Jez Butterworth


With his doleful, day-dreamy, face and endearingly amiable way, it’s not easy to give Jez Butterworth a hard time.

But that doesn’t seem to stop people. 

I am just the latest, the latest in a long line of people – from his agent and some of the theatre’s most prestigious people to the bloke in the local sandwich shop. All of us demanding to know what he’s writing, whether he’s been working hard enough, and asking him whatever happened to his career. 

“I went in to the sandwich shop near where I used to live in Dean Street,” he laughs, with a soft air of resignation. “And the bloke asked me what I’d been up to. And when I said (enthusiastic, proud) ‘I’m doing this new film’, he just said (grumpy) ‘you don’t write any plays anymore !'”

Jez’s voice is gently protesting, theatrically wounded, but soft enough to show he can see why it’s amusing, if not necessarily justified. 

This, or variations of this, is what Jez Butterworth has been hearing for three years: why, after only one play – one of the most acclaimed, exciting, successful, plays for years – at the age of only 29, he has stopped writing plays. (If he had a pound for every time anyone asked him why he hadn’t written more plays, he probably wouldn’t need to.) 

Three years ago, when he was still only 26, ‘Mojo’ was the talk of the town, the first West End debut to appear on the main stage of the Royal Court since ‘Look Back In Anger’ and according to The Guardian’s Michael Billington its “most dazzling debut in years.”

Set in the late 1950s, Mojo unravels the rivalries of a Soho underworld as two firms manoeuvre for control of the lead character, a potential Billy Fury. 

“All the wasted nights of mediocrity seem to fade when you come across a play like ‘Mojo’,” said The Telegraph, while The Mail on Sunday’s correspondent described the “shivering feeling of knowing one day you will brag about having been at the opening night.” 

Comparisons rained in – from “Runyon gone rancid” to “Beckett on speed” and “makes David Mamet look like Enid Blyton” or “a cross between Harold Pinter and Quentin Tarantino.”

A string of honours followed, including the £5000 George Devine prize, a Critics’ Circle award, an Olivier, the Writers’ Guild New Writer of the Year, and more than one Most Promising Playwright title.

And since then ? Well, in terms of the theatre, nothing. 

Butterworth’s big mistake, it seemed, was writing such a good play in the first place, especially at such a young age. This was something he had seen coming even as it was happening, suggesting in one interview: “you can walk away from your failures but not your successes.” 

Prophetic words. ‘Mojo’ would not let him go. 

Having written and promoted the play, he co-wrote the screenplay and took on the task of casting, directing, and editing ‘Mojo: the movie.’

From the time he’d sat down to start writing, four years have gone by. Four years of ‘Mojo’, ‘Mojo’, ‘Mojo’… He had become The ‘Mojo’ Man. The time came when he would wake up and every day that faced him was the same. 

“It was like Groundhog Day !” he cries, in gentle disbelief that something so successful and desirable had turned into “a definite case of Answered Prayers.”

You start to wonder if he didn’t become so sick of it, sub-consciously he didn’t want to write another play. That it had just become a weight, an albatross, around his neck: the Mojo on his back. 

“I felt that really, really, keenly before,” he says with a sigh, before fumblingly trying to explain. “But I’ve actually got sort of plans. I’ve got things I want to do.”                                                                            


IT is the evening before Jez Butterworth leaves for a trip to Boston and we are sitting around waiting for his passport – not in the passport office in Petit France but a pub in Primrose Hill, where he has come to watch the football. 

We are discussing what the passport should say under ‘Occupation.’

Theoretically, of course, it should say ‘playwright’, although ‘screenwriter’ or ‘film director’ would look pretty good.

With a cast that includes Ewan Bremner, Ian Hart, and Harold Pinter he’s earned it. 

His chosen career was as an actor – appearing in ‘The Bill’ and two episodes of the dreadful sitcom ‘So Haunt Me.’ Before that he spent some time claiming Enterprise Allowance as an “ice-cream consultant” which would be…different.

Jez, for his part, hopes it will say ‘playwright’, although I can’t help pointing out ‘ex-playwright’ might be more appropriate. 

It’s hard for him to argue. He freely concedes he rarely even goes to the theatre these days and never goes near the Royal Court – “cos I haven’t written another play and I’m embarrassed to show my face !” 

In the end, he suspects for his principal occupation his passport will probably, literally, say nothing.

Whereas most young hotshots like to give the impression they are busy frantically, dynamically, taking the world by storm, Jez Butterworth is quite inclined to give the impression that doing nothing is actually what he does best. 

He does this so well, you can’t help wondering if his efforts to correct the impression left by previous profiles haven’t gone too far; into the realms of over-compensating. 

With ‘Mojo’ taking the town by storm, most of those profiles predictably went for the angle of the stellar talent, the hip city kid, writing about seedy Soho style.

Butterworth found himself appointed “the undisputed leader of the stage brat pack.” Newspaper profiles started opening with the dreaded phrase “Cool Britannia.” His beard became “designer stubble.” His eyebrows were compared to Noel Gallagher’s. Jez and his brother Tom were annointed “Britain’s answer to the Coen brothers.”

But here he is, hunched over his pint, big black eyes and black beard peeking out over a big black jumper – a soft bear of a man hiding inside baggy clothes, happily wasting the day away, more slacker than shooting star. 

When he was young, he states with classic slacker’s pride, he was in a band for two years without ever playing a gig. 

By the time the concept of food comes around – around 10pm – he orders the breakfast and another beer and recounts how Jeffrey Archer nearly ended his career. 

“I knew it was him as soon as I saw how he reacted to the fact he had nearly run me over,” he laughs. “You know, when he started shaking his fists at me!”

We picture the obituary. 

“Mojo Man Run Over By Archer.”

“I’d settle for that,” he says, seemingly delighted. 

He has just finished doing the trailer for ‘Mojo’ – thereby ensuring it “didn’t end up with that bloke with the really deep voice going: “in a world of change…!”

He is tickled to have discovered that in Italian, ‘Mojo’ means “appalling proposition” or, as he prefers to see it in this case, “dreadful two hours.” 

He’s so easy-going he seems to have forgotten he’s meant to be piling on the hype of himself as some sort of hot-shot – “the UK’s Tarantino”, laughing that with ‘Mojo’ being released in only a handful of cinemas, in the middle of the World Cup, “we’re getting our excuses in early.”

True, with the movie of ‘Mojo’ completed he is now about to direct his second feature, ‘Birthday Girl’, from a script he co-wrote with his brother Tom. 

But, as soon as the idea flickers through your mind, the impression of him as a preternaturally gifted, writer-turned-Renaissance Man, quickly disappears. 

Before he directed ‘Mojo’, he hadn’t even directed traffic. 

Ask him what the most surprising thing he’d learnt about directing and, without hesitation, he says: “how little sleep you get. It’s fucking knackering.”

“On the first day,” he recalls, more eagerly, “I managed to get the car I’d been given (to get around in) towed away. I went into the office in a real panic and they just said ‘we’ll get someone to get it.’ So I just enjoyed myself enormously from then on in.” 

This sets the tone for the way he wants to be, be seen.  

He got a 2.1 in English at Cambridge, but always reiterates his assertion that he didn’t work very hard, by claiming that while he was there “I hardly read a thing.”

At the peak of his success at the Royal Court, he would tell the broadsheets’ Arts correspondents that he had never seen any Pinter or directed anyone else’s work, but preferred to see theatre as “writing bits and pieces and performing them with your mates for three hundred quid.” 

One of these performances – a bizarre adaptation of the slackers’ manual, Katherine Whitehorn’s ‘Cooking In A Bedsitter’ – got some attention at the Edinburgh Festival but the last time he went up there the only thing he managed to see was Hearts versus Rangers. 

“It just seemed like the better option,” he laughs gently. “The thing about theatre is…” he begins, relishing the effect, “I think there’s an enormous chance of having a terrible time. A terrible film is fun. A terrible play is just excruciatingly embarrassing !”

He seems remarkably jovial about all of this – for a playwright – practically chuffed at how difficult the challenge of writing a decent play is. (Or at least would be if he were taking it on.)

When it comes to the question of what he actually does instead  – what he actually does all day – he proves endearingly evasive, taking the impression of indolence to almost unparalleled extremes. Eventually, he says (with unusual enthusiasm) that he “likes making a list of five or six things to do that day, and then not doing any of them.” 

This, of course, seems unlikely, considering that he has actually done so much. But then when I suggest that this really doesn’t count and push him harder, he says he buys records and “sits around with my mates listening to them. That’s what I’ve been doing this year.”

Oh, and he’s getting into fishing, which I point out, was pretty much devised as a way of wasting the day.

“Yeah, it’s great !” he grins. 


SUCH relish for having the luxury of idle inactivity seems to stem from his childhood in St.Albans, where he grew up in a lively, crowded, household, the fourth of five children. 

He shared a room with three brothers, really bonding with his brother Tom when their Dad built them a room in the garage. 

His brother has always been his mentor – in particular passing on books he knew he would like. Having messed up his O-levels, it was seeing Tom doing a play at Cambridge that inspired Jez to go the same way, even living in his old rooms. Even now, Jez says rather sweetly, he doesn’t like a day to go by without seeing his brother at some time. 

After Cambridge, with no money and no work, he reluctantly “pulled the one string the family had” and got a job as an office trainee at the McCann Erikson advertising agency – a year which not only enabled him to blag his way through an Enterprise Allowance interview talking about ice-cream but got him writing in earnest, in the evenings after work.

Both his mother and his father (a lorry driver, a trade union rep, and eventually economics lecturer) supported his bid to be a writer and when he got a £100 commission to write a treatment for the BBC, he went in to work and “rather theatrically resigned.”

A couple of projects for television – ‘The Census Man’ and a1993 Carlton commission ‘The Night of the Golden Brain’ (about a pub quiz) – resulted. 

The best of them though was ‘Christmas’, a sort of younger brother to ‘Mojo’, a kind of Kings Cross homage to ‘Goodfellas’ with wise-cracking, sartorially-minded, villains and tormented fraternal relations out of their depth in a small league London protection racket. The combination of sharp-suited shootings and Ronettes’ soundtrack started the Tarantino comparisons rolling. 

All of which rather confirms the idea that genuine idleness invariably requires a lot of hard work. Butterworth’s way of combining the two – with a work ethic built on a reluctant spur of apathy and boredom – almost borders on genius.

‘Mojo’ – the play and the screenplay – were written by secluding himself away in a village well away from London, seemingly on the basis that if there’s nothing else to do, you might as well do some work.

Even then, it took him a year to write ‘Mojo’ and another year for him and his brother to do the screenplay.

“You know how in Olympic diving,” he says beginning an obviously well-practiced argument, ‘things are judged for ‘Degree of Difficulty’? Well that’s the way I like to look at this too. Whether or not the dive came off, I think with ‘Mojo’, I was attempting something with quite a few pikes.” 

To be fair to him, this is true. 

‘Mojo’ was startlingly, rivetingly, original – so much so that every time you thought you had worked out what it and its characters were like, it shifted. And the way it balanced between sharply stylised imagination and convincingly raw street realism, blending the patter of 50s Soho and 90s Everytown, was brilliant. 

His specific intention was to “have a go at a proper play – something that ran for an hour and then stopped and then ran for another hour and stopped.” 

Not that he would want anyone to think it had come easy. 

He spent so long doing the first ten pages, he says, he “began to feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining – finding new ways of setting out the first page.”

The title came to him before he totally understood what it meant. 

“It’s like a totem in a ecstatic ritual, something you focus all your desires upon. Which suited me fine.”

Set almost entirely in The Atlantic Club, in 1950s Soho, the totem in question is Silver Johnny (played by Hans Matheson), a sexually androgynous, sexually vulnerable, emergent rock ‘n’ roll sensation (Billy Fury meets Billy Corgan) who has been taken under the ostensibly avuncular, sexually abusive, wing of the club’s owner Ezra (Ricky Tomlinson), who sees him as his ticket to the big-time. 

The club is run by the fast-talking, pill-popping, sharp-suited trio Potts, Sweets, and Skinny Luke under the fraternal guiding eyes of Mickey (Ian Hart). 

When local villain/entrepreneur Sam Ross (played with menacing relish by Harold Pinter) moves in on Silver Johnny (professionally and sexually), nerves and loyalties are tested and legs broken, ending up sawn off and dumped in separate dustbins.

“There’s nothing like someone cutting your Dad in two to clear the mind,” as one of them puts it. 

At this point, having flitted round the club like a junior superstar starring in his own movie, Ezra’s son Baby (Aidan Gillen) sets about resolving the brutality and betrayals the gang’s desire (in various ways) to take possession of their star singer. 

Violence (physical and sexual) afflicts them all. One character bleeds slowly to death, which along with the set and the gangsters’ siege has inspired the parallels with Reservoir Dogs. 

But the way violence eventually pervades even the more sexually ambivalent characters is more evocative of Nicolas Roeg’s Mick Jagger movie ‘Performance.’ Especially in scenes such as one of Ross’s henchmen, naked, selecting a hacksaw and then pulling a dead body into a car-pit, like a lion dragging a carcass.

“There’s this whole British thing where people really just want to know who you copied your homework off,” Butterworth complains. “Tarantino says he finds violence funny – that explains everything he does.”

You could say ‘Mojo’ was a cross between Mamet and Morrissey, although it’s significant that asked about his heroes and influences, the first name he says is Tom, his brother.

‘Mojo’ and ‘Christmas’ are both about fraternal and paternal love (real or imagined) plus the conflict that results when they are tainted by self-interest. 

“One of the staples of drama that I twigged fairly early on is the idea of surrogacy. You have real models which are insufficient and so the surrogate models are much more powerful. But when one is challenged by the other, and you have to make a choice, then that’s when it gets really interesting.”

The violence that Pinter’s character unleashes forces all The Atlantic mob’s characters to find an identity in response (either actual or acted out). 

In this way, ‘Mojo’ is certainly at least in part about What It Is To Be A Man, which with seven men jostling for control of one (male) object of desire, again inevitably drew comparisons with Mamet and Tarantino, although Baby and Silver Johnny are more androgynous, and interesting, than either of those are renowned for. 

That said, the moral seems to be that individuals such as these are fundamentally isolated from overtly male company, at the same time as requiring it to protect them – and vulnerable to it. 

The role Tarantino gave himself in ‘Pulp Fiction’ confirms that the main difference between Butterworth and Tarantino is Tarantino thinks hanging round with hoodlums is cool. 

In both ‘Mojo’ and ‘Christmas’, the sense of threat is less superficial and more chilling than Tarantino’s work because Butterworth is more interested in the horrible reality of what it would be like for someone like us to be caught up with that world when things start going wrong.

Not that he necessarily knows, or ever wants to. 

The contradiction between his background (St. Albans, Cambridge University, the theatre) and ‘Mojo’s environs (London, a Soho nightclub, the criminal fraternity) had some critics mystified. 

But in fact, in an age where, writers, and artists are obsessed with observation and authenticity, Jez’s explanation about where his characters come from is positively old-fashioned.  

“I made them up,” he says simply. “Baby was just a character I wanted to see. ‘Mojo’ is full of things that are enormously close to me but, Christ, I can come up with more interesting models of them than my own life.”

“Having spent a whole year, sitting out in the country going ‘I’ll show them’,” as he puts it, he felt “quite chuffed” when the acclaim started raining in.

After all, on opening night he and the Royal Court’s artistic director Stephen Daldry had opened a bottle of champagne and drunk to its demise. 

But even as he was enjoying his moment of triumph, he got a taste of what was to come.  

“I met all the people running London’s theatres,” he recalls. “But the first thing they asked was ‘what else have you got ?’ And you have to go: ‘well, um, nothing…’ cos you’ve spent the whole summer having a laugh.”


HAVING earned such a glowing reputation, you might think taking on the challenge of directing the film version might seem something of a poisoned chalice but not a bit of it. 

“I thought it was fucking great !” Butterworth beams. “It’s the classic writer’s thing: you’re worried they’re just gonna fuck it up if someone else does it. So you want to see if you can fuck it up better.” 

The first thing he did was use the task in hand as an excuse to watch all his favourite films again. From films that weren’t ever likely to influence him (‘Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid’, ‘Some Like It Hot’, ‘Jaws’) to the ones that obviously have (Cassavetes’ ‘Shadows’, ‘Raging Bull’, Nic Roeg.)

The option of making the film simply a performance of the play – like Paul Newman’s version of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ or ‘Glenngarry Glenn Ross’ – was discarded on the grounds “it becomes a play behind glass – a stuffed bird.” 

“I think the people involved were bright enough to realise that a successful play will probably make quite a bad film.”
Having spent so long writing it he and his brother immediately threw 60% of the play away for the screenplay, crucially deciding to bring Ezra and Sam Ross to the fore.

“When I was writing the play, I was really surprised that we were never going to see Ezra and Sam Ross. It was a complete shock to me.”

The similarities and differences between the stage version and the film are hard to capture but Jez’s version (that “it’s like two people you know who are both called John”) is as clever as any.

Personally speaking, not being a great fan of the theatre, the film seems more detailed, more human and real. And the more you talk to him, the more you begin to suspect he might agree. In fact, you begin to wonder whether he’s ever going to back to plays ever again.

“The dilemmas are better explained in the film. Mickey’s guilt and Baby’s pain – essentially silent things – are there to be observed. I think sometimes the meanings in the play got buried underneath the talk. At times I was throwing so much confetti, you couldn’t see who was getting married….”

Proof he can still come up with a nice turn of phrase when he wants to…

Ironically, the most compelling scene in the film (a painfully protracted one-to-one when Pinter’s gangster making his move on the shivering singer) was not even in the play. It’s also one of the most theatrical – so tangible and tense, we could be sitting right there in front of them, in the audience. 

“‘Ere ! Do you wanna call your mum ?” Pinter sniffs, sounding like John Binden or one of Edward Fox’s thugs from ‘Performance’, and then slipping his hand down Hans Matheson’s shirt. “Slap & tickle eh ?” he letches. “What are you ? Tickles or slaps, eh ?”

“When I wrote it, I just went … ugh ! (shudders). That’s horrible.”

In fact, Pinter steals the whole movie slipping into the role of Ross with consummate authority, and delivering lines like “give me the gun. Now fuck off” as if he had been saying them all his life. 

“He couldn’t wait to get out there,” Butterworth beams with obvious delight. “He definitely knew how to do it. He just liked the idea of someone who’s into playing games. I can’t imagine anyone else doing it now.”

“His play was on at the Royal Court upstairs when mine was on downstairs and I sent him the script. I went round his house and we talked for an hour or so, and that was it. The next time I saw him was on set.”

Butterworth’s inexperience as a director shows through, but although you could say the plotting, the pace, and visual style are at times quite uneven, in the end it actually adds to the film’s originality, more like ‘Performance’ than something as slick and superficial as ‘Shallow Grave.’

“A film these days will sell itself to you from the moment you first hear about it,” he says. “So when you set foot in the cinema, you already know what the feel of that film is. Some of them are like an hour and a half long trailers. I’ve come out of some films thinking, ‘that looked quite interesting, I’d quite like to go and see that.'”

With most films these days, the more you think about them, the less substance they have. The more you think about ‘Mojo’, the more complex and original it becomes. 

Whereas most films spell everything out, even deciding who the hero of ‘Mojo’ is proves elusive. (Anyone else would have settled for Silver Johnny or one of the gangsters.)

When Baby makes his (fabulous) entrance, Butterworth gives us so long to look at him, we have no choice but to start trying to work out what sort of person he’s going to be or what he’s going to do next. 

“He’s got this huge walk to somewhere where he doesn’t belong. And when he gets there, his dad slaps him in the face, so everything you had decided about it was in vain.” 

The ambiguities and subtleties were intentional (“like one of those dreams you keep coming back to”) and though the New York Times has already seen a parallel with ‘The Usual Suspect’, he is beginning to feel “it was a disastrous thing to have attempted.” 

He is already talking about the virtues of seeing it on video (“like a good album you can come back to it”) – not really the best way to hype your movie but an endearingly honest overview. 

Still, as far as some of the distributors and exhibitors were concerned, he laughs, all of these things meant that “apart from the projector breaking down it couldn’t be any worse ! They’re just people who think: ‘can we make a buck off this ?’ To which the answer is probably: no. They’re dead right.”

Rather than make films like ‘Mojo’, ‘Naked’, or ‘Nil By Mouth’, more and more it seems that since ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral’ the only way the British film industry has really improved is in learning how to make commercial fodder like ‘Shooting Fish’, ‘Sliding Doors’, and ‘Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence.’ 

“I did this talk at the BFI for the London Film Festival and they were all championing the idea that any film that doesn’t seek to seize Detroit by its balls has failed.”

Like Tarantino in America, it seems the main legacy ‘Trainspotting’ has had over here has been to create a pressure to produce imitations. 

Even though it was only made on a budget of £2.2m, the pressure to jazz ‘Mojo’ up Danny Boyle-style was considerable.

“There was actually an enormous amount of pressure to get Ewan McGregor,” he laughs. “There was one lovely script meeting where someone said ‘can’t you make it a bit more like Trainspotting’?”

The way Jez looks at it this means: “they want more running around and A bit more music.”

“Running around and music’s all very well,” he adds softly. “It’s lovely in fact. But that’s all some films are.” 


BY the time it came to editing the film, after three years of talking and thinking about them constantly, the characters in ‘Mojo’ were occupying his dreams.

“I started to feel it was getting like Richard O’Brien and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, thinking maybe this was going to be it.”

He has irrefutably become The ‘Mojo’ Man. 

Still, if the plans he had previously have been somewhat thwarted by the success, he says amiably, “I think a bit of thwarting does you no harm whatsoever. I think if I’d been left to my own devices, I could have come up with something truly bad as a follow-up.”

Of course, to come so far, so early – the first debut at the Royal Court since John Osbourne’s in 1956 – he must have been fairly driven, although he is reluctant to say, or decide, what by. Maybe he wanted to prove something to his mates, to his secret self, to impress his brother, or indeed step out of his shadow. 

Maybe it was just the slacker’s fear of getting a proper job that drove him on. 

“When I was at college, you could do plays and have all your mates there, but then that year working in that ad agency, when I wasn’t writing, was hell. It was really awful !” he says sounding (sweetly) surprised and softly appalled by the horror of office life. 

The success of ‘Mojo’ of course is keeping that fear, and that drive, at bay. 

But of course he is not quite the slacker he might appear or like to be. 

He has completed the script for ‘Birthday Girl’, a 

£ 3million budget movie scripted with Tom about a bank worker who sends off for a mail-order bride from Russia. Although admittedly it has taken three and a half years from the time it was commissioned.

“Its about desire again,” he says. “Desire between men and women rather than men and men.” 

He’s just come back from six weeks in Devon where, he says hopefully, he was actually “trying to work up a play”, only to get started on another film idea.

Besides that, he’s completed another screenplay called ‘Jerry Cole’ and is halfway through another called ‘Finally Happy.’ 

No plays though. 

“No,” he laughs. “I would really, really, dearly, love to do another one !” he pleads rather hopelessly. “But I mean, I’d like to go and visit me mum more too… I don’t think I’m unique in being lazy and ambitious at the same time.”

I push him and push him and push him.

Why hasn’t he done more ? Why does he find writing so difficult if he has already shown that he can do it ? What is the best way of writing more ? 

He takes it all very well, with the slightly weary, but well meaning, good humour of someone who has after all had a lot of practice. 

He admits he doesn’t know how other playwrights do it, especially his successor as winner of the George Devine award, Martin McDonagh, who has knocked out a play in eight days (“the swine”). 

He doesn’t really know many writers and knows no film directors at all. 

“This idea of a motorcycle gang of playwrights I was leading just doesn’t exist.”

He is trying to do it his own way; the best he can. 

Still the man in the sandwich shop or The Times’ reviewer who said the verve with which he dramatised the sub-world in ‘Mojo’ “makes you long to see his next play” might be concerned that his urgency to catch up is not what it could be. 

The artistic process is an elusive one, as we know. But not many people see it quite like Jez does. 

“You have about as much control over it as you do catching the flu,” he smiles, warming to his theme, explaining: “you can run around with your hair wet, in your underwear, in the cold. But you’re not necessarily going to catch it again. It’s about moments. So you wait and hope.”

In the end, of course, we’re giving him a hard time unnecessarily. He has, after all, already, at the age of 29, scripted and directed one of the sharpest, darkest, most complex, British films and written one of the best debut plays in decades. And that’s just for starters. 

“If you put it like that I suppose not,” he sighs.

Most of us have never done that. All Jez Butterworth has to do is do it again. 

Try to force him to choose between writing plays and making films and, naturally, he won’t.

“What would be nice, would be to be 45 and have done, like, six plays, a few films, and weigh less than 20 stone. What would really be nice would be to spend each year on something. Just manage to write something, just to be able to say, ‘I did that’.”

By now he is becoming positively enthusiastic. 

“To keep doing that would be a really nice life. To be setting off for the countryside again, and come up with, like a poem in a year….”

Just as it was going so well…