Newsletter October 2009

What a pleasure to hear that my adventures in Doctor Who encouraged a child to battle his dyslexia and go on to creative writing. My thanks to Simon of Kent and my apologies to Gavin Bollard in Australia. I ‘m sorry I disappointed you 30 odd years ago in Sydney. I remember very well the great turnout at Grace Brothers Store. As to my love of cats: I bow in awe towards Susan Conner from Virginia, USA who has 40 cats. Lawks! That’s an awful lot of loving going on over there. What of people who are allergic to cats? What a misfortune it must be to be allergic to beauty. My thanks to Jan Grokett from Florida who sent me such sweet poems all those years ago. She and her husband came to see me in London. I remember it well and enjoyed it.

Thanks for your kind comments on my portrayal of The Doctor. But really it was just me. The character is predictable in that he always wins and is also an alien albeit a benevolent alien. Well Tom Baker fitted half the bill for that and I did a “Turn” that rang a silver bell in the imaginations of so many children. And now after 30 years I’m still remembered by so many of those children. It makes me happy to have been a children’s hero. I’ll settle for that and never complain.

Today there are 23 blooms of Morning Glory clinging on to the pergola outside the kitchen window. They are so beautiful, enough to make one thoughtful: a heavenly blue. I got out the plant book and found a picture of it, and lo, it is called Heavenly Blue! Then to add to my joy and amazement I discover there are 500 species and I only know one. I was struck with melancholy to realise I shall never see them all. But next year I must get “INDICA” a deep deep purple (there’s a touch of the Archbishop in me), and also one called “Chocolate.” That may mean I’d like to be a chocolate-loving Archbishop.

My dog Poppy has eaten my spectacles, stolen my watch, eaten my pens and taken my slippers to the bonfire site, where overnight moisture and perhaps some other malign influence has rendered them unfit for feet. These small inconveniences I can bear with equanimity, but betrayal, never. Let me explain.

With Poppy  by one of my wigwams. © Sue Jerrard

With Poppy
by one of my wigwams. © Sue Jerrard

In my daily walks in the woods, in between building wigwams, slaughtering brambles and tripping over, I take great pleasure in seeing Poppy reading the daily news with her nose. Sometimes I see her pause in her sniffing, raise her head and look thoughtful. “Ah, a stag,” she might be thinking. And then she disappears off for half an hour or more. During the last 15 months I think I’ve got to know my dog pretty well. For instance, I know what she is saying. As I arrive home from work or shopping she is always waiting. She jumps up, bows very low and I think she keeps saying “What a guy! What a GUY!” And she does a little dance and whimpers again “What a Guy!” So when I was telling some friends how Poppy enjoys our walks in the woods, my complacency was shattered when my wife revealed that, while I’m striding about in the woods, Poppy sneaks back to the house in the hope of snaffling some kitten food and then has a lie down against the Aga! After a while Sue says, “Off you go! Find Tom!” And off she trots, taking a circular route so that she appears in front of me giving the impression she was ahead all the time. Cunning, eh? I asked Sue how long this had been going on: “Oh, about a year,” she said. A year! Oh, Poppy, how could you? And was I thinking that the dog was exploring the wildwood, feeling secure and fulfilled in her master’s company. Oh treachery, thy name is Poppy.

At last the temperature is falling and so are the flies. The expression “He wouldn’t kill a fly” does not apply to me. Oh, no. I detest them. The spray from the supermarket does not scare flies. They thrive on it. They waggle their wings in gratitude and even come closer. It seems to make them affectionate. This spray is obviously designed by fly lovers for fly lovers. I get my swat out as fast as I can. But I’m not quick enough in my flicks. The kitten, Bella, is quicker than I am and sometimes she gets one. I hear they are full of protein, like cockroaches. Wasps I also dislike, but spiders I spare and can pick them up and pop them out of the window. But as for the slugs. Ugh! If I put trays of Guinness out or perhaps Theakstons Old Peculiar, that kills them. Slugs love beer. Unfortunately so does the dog and she has no head for strong beer! It makes lurchers lurch even more than they should. So I sprinkle salt about the places where slugs might lurk. But that is more cruel than drowning them in beer. And I won’t go on about bluebottles, fleas or nits. Where do they all go in the winter?

I’m so besotted with the new kitten, Bella, that I don’t even hear the phone go. If I did I wouldn’t answer. She is four months of age and has become pals with Dombey, our red Burmese, who is twenty years old. She has also charmed Willomena our brown Burmese (who is ten). Her sister Florence is not yet sure about Bella (who is not Burmese) but we have hopes of friendship. Poppy chases Bella but she might as well try catching one of the dragonflies over the fishpond. I met a man in the village who lives alone apart from his three cats. They are all named after his children who are now grown up and gone. The cats are called Lamb, Tripe and Onions. “Unusual names,” I remarked. “Not really,” he replied, “You see I’m an agnostic.” I don’t quite see the connection either. After all cats are gods aren’t they? Or at least they think they are. As far as cats are concerned I’m quite an ancient Egyptian.

The American writer Johanna Angermeyer came to tea on Friday. She’s a charming and fascinating lady She spent many years in the Galapagos Islands and has written a beautiful book called “My Father’s Island.” I hope you’ll like it as much as I did.

I received greetings from Brisbane Doctor Who fan Club from their man Stephen who is in London. And so I return warm greetings to them. I spent a little while in Brisbane many years ago. I wrote about in my book “Who on Earth is Tom Baker”. You might find it amusing. Anyway all the best, and I hope you are all enjoying the wonderful work David Tennant has done for us all.

Michael Jayston (who was Czar Nicholas II in Nicholas and Alexandra when I played Rasputin) and I had a dozen oysters each in The Fish Kettle restaurant in Rye last week. I met Mike off the Brighton train and on the way to the Kettle, he glanced at my trousers in a meaningful way and said: “Would you describe those trousers as fashionable?” I think I shrigged, I mean shrugged, and pretended that the question had not lodged in what passes for my mind. But it had lodged there, firmly. Later I told my wife of this tiny incident in the hope she might laugh and say: “Who cares, you must wear what you like, darling.” But she didn’t say that. Oh, no. She said, with a far away look in her eye, well in both her eyes actually: “When first we met you wore beautiful trousers.” And she sniffed ever so slightly and I thought both her eyes grew moist. There was a little silence which was broken by the kitten jumping up on the table. We haven’t mentioned the subject since that moment but it has started to haunt me. I even had a dream that I went back to Burberrys where I used to go. I told my wife about this dream and she said quietly: “Let’s hope the dream comes true.” I shall have no peace of mind until I do something about my you-know-whats. I shall keep you informed unless you tell me otherwise.

I have had three bonfires today so I shall now go and have a glass of beer. Good bye for now.

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