“Well she’s not going to be making fucking tea or pealing fucking oranges.”
That was my introduction to Ian Simmons, via my uncle. I can’t actually confirm that Ian said anything of the sort but that was how it reached me. I was going to do work experience at GNW-TV on the condition that I pulled my weight. There would be no menial labour involved. I was going to do what every other intern did.
I was slightly afraid of Ian before I met him. All I knew was that he was the Head Writer, which sounded mysterious and vaguely threatening. Plus I had a second hand paraphrased (or invented) quote of him swearing about oranges.
Television is full of mentor figures. Lynda Day has Mr Sullivan, complete with his crosswords and that spectacular white suit he wears in Day Dreams. Horatio Hornblower has Captain (and then Admiral) Pelew, who constantly shoves him in the right direction, smiling knowingly when his back is turned. I love those characters, even more so now I know they can exist in real life.
Ian treated my like I was any other intern. I’m yet to see any other intern behave quite the way I did, following him around and asking an almost constant stream of questions. Being treated like an adult is a very big deal when you aren’t. I was thrown in the deep end big time and, despite swallowing quite a lot of water, I managed something akin to swimming. It made me realise that a world existed outside the small brick confides of school. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could do anything.
The Monday after work experience I had double Agriculture. When I was in Year 10 (as I then was) I had a teacher who was…slightly sexist. He wouldn’t let the girls use shovels and that kind of thing. On this particular Monday this attitude was thrown into sharp relief. That was the hardest thing about it all. Because not all the world is like TV-Land and not everyone is like Ian. Who’ll only treat you like an idiot when you behave like one and acknowledges that fifteen year olds are people too.
I think Ian recognised potential that I didn’t even know I had. I wouldn’t be where I was now if I wasn’t for his help and advice and endless patience. Ian is the person I emailed when my friends all ganged up on me for doing too well at school and when I had my first story published. He was the first person who ever told me I was a writer. On the days I want to give up, sometimes Ian’s name in my inbox is the thing that reminds that I‘m banging me head against walls for a reason.
He knows all this, because every now and again (usually around Christmas) I feel the need to tell him. I’m not sure why. I suppose because I’m occasionally overtaken by the weight of it all. By how insanely, incomprehensibly lucky I am. And because Lynda never openly thanked Mr Sullivan. Neither did Hornblower acknowledge Pelew with anything other than humbled smiles.