I am currently out in a farmhouse in kent with a group of young writers who have been head-hunted by the BBC as being 'young' and 'promising' and sent out to do a week-long residential development course. From the first half of the email the BBC sent me, I thought I was being asked along as being 'young' and 'promising' as well, but in fact they wanted a 'working' and 'more experienced' writer to act in a 'mentoring capacity'.
Last year I was invited on exactly the same course on the 'young' and 'promising' ticket. Clearly in the space of twelve months I have become a grey-bearded and grizzly authority figure.
The groups on this course divide thusly: writers and BBC people. The writers' ages range from nineteen to twenty-four, which means that the oldest one is ten years younger than me.
Still, as a tribe, we shall stand shoulder to shoulder as writers, creative forces ranged against the uncaring and creatively stifling forces of the BBC, against whom I intent to arm my fellow writers with the tricks and ruses picked up on the battlefield of pitching rooms and meetings with uninterested Department Heads. In fact, I see myself in a modest sort of way as a leader: a bit like a young King Arthur. A few years after pulling the sword out of the stone, but before bezzie mate Lance started hanging out with Gwynnie just a little bit too much.
On the first afternoon, I wander out to the large tree under which the young promising writers are huddled, smoking in a young, promising way.
'All right?' I say, in a (to be honest) slightly Athurian timbre. Not too much, I don't want to over-awe them.
They all shrug. At the bottom of the garden appears a figure we haven't seen yet - a BBC executive, in her (at most) early forties.
'Who's that then?' I ask.
'One of Your Lot', a young, promising writer says.
I leave, quietly.
Later, I start hanging out with the BBC executives instead and we discuss property prices. I am much happier.