Given what we’ve been talking about, it comes as a surprise when Geoff Thompson declares: “I feel blessed.”
He has just been pouring his heart out about a traumatic childhood event which damaged him for life.
The BAFTA-winning writer was sexually abused at 12 by his martial arts teacher.
It took him decades to talk about his ordeal, even longer to come to terms with it and to forgive his abuser, who committed suicide before a court hearing.
But now he has turned his experiences into semi-autobiographical dramas. His play Fragile, which features one man talking about his abuse, is being staged in Birmingham next month.
And plans are under way for a feature film, Romans, starring Ray Winstone.
Geoff, 53, is a writer and self-defence instructor who holds a black belt in karate.
He first found success with his autobiography Watch My Back, which charted his journey from a factory worker to one of Coventry’s most feared nightclub bouncers.
It was turned into the 2008 film Clubbed, starring Colin Salmon, Maxine Peake and Mel Raido, which was filmed in Coventry and Birmingham and set in violent 1980s clubland.
Geoff’s first short film, Bouncer, starred Ray Winstone and was nominated for a BAFTA. He picked up the award for his next script, Brown Paper Bag.
Geoff, from Binley, confides: “I was sexually abused in a one-off incident. I was so traumatised by it, it had a massive effect on my life.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to bring shame to my door. I tried to tell a couple of people, who suggested it was all my fault, that I somehow led him on. That really confused me.
“After that I kept my mouth shut, leading all the rage, hatred, guilt and shame to build up.
“Years later, I started writing about it in Watch My Back. I realised that it had caused me to be massively insecure, to give me a fear of abandonment and psychotic jealousy.
“I had to confront my fear, which is why I became a bouncer.
“I was encouraged to get a response from people who said it had helped them tackle their own abuse.
“I wrote the short film Romans 12:20, released in 2008, about a bouncer who confronts his abuser, a priest, and forgives him.
“The weird thing was that I wrote how the priest then commits suicide – and shortly afterwards I found out my abuser had hung himself.
“The police had decided there wasn’t enough conclusive evidence to bring charges. But then four or five other people came forward from the 1970s and he was about to be brought to court when he killed himself.
“I felt sadness and compassion when I heard. There is no excuse for what he did, but I don’t want anyone to be in pain.
“I’d rather not name him as he still has family around and I don’t want to upset them.
“Like in Romans 12:20, I did manage to confront my abuser.
“I happened to find myself sitting next to him in a cafe. I was 42 but I immediately felt 12 again. I was very emotional and trembling.
“My first instinct was to run away, and then to hit him – I went through a period of wanting physical revenge, but I knew violence wasn’t the answer.
“I realised that to get him out of my mind, I had to forgive him. That doesn’t mean letting him off, but exorcising him from my mind and freeing myself.
“I told him ‘I want you to know, I forgive you’. He looked like a broken man. He put his hand out for me to shake and I did.
“I felt an overriding sense of love. It dissolved him, he completely lost all the power he had over me. I have found equanimity, I don’t have to live with the misery and I have a wonderful life now. I am married to the girl of my dreams, Sharon, and we have four children and four grandchildren.
“I am grateful for the path life took me on, as I wouldn’t be doing what I do now otherwise. I feel blessed.”
Romans 12:20 is the Biblical quotation: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
A production company plans to start filming the movie Romans in November.
Geoff says: “Ray Winstone, an old friend of mine, has agreed to play the lead. He loves the script and the challenging material.”
The stage play Fragile is much more pared down, an intense theatrical experience featuring just one man in a room.
It was first staged at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry 18 months ago and now comes to the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham, before a three-week run in Edinburgh, starring Coventry actor Nigel Francis.
“Fragile is about one man’s internal inquiry, sitting in a room talking to a tape recorder as he seeks closure,” explains Geoff.
“He is so damaged that he doesn’t trust anyone, he can only talk to a tape.
“It’s very honest, moving and beautiful. I’m very proud of it. I wouldn’t call it a piece of entertainment – the Belgrade audiences were weeping – but I think it’s cleansing rather than traumatic.
“My aim now is to help other people begin the healing by talking about their experiences. It’s the things we keep secret that make us ill.”
Geoff is heartened by the recent spate of court cases involving historical rape and sexual assault, some alleged to go back 50 years. Celebrities such as Stuart Hall and Max Clifford have been convicted after several women came forward with their claims.
“People should be brought to justice, everyone should have their day in court,” says Geoff.
“If we want to free ourselves from past traumas, we have to forgive. Carrying anger is toxic. But forgiveness doesn’t meant letting them off. Abusers should pay for their offences.
“It’s good that people now feel able to come forward about what happened to them.
“One brave person steps forward and that encourages others. I applaud anyone who has the courage to step up.”
* Fragile runs at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham from June 5-7. For tickets ring 0121 200 0946 or go to www.oldjointstock.co.uk .