Life On Mars and when Debbie met Liz Taylor


To Defy A King book cover So sad to hear about Liz Taylor's death last week – see below for a little tribute from me, with a treasured pic from when I was with the Young Shakespeare Company(!).

And following the fabulous tips from top author Elizabeth Chadwick in the last blog (including a competition to win a signed copy of award-winning novel 'To Defy A King'), I went off to get even more inspiration at a special weekend course up north – that's why I wasn't on air on Saturday and Sunday nights as usual!

OK so I never got to go to a campus uni! I stayed at home when I went to the London School of Economics, so it was with great pleasure that I experienced a little bit of campus 'life' last weekend at the York Writing Festival run by Writers' Workshop on the grounds of York Uni – we even stayed in the halls of residence. Never had en-suites in my day!

Debbie with Ashley Pharoah One of my absolute highlights of the weekend course was spending an afternoon with Ashley Pharoah – top screenwriter, and creator of the iconic series 'Life On Mars' and 'Ashes To Ashes'.

Seventies nostalgia

'Oh man! Look at those cavemen go'…
I don't know what it was about that series that captured everyone's imagination, but if you recall, 'Life On Mars', (named after the smash seventies record of course), was an amazing success when it hit our screens in '06. If you didn't see it, it might still be worth a rent if you get all nostalgic about the seventies – it focuses on a cop, Sam Tyler, who is transported back to 1973 after a car accident.

Is he dead, in a coma? Time travelling? We don't know. Well not till the end. But it captures that era so well, it makes you yearn for those triangular frozen 'Jubblies', 2p phone boxes, and flares and David Bowie music. OK forget the flares, after all they're just back in fashion again. But it's so clever the way it uses '70's references, music and styles. And political 'uncorrectness'. Anyway, advert over. As you can tell, I loved it!

Life On Mars CD Turns out the whole series took – guess how many years to make? EIGHT! Eight years! Eight years before it actually got made, Ashley and two of his mates from the industry had sat around working on new show concepts and thought the idea of a current day hi-tech, 'by-the-book' cop being back in strike-ridden, un-PC Britain, in a Bodie and Doyle/The Sweeney type police station would be an amazing idea!

Channel Four missed out on it; the top bods turning it down as a bad idea, even though the Head of Drama liked it so much. Ultimately the same guy went to the BBC, got it made with Kudos – who early on had only done small scale fishing films! – and the rest is history.

Now I've been on me scriptwriting courses before, but never listened to a real-life, bona-fide professional explaining his craft in blow-by-blow detail. So it was a joy to watch episode four all the way through and analyse it afterwards. OK so I'm a geek – but you knew that anyway, right?!

Another amazing fact for you – don't know if you realised, but the whole lot is shot from Sam Tyler's point of view. There are NO scenes where he's not in it. None. That's why – industry gossip – a third series never got made. It should have done, but John Simm opted out as it was such hard work and he had a young family back in London apparently.

Which all gave rise to a follow up series – 'Ashes To Ashes' – set in the '80's with a clever twist to how the main characters appear the same. Ashley and the team weren't quite ready to say goodbye to the Gene Hunt character so they made him even more funny and had another hit in 'Ashes To Ashes', thank goodness. Thank goodness for us, thank goodness for tens of thousands of soundtrack CD's, and thank goodness for the timely 80's shoulder-pads resurgence. Oh, and for Keeley Hawes' career!

Actually, I also loved 'Ashes To Ashes' but for completely different reasons – they were like two different series to me. What did you think?  Oh and there's a wonderful clip of outtakes on YouTube if you search 'Monastic Productions'! And if you're interested in scripts, if you go to Ashley's website,, you can even see some of the shooting scripts from 'Life On Mars', 'Ashes To Ashes', and other fab productions of his. Great inspiration and a cracking good read!

Ashes To Ashes cast and crew at the end of recording

Some of the cast and production team after the last scene of 'Ashes To Ashes' was filmed – from left to right: Matt Graham, Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Jane Featherstone (MD of Kudos Productions), Ashley Pharoah and Simon Crawford Collins (Kudos Productions)

Reading out my story – my TiFFT for March!
Another highlight of the York Festival last weekend for me was doing my reading – the first 500 words of my novel -  in the final of 'Authonomy Live' – the after-dinner competition where the final seven stood up in front of about three hundred people to read out their work! OMG. I may be happy with TV cameras but I was still sick with nerves about doing that!

OK, not quite sick – I did manage to eat dinner! – but I was glad I did it. Didn't win – was just chuffed to have been in top seven, and the reading by the winner Cicely was fab, all about a coming-of-age in a 1950's boarding school. She brought the house down! So without further ado, see below for paragraph one of my story, and I'm happy to announce that my TiFFT for March is doing Authonomy Live!

For those that don't know, it means 'Try it For the First Time' Club, and my offering for March 2011 is that nerve-wracking experience of reading a bit of my own story out in front of a room full of industry people! What's yours? (NB. Facebook group also available to join – search 'tifft' on Facebook!)

Anyway it all went well, and I got a few laughs, in the right places happily! And I had some lovely feedback – mostly from ladies saying the funny start of my love story made them smile! In case you're curious, at the bottom of the page is that first bit of my story – just remember I'm writing a Mills and Boon romance 'The Playboy Billionaire's Hawaiian Affair' (!!)

Student drama and a very important visitor

Debbie meeting Elizabeth Taylor One of my own earliest romances was with a chap called Mark Bannister – my second big relationship when I was late teens early twenties. I met him during uni in London, when I was in a play at the Old Vic, with the Young Shakespeare Company (sounded very grand but it really wasnt!).

I was Hermia in Midsummer Night's Dream, and he was my 'lover' Lysander. It was a fabulous experience to tread those hallowed boards – even if I was a fairly rubbish, fairly Cockney actress! ("Oi am amAY-ZED, and know not wot to sighee…").

Now to help with publicity the director, Laurie Ireland, invited a certain Elizabeth Taylor to come along for some pictures with all of us! She was in town performing in the 'Little Foxes' at the time. She was very gracious, posed for tons of photos, and several made the papers the next day. We were all absolutely chuffed to have met such a legend. This pic shows me shaking her hand, with pal Jane Purcell in the background (she's a writer now) next to Mark Bannister. I wonder what Mark's up to nowadays? Last heard of, fixing kitchens after a brief stint as an actor in Casualty or EastEnders or some such years ago!

Anyway, you know when you meet somebody and they just carry such a presence that everyone and everything around them just pales by comparison?  And everyone goes quiet and 'knows not what to say'? 🙂 That's what it was like being near such a screen legend as Elizabeth Taylor. Such a shame she's gone. One of the last true Hollywood icons, they said. And according to latest reports, one of the true romantics too – she was apparently buried with a letter from Richard Burton, which she'd kept on her bedside table for more than 20 years.

It was one he'd sent her just days before he died, which she'd kept from biographers and press for decades, apparently talking about true loves. Bless. Asked about whether he was her true love she reportedly said 'I married him twice didn't I?' And legend has it she was born with two rows of eyelashes, so much so that in her first early film, when she was about 8, Roddy McDowall a fellow child actor at the time recalls the director demanding she go have her mascara removed! No wonder she became a star. Still we can console ourselves with some of our fabulous cosmetics brands on QVC to make the most of our lashes, even if we've only got one layer, eh girls! Lol.

Our little stint at the Old Vic in '82 had a lot of ups and downs, but that visit was one of the highs – not just of that show, but of my brief acting 'career'! I stuck to presenting after I finished uni – best to leave the acting to the professionals I think!

Anyway hope you have a good week. I've got a fab weekend of products lined up! See you on the telly box!

Best wishes,

PS – don't forget to leave a comment and tell me what you think to the above – or the below! Or if you've got a lovely recollection about meeting somebody famous!

(PPS – here's the first bit of my novel – so far!!)

If throwing a mobile phone into the sea could take all her troubles away, then Sadie Turner would be a stone lighter, debt-free and not in the mood for killing somebody.

Well, one 'body' in particular– the one whining away into her ear right now about why he couldn't meet this month's alimony – OR have the girls at the weekend. Again. The useless, lying, cheating, no good, thieving…
"HELLO there? This one's not for sale I'm afraid", said a voice nearby. A deep voice.

Startled, Sadie swung round and fumbled the phone, nearly fulfilling her prophesy.

"Oh!… Hang on, there's… no, hang ON…" she told her caller, who didn't hang on, "…Ugh! I'll call you back another time." She looked up, face like thunder. "I'm sorry?"

"I said THIS yacht's not for sale. You need to go two berths further down, don't you?" The man was in the shadows but seemed to be gesturing towards her elbow.

Puzzled, Sadie hoisted her bulging handbag higher, forgetting about the shiny sales brochure tucked under her arm. It slid down and smacked onto the slats of the jetty. She bent over to retrieve it… slowly… and her ever so slightly-too-tight business suit pinched a little. Then removing her fake designer sunglasses she squinted up at him in the Mediterranean sun.

He stepped forward – he was tall – tall and lean. Attractive in a rugged sort of way – if you liked them rough and ready. And Sadie did. Thing is, no-one had told her pounding heart she was supposed to be on a 'Man-Ban'.
He was wearing shorts. Just shorts. All that stood between them was a pair of oily cut-offs and a spanner.

UH-ohhhh… The afternoon sun wasn't the only thing that was getting hot.


  1. Pauline Johnson April 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm -  Reply

    Debbie how lucky you were to meet Liz Taylor, she was truely a very beautifil women it is just a pity she could not have been happier in her love life,my week has been up and down have got a inflamation in my eye which has been very painful, so have been trotting back and forth between home and Guildford hospital,thank god pain has eased due to the many drops I have beeen using but the side effects seem to be making me feel low ,it cheers me up to read all your blogs,any idea when book will be finished?
    Love Pauline.

  2. Bobbie Carter April 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs, I really like the look of your novel, you must let us know when it is published. By the way you looked stunning in that black pompoos dress the other week, very classy.I love it when you are presenting as you are so normal. I am a similar colouring to you and also have your dirty laugh(unfortunately my African Grey copies it to a tee). Good luck with the book.
    Regards Bobbie

  3. debs f April 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm -  Reply

    Ooh Pauline there’s a question! My aim is to finish the SFD (as they call it!) by end of April. Then submit to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme by end of July. THat’s the plan!
    I do hope you’re feeling better!
    Thanks so much for your kind comments!
    best wishes

  4. Michelle Roberts April 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs, Your blog is such a good read, really ejoyed all the details about Elizabeth Taylor,gosh you really have done such a lot of interesting things in your life so far!!
    Your novel looks like a good read too! i’m going to Australia in November would make a good read for me on that long journey, come on girl get it finished!!!
    Just bathed four very dirty yorkshire terriers used my Aveda conditioner on them their coats have come up a treat and they smell divine( must keep them away from foxes poo)
    Still keeping up with the Yoga, although husband not as keen on the ball-room danceing have to nag him now to come with me.
    Look forward to seeing on the tv over the weekend.
    Take care
    Michelle N.Wales

  5. debs flint April 6, 2011 at 1:11 am -  Reply

    Bobbie – how funny that your parrot copies your laugh! I’d love to hear it – is there a clip on you tube anywhere?!If so I’ll feature it in my blog – the ‘debbie-flint-a-like’ laughs that are out there!
    Ta about the Pompoos – I wore it when I was away at the York festival for our ‘gala’ dinner night – felt very ‘poshe’!
    : – )

  6. debs flint April 6, 2011 at 1:14 am -  Reply

    Michelle – wish I had little dogs like your terriers sometimes! took Patch to Gracie’s swimming today – took blooming ages to dry them afterwards! lol.
    Glad you also like the look of the book – will do my best to get it ‘reader-ready by then! We’re in touch on facebook aren’t we? I’ll have to get a facebook group of would-be readers up and running! If so, want to join?

  7. Michelle Roberts April 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debbie, would love to join your face book reader club,hey that ultra sun tsv was fab great value.

  8. Caroline Jones April 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs,
    Let me know if you get a FB readers club going cos I would love to join! I agree with Michelle – my Ultrasun TSV has arrived today and I’m thrilled with it as it was such good value. Will be taking it with me for our weekend away in Grasmere on Friday and hoping that the sun will be out so that I can use it.
    Love Caz xxxx

  9. Bobbie Carter April 7, 2011 at 9:47 am -  Reply

    Hi Debs, I can’t send a clip of the parrot as he will not talk if he can see me. I have to be in the next room,I think he thinks I’m in the next tree lol. If he can see me he just sits there looking up at me like a baby waiting for me to teach him a new song or something to say. Mind you he is now begining to make up his own sentences from all the words he’s been taught,( including a few he’s just overheard oops!) I will try and tape him and send you a copy at QVC. It may take a while he seems to know when I’m taping and clams up.
    Love Bobbie

  10. debs flint April 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm -  Reply

    Caz, Michelle, will see if I can find you both on facebook and set the group up! Lol. Thanks for being interested – not sure if I’ll ever get anywhere with the novel writing but love doing it so that’s what matters at the mo!
    Will keep you informed on here too…
    Thanks girls!

  11. debs flint April 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm -  Reply

    Bobbie – your parrot sounds blinking hilarious! You know what you need? One of those Toshiba camcorders that begins recording when it picks up movement! maybe it’d work for sound too! hehe. Do try tho, I’d love to hear it!
    Thanks hon

  12. debs flint April 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm -  Reply

    Ps – Caz – I meant to say – further to your post on the Eliz Chadwick blog –
    – out of interest, Lindum Heritage are taking bookings again for their Stonehenge visit – the one where you get to go inside the stones – well worth it! I’ve half a mind to go again! : – )
    Check out their website for info and pricing – it’s mid September for three nights – I think it’s Lindum
    Best wishes
    ps my speed reading’s booked for 3rd May – it’ll be my TiFFT for May – just have to get a good one for April!

  13. Caroline Jones April 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs and thanks for the info re Stonehenge…it sounds great and I’m taking voluntary redundancy from work so finish on June 30th so hopefully can book for it…would be great to see you there too! Am thinking of taking up proof reading after I finish work and doing a writing course as well so will keep you posted!
    Thanks again for the info…will check it out tonight when I get home.
    Caz xxxx

  14. Bobbie Carter April 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs A tape recording of Alfie is winging it’s way to you.May even be there Friday or Saturday.
    Love Bobbie

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