Hardly a revelation to state how fleeting life is – and at times, how it can catch us out…
Unable to face the drive, yesterday I took a train from London to Manchester for a weekend of shows at The Comedy Store. It was a wise decision because something happened. Or more accurately, something recurred and stopped me in my tracks (not literally. The train didn’t stop.)
It felt fateful and anyone who has read my non-fiction will know how I like fate and can quickly romanticise over it and yesterday was no exception.
Because 17 years ago I took the same train for the same gigs and I recall being very anxious and probably because I was completely exhausted. Tom was four and our twins, Sam and Harry were just two. All full-on boys. A joyous but unrelenting hell at the same time.
On that journey, I received a phone call from my agent with the news that a publisher wanted my story, Only in America. I had been in a week earlier to pitch it and now they were offering me a two-book deal. In the life of DH – this was MASSIVE. It would become my first published novel - the best and worst thing of my career?
And so much has happened in the intervening years which I am reminded of on my journey yesterday, because I happen to be reading my screenplay of Only in America that I wrote after the novel was published and the rights were sold to BBC and to Hollywood.
And with me also yesterday is the novel itself. I hadn't intended to take it but Nikki insisted. It was just a story outline all those years ago and now I have the actual book to flick through and memories to recall also; bittersweet I have to say. I finish the screenplay and I open the novel. I smile because it is dedicated to Tom, Sam and Harry – with Paddy yet to arrive and surely the best thing to happen since.
Only in America has been an unmitigated success in my life and career. Relatively speaking anyway. The film version never got made. The book didn’t sell enough copies and my publisher sacked me but no matter, Only in America remains a triumph.
I am reprising the story now because Nikki has been in my ear for some time to do so. Anyone who has read Eclipsed, will know that Nikki always has the best ideas in the Holland family. Incidentally, I would never have written Eclipsed without Only in America.
On that journey all those years ago, after that phone call, my delusions consumed me. My imagination ran wild. I was going to become a worldwide author. A literary sensation with my books turned in to films. This would be my last journey to The Comedy Store in Manchester anyway…
And yet here I am. In Manchester. In Jury’s Inn. Doing The Comedy Store.
So where did it all go so wrong?
It didn’t. It went right and it’s just called life and once again, Nikki is right. Movies need a good story and Only in America is a great story. And because I couldn't get it made all those years ago doesn't negate this.
It remains a great story and now things are a little different because I am now Tom Holland's dad and this has got to make things easier, right?
We'll see and I am old and wise enough this time around to enjoy the journey cos there aint no destination people.
It's just life - so enjoy it.