At the age of 95 in the midst of the Corona-virus emergency, John reflects on ‘Working From Home’
WORK at HOME seems to be the current slogan on the television and on the media generally. In fact, for more than sixty years, I always mostly worked at home.. I work now in one room created from the last house which once sheltered four of us. The walls are covered with photographs and cuttings taken from my voluminous files. I should know better than to let my ego include a number of awards, but they were hard earned and are a reminder. Many are of fictional families I created, and since almost all are no longer with us represent a kind of multiple bereavement.
My real family is now dispersed to various parts of the United Kingdom. Home is one room in which I live most of my life. “I am alone on this earth,” I had written after the death of my wife. This is true of the greater part of me. But I cannot ignore the content of the files which are distributed in no particular order in various parts of the house. They do not form any kind of ordered existence. They lay wherever I put them down when for no particular reason I have left them in file boxes. Or simply in drawers,, wherever was convenient. Some I must have destroyed.
I reach out now and pick up the nearest of the survivors. It is one of a pile of letters, and copies of letters which must have pleased me to prompt me to make a copy for no other particular purpose I can remember.
The sheet of A4 is headed UNITED NATIONS. It is a letter dated 1975 and is from the producer of United Nations television, dated 1975 and from their headquarters in New York. The writer, the producer of UNITED NATIONS TELEVISION has obviously just watched the last episode of A FAMILY AT WAR which was transmitted in the US at that time. Following a long chapter of praise of the serial it reads:
“They’ve been gone for good about two weeks now. While they were with us they constituted the single best television series it has been my good luck to view. Gushing fan letters are not exactly my forte, but as an American I’ve long been burning to tell you what a magnificent thing it is that you and your people accomplished for me. Among other things, some cliches about wartime Britain are laid to rest. Instead the nuances and ironies of “Britain’s finest hour “ are all there, intertwined with the universal melancholy of life in any era. “
There are other similar letters from various parts of the world, and various classes of people. The subjects are mostly pieces of work I have done over the years. They are a bit creased and grubby now, carelessly stored , and more or less on the same theme. Frankly I had forgotten I had them. The sky outside grows old and it becomes too dark to read more. As I sit with them scattered around me I remembered the kitchen table on which much of my early work was written. I remembered the faces of actors to whom I am greatly indebted; and others less so.
Roughly three years ago I responded to pressure from colleagues and others to write my autobiography. A proof copy has been circulated by my son to a variety of publishers listed in THE WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEAR BOOK, my agent of forty years having died shortly after I completed it.
No publisher or agent has yet appeared. Given choice, which is highly unlikely, the agent I would like is one who would agree with the late David Lean, who wrote of the writers pre-eminence in the field of drama. I try not to dwell too much on the characters of the entrepreneurs whose prostitution of talents they do not themselves possess lead to a pathetic triviality of the species, a culture dominated by dubious celebrity.