Wednesday, 31 August 2011
I wrote my very first blog in March 2006, sitting on a bench at the local park while my intrepid son performed scary stunts on his skateboard. Five years on, I’ve spent today doing pretty much the same thing. Well, my son’s a strapping 6ft 4 now and rides bikes instead of skateboards - but he still loves wheels, heights and the inexplicable thrill of jumping off a ramp into thin air.
In those days I used to stay and watch, ignoring his pleas that I was completely damaging his street-cred. He reckoned the older teenagers on skateboards, roller-blades and BMX bikes would laugh if they knew his mum was there so after a while I resorted to sitting 50 metres away and pretending I was nothing whatsoever to do with him.
In fact the teenagers I thought looked scary turned out to be the complete opposite. They were endlessly patient, offering my son advice on how to improve his skateboarding technique and teaching him tricks like how to twirl 360 degrees in mid-air before landing. They were such a close-knit bunch that when the brother of one of them died the whole gang rode their bikes behind the funeral cortege as a mark of respect. All dressed in black and riding in a slow, solemn procession to the church, it was one of the most moving tributes I’ve ever seen.
Today, with the holidays drawing to a close, my son was desperate to ride his new bike at Bugsboarding, a mountain boarding centre in the wilds of Gloucestershire. He’s spent half the summer building the bike from scratch – spoke by spoke in fact – and he wanted to put his gleaming new machine through its paces. This time round, he actually asked me to take pictures of him in action, a huge honour. And as I watched him whizz down the hills, leap high into the air and land elegantly on two wheels, I felt incredibly proud. Anxious, alarmed, terrified - but yes, proud too.
PS: You know the feeling when you really want to like something – and you just don’t? I’ve been longing to see One Day for months, ever since I heard David Nicholls talk about the film adaptation of his brilliant novel at the Oxford Literary Festival. It’s had mixed reviews – especially about Anne Hathaway’s casting and her very patchy Yorkshire accent – but lots of people on Twitter adored it. I didn't. Anne Hathaway wasn’t half as bad as the critics said but sadly she wasn't the complex, insecure Emma Morley we all loved in the book either.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
“If you’re after a brilliantly-written love story that never slides into sentimentality, David Nicholls’s One Day is just the ticket. Nicholls trained as an actor before switching to writing - his first novel, Starter for Ten, was made into a film starring James McAvoy and Rebecca Hall and he wrote the recent TV adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. His third novel is a funny ‘“will they, won’t they?’” romance tracing the relationship between university friends Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew on the same day each year for 20 years. I read this book in one delicious go and it did everything a novel should do. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me think. Don’t miss it.”
That’s what I wrote when I reviewed the hardback of One Day soon after it was published in 2009 – and I stand by every word. In the intervening years, the book has become a bestseller, largely through word of mouth. It’s sold 650,000 copies in the UK alone, been translated into 37 languages and the film version, adapted by Nicholls himself and starring Anne Hathaway (some One Day devotees aren’t convinced by her casting as the awkward, insecure Emma) and Jim Sturgess, is due out in the autumn.
In a giant, wind-buffeted marquee at the Oxford Literary Festival this week David Nicholls told a packed audience how he came to write One Day. He attended the same sixth form college as Colin Firth before going on to study English and drama at Bristol University. After eight years in the theatre, largely, he said, working as an understudy, he switched to writing screenplays and novels. Modest and self-deprecating, he claimed he wasn’t sure if “I gave up acting or it gave me up” and that the success of One Day, his third book, had come as a “huge surprise.” He found inspiration, he revealed, in a passage from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, an interest in looking at the way our lives change between the ages of 20 and 40 and a determination to write a "different" kind of love story.
More recently he’s been writing a screenplay of Great Expectations, his favourite novel, but he’s now begun to work on ideas for his eagerly-awaited fourth book. I, like thousands of other One Day fans, can’t wait.