (in those days if a film was popular they'd keep showing it for years) and had been moved to tears by the story of the love between a boy and a strange space gonk. I didn't cry tonight, but was impressed that in the 1980s a mainstream Hollywood film could be a little bit subversive, but mainly just have a properly constructed story. The special effects (as ropey as they now seem) were secondary to characterisation and plot. And I liked the fact that it's a film about aliens who are benign, rather than evil and that (spoiler alert) even the sinister figure of the man with the key-chain on his belt turns out to be helpful and beguiled rather than evil as you suspect. Drew Barrymore is particularly amazing in the film, though if the stories are to be believed she thought that ET was real as she filmed it. She did promise ET that she would be good and I am disappointed that she did not uphold that promise throughout her whole life.

Over thirty years have passed since the film was made and it's slightly mind-blowing to realise how much technology has moved on. If you were going to help ET phone home now then you'd have laptops and tablets and mobile phones to rip apart, but back then the most sophisticated home computer was a Speak n Spell. Luckily that proved enough to send the signal to the mother ship (though ET's shipmates surely knew where he or she or it was so I don't understand why they needed to be contacted).

The 15 year old me would probably have pretended not to like it (though I am utterly convinced I would have got caught up in it if I had allowed myself, if my friends weren't there to see me), but he was wrong. Not just to judge something that you haven't seen (which is the action of an idiot), but also because it's a solid film. It's quite Christmassy without being anything to do with Christmas. Though really, I guess, it should be an Easter film. And if Jesus had come to earth as a space gonk who occasionally dressed in women's clothing and liked eating Reece's Pieces then I think he'd be a lot more popular too.

And all those child actors now in their late 30s and 40s - horrible to think of the passage of time. Thank God I'm still 15. No, wait, my face! What happened to me? Nooooooooo!

And the team behind Me1 Vs Me2 snooker almost unanimously felt that they should pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. And that they should do that in the only way they knew how and the way they would have wanted by playing frame 40 of their contest. No one knows for sure if Nelson ever listened to Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker, but I think we can be pretty certain that if he did he would have wished it was going during his 27 years of captivity. Listening to this epic sporting competition would surely have made the days fly by. None of the Mes ever played Sun City, but on the other hand no black person has ever been invited to play along, so as always the podcast is conflicting. But we must pay our tribute as we know how and snooker is apt in so many ways. The black remained on the snooker board at the end. Let's say that is significant and meaningful. Even though it clearly isn't.

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