Shane Meadows: ‘This is as scary a time as I can remember’

<span>Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer</span>
Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

There are two types of love: the one you chase and the one you earn. We all live for that first flush of love, but when you’ve had children with somebody, you start to grow old with them, and still really fancy them – it’s the golden ticket.

My childhood ambition was to get shot with an arrow. My dad was a long-distance lorry driver. When he came home on weekends, we’d watch westerns together. My dream was to be an extra who got shot, fell off a horse and got dragged along.

Work for yourself, not the bank manager. That’s my motto.

I hated hitting 50. I went weird for three months beforehand, like a grown-up Adrian Mole. Didn’t know where I fitted in the world, felt closer to death, worried about all the budget sausages I’ve eaten. The day after my birthday, a weight lifted. Now it’s nine years and nine months of happiness before the next nightmare.

The best advice I was ever given was to read Jimmy Boyle’s book A Sense Of Freedom. I was on a rocky road in my early teens and quite romanticised the idea of going to prison. That book made me realise becoming an artist was way cooler than scrapping and stealing.

Films are like school holidays. Summer holidays are special when you’re a kid. Whoever you were in July, somehow you’re a different person by September. Making a film is like that as an adult.

Deep-fried jam sandwiches were my childhood favourite. My mum worked three jobs, one of them in a chip shop. She never got any wages because I kept turning up to get fed. Some weeks she’d owe them money. They took deep-fried jam sandwiches off the menu because I was the only one who ever ordered them.

I’m massively soppy. Growing up, the films that resonated were Quadrophenia, Gregory’s Girl and P’Tang, Yang, Kipperbang. I was never a Hollywood romance guy. On a housing estate, looking up at the sky – that’s my kind of love.

Bob Hoskins introduced me to fine wine and steak. Before we made Twenty Four Seven, I went to see him in a West End play. I’d never been to London. I was Dick Whittington, carrying a bag of Dairylea sandwiches. Bob wasn’t pompous. He just took me out for dinner and said, “Order whatever you want and make sure you’re full as hell.”

My new period drama, The Gallows Pole, is set in the 1760s but feels all too relevant. Communities were forgotten, people were struggling on the breadline, driven to do desperate things. My wife’s a nutritionist and works with a local food bank. That hardship has returned over the past year. You can’t see the bottom of the pit. It’s as scary a time as I can remember.

Age 17, I thought I’d died and seen God. I was riding my motorbike, the engine cut out, a car hit me and I went through the windscreen. I came round in a black space and all I could see were white teeth smiling. I was like, “Shit, I’m dead!” but God was very kind and guided me back. Months later a copper smiled at me. They were the same teeth.

I’m a frustrated rock star. I was in a college band with Paddy Considine but I wasn’t a natural frontman and had to get drunk before going on-stage. One day, I saw my mate Gavin Clark [later of Sunhouse, Clayhill and UNKLE] playing acoustic guitar, went “Now that’s a proper musician” and gave up. It was like when I first saw Paddy act. I went, “I’m nowhere near that good”.

This Is England’s cast are a proper gang. They were kids when we made the first film. Now I’m going to their weddings and their kids’ christenings. The connection hasn’t faded. Hopefully it will last a lifetime.

The Gallows Pole launches at 9pm on Wednesday 31 May on BBC Two, with all episodes available immediately on iPlayer