It’s been a busy few months, what with writing, voiceovers and keeping Poppy amused!
Having played ghosts a few times in my career, I have just written the foreword to the new AA book of Haunted Britain due to be published in September 2010. It's a very beautiful book, revealing the sites of nearly 200 ghosts throughout Britain. These ghosts have been detected in many of Britain’s historic buildings, stately homes and castles, its ancient inns, theatres, farmhouses and cottages. From the most famous ancient sites to lesser-known recently haunted buildings, each location has been painstakingly researched. Haunted Britain, written by Richard Jones (known in the UK on the History and Discovery Channels, BBC Breakfast News and ITV’s This Morning), reveals the compelling history behind every apparition and I urge you to look out for the book later this year. (The cover image shown here could be subject to change, I'm told.)
This strikes me as a good book for a new kind of holiday. For those who are tired of the flesh, here are the spirits of the past. And they really are amazing. They have stayed around certain places and only want to excite us. Are you interested in excitement? Of course we are.
I also had some new photos taken by a clever photographer based in Hastings Old Town. Oliver McNeil (Legend Photography) has two cave-like studios under the arches of the West Cliff funicular railway where he specializes in lovely fantasy pictures. Naturally as soon as he saw me his creative juices flowed and he did his black and white magic as in his picture opposite. In his little cave I tried to suggest mystery and joy, and I thought of sharing a glass of wine with the fans.
Then off we went to Rye in East Sussex where I leaned against old churches and old oak trees to feel young, and sat on benches near tombs of comedians long gone on the eternal tour to La Scala di Milano. Oliver is a good companion even early in the morning, and a fine photographer.
Photo shoots demand a setting to make them different from all other shoots, and we found one in an unusual antique shop in Rye called Strand House (01797 223007) where Keith Barnham specialises in theatrical artefacts and renovated theatre lights, all polished up and wired for stylish homes. The shop might be called “Keith's World." It is full of old Tat from yesteryear, and it is very desirable. In which way desirable? In anyway you like: to add style to your home or tart up a new restaurant, or even to give an old church some reason to go in! You might find it at Keith’s. Take the lobby of a modern hotel in downtown Tokyo, brilliantly designed, no expense spared but lacking that little touch of Tat to make the heart flutter - and even start a conversation - then go to Keith's shop and be tempted. Old black theatre lamps stripped to look silver, and modernised technically, are seriously attractive as staged by Keith.
An old jukebox in full working order allows you to time travel at the touch of a button (another of Oliver's pictures). Old sofas redolent of furious hurley-burley during foggy Edwardian nights are spread brazenly about the place. One chaise longue was particularly tasty to look at and instantly catapulted me back to a theatre box not far from Waterloo – the station, not the battlefield! I'll spare you the details save, to add that I made a full recovery and had no regrets or feelings of guilt. Not even when I found my initials scratched on the left inside leg of said Chaise Longue. Now there's a coincidence that could only happen at Keith's Shop!
My dog Poppy, my wife Sue and I went to look at our friend and neighbour’s new-born calves. Andy, the farmer, and his son Joss laughed at my jokes which made me full of good humour.
We threw sticks for Andy and Joss’s three collies, Nelly, Meg and Flirt. Poppy joined the fun, but she couldn’t beat the collies to the sticks. Nothing could be more common than new calves, or kittens, or babies of any kind, and yet we are amazed to see them. And what a pleasure to throw a stick and see three clever collies and one bemused lurcher scamper together.
These little incidents are so ordinary here in Sussex and yet I am filled with happiness to tell you about them.
Have a happy summer wherever you are!