September 2000, just after my final interview for a prestigious and much coveted job as a film examiner for the British Board of Film Classification, I’m told that there would be a week to wait for news. Frustrating. So I took myself off to the Royal Academy of Art to visit an exhibition of Botticelli’s drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy – and the attendant circles of hell. I learned that the 7th circle was reserved for those who waste their talent. What talent was I wasting? Earlier that year, I had read my short story Jordan Meadows at the Hay Festival. OK, so I arranged the reading myself at the Hay fringe raising money for the charity I worked for. But it was well received. I decided to go home and revisit the story – honing and toning it, and starting work on another story – again based on fictionalised versions of children I’d known as a teacher in a children’s home 2 years previously. A week later, I am offered the job of film examiner: great, 5 years sitting in front of film scripts, with good story telling seeping into my psyche, and working on my own stuff at weekends.
It wasn’t like that. I hated the job, which left my mind too full of rubbish to write anything of my own. The mental energy I had left was reserved for my young son. Film censors are in their own circle of hell – at least this one was – and I resigned 6 months later. By 2010 I had published my first collection Fugues on a Funny Bone. One of the stories, Soho Square, was based on the BBFC, as was a play, Porn Crackers performed at the Hackney Empire in 2008. Circles of hell ‘indeed.’ But a job is a job, I don’t want to diss it, and it does important work – child protection work. It just wasn’t for me. If anyone wants a copy of Fugues on a Funny Bone order it at janwoolf.com