In Crete, my eldest son swimming in the pool… He made friends with a little Greek girl who was in the next apartment… He was reading Charlie Higson’s The Enemy… We played backgammon in the café at Chania… Going for a long walk and finding a little hermit’s retreat, built into the rock. And later on the same walk, hearing rifle shots very near and running for our lives… My middle son, who wasn’t a very adventurous eater, compiling the ‘Rough Guide’ to Cretan meatballs, having them for every meal and rating them out of 10…

On the morning we were going to fly back, a volcano had erupted at Eyjafjallajökul in Iceland and filled the air with ash. We waited at the airport until the word came: no flights. A hotel on the outskirts of Heraklion was taken out of mothballs and put at the passengers’ disposal. But it wasn’t very nice. We were one family to one room. The swimming pool was green.

After one night, I reckoned the ash wouldn’t clear for some time, so I went exploring. While the kids watched a Dwayne Johnson movie in the foyer, I walked alone up the beach, working on the theory that sooner or later there’d be a better hotel. It was April and many were still shut. But far down the beach I could see deck chairs. A hotel was open…

I walked on and on. It seemed to be an optical illusion: it kept being just as far away. At last I got close – only to find: a river coming out onto the beach, between the hotel and me! By now I’d been walking at least an hour and I didn’t want to turn back. My family were depending on me. At least that’s what I told myself. I waded in, right up to my waist, and all the way across. I dried off on a deckchair. And then I went into the hotel and negotiated a rate, a day before the rest of the stranded passengers descended.

It was a 5-star hotel that was next to a cement works. But it was nice enough. My wife and the kids hung out by the pool, where my middle son cracked his head open on the side of the paddling pool and had to be sewn up. I worked. For 4 hours each morning I was transported to Botswana for a screenplay I was giving a last polish to…

Later, after I got home, I delivered said screenplay – only for the producers to go quiet. I thought about suing to get my last 3rd of the first-draft money; I looked into it. But apparently to sue someone in LA I’d have to have an LA lawyer and it didn’t seem worth the struggle. Another project came along and I forgot all about it.

This story has a happyish ending, though. Five years later, when I was 2 years post stroke, I got paid. The LA producers had teamed up with another set of British producers who wanted to tell exactly the same story – and it had been made. They used the other guy’s script – but I had to be paid, 5 years on, just to cross the ’t’s.

When I finally saw the film on tv, I thought they’d have been better off using mine. But Rosamund Pike wore some nice 40s dresses.


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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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