Why I like Jimmy McGovern

(In those days I was a Pointless ‘addict’ – for want of anything else. I used to say to people: Please come on Pointless with me. They’d say: That’s a TEERIBLE idea. And I’d say: Yes, I know it’s a terrible idea. I’m not completely daft… But it’s the only one I’ve got!)


Dear Jimmy McGovern,

You don’t know me. But amazingly enough we have the same agent! I wanted to write to you about Broken.

I had a stroke in 2013, and found I couldn’t write any more. I only wrote one line ‘creatively’ in 2014. A few sentences in 2015. And so on. Combined with brain damage, this (I saw at the time) made my life impossible, and I tried to kill myself. But of course I didn’t succeed.

When Broken was screened last July, I stayed up to watch it after my parents had gone to bed. It isn’t their thing. (By this stage I was living with them. My marriage had gone the way of my career.) In July I still thought about killing myself all the time. About 100 times a day. Only first I’d just watch this…

Well, I’m sure you’ve been told this before – but on the other hand you’re a writer, so you don’t get told it enough. Broken was FANTASTIC! It was all great, but episode 4 did it for me. I’d never seen Paula Malcolmson before. Everything about it. Sean Bean just saying ‘Please don’t do it’ over and over again. Her instructions about how to make dinner for her boys. Her giving away her clothes.

I’m ‘labile’ these days. Just thinking about it makes tears run down my face. Maybe it’s just professional jealousy, because I can’t believe you could just make it up. But it makes me wonder: what is the terrible thing that you’ve come back from? I know you started writing quite late. I think you went through something terrible, and survived, and now you cope with it. I don’t know if that’s right. Maybe you’re just brilliant! But just thinking of that as a possibility makes me able to go on.

Also, I saw you on Celebrity Pointless! I’m an addict. Every day at 5.15, it comes around. And by 6 it’s time for a drink… That you could write Broken and be on Pointless… Somehow that said it all.

Best wishes (I really mean it this time),

John Wrathall


Thanks for that fascinating letter, John. I notice it’s dated 16/2 but I got it only a day or so ago.

First of all, I’m sorry you’ve been through such a bloody awful time!

But I’m delighted you liked the Paula Malcolmson episode. She’s tremendous – as a woman and as an actor. So down to earth and full of humanity.

You start AFTER Pointless, I see. We start immediately THAT starts. 5-15. Large gin and tonics. Bliss.

Thanks, once again, for such a lovely, generous letter.



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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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