Anton Rippon: The lodger with tall tales who stayed at our office pub
THE other week, I was indulging in a bit of name-dropping in my column about the forthcoming Old Bemrosians dinner at which old boy of the school, born-and-bred Derbeian Stephen Marley, is to be the main speaker.
Stephen, who is a year younger than me, kindly recalled his first day at Bemrose when, apparently, it was I who directed him to the school tuck shop, an event I'm sorry to say that I can't remember.
If only I'd known that he was going to graduate in social anthropology in London, gain an MSc in the sociology of science, and work on a PhD on ancient Chinese science while lecturing in Manchester before taking up writing full time to became a world-famous cult science fiction and fantasy writer and video game designer, well, then I might have paid more attention.
As it was, Stephen would have been just another small boy finding his way around a brave new world.
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I'm glad I helped him, though, rather than throwing him into the holly bush on the East Drive, which was the usual initiation for a Bemrose first-former in 1957. My mother brought me up to be kind, you see.
Anyway, he told me: "Reflecting on your column that week, it struck me that, although I've known a fair number of celebrities, especially after my first novel was published, the one real zinger was the time I sat in Pinewood Studios, directing Fenella Fielding as she read through my script. That was the one moment that I thought, 'If only my teen self could see me now!'"
Mention of "England's first lady of the double entendre" jogged a memory for me. When I worked for the Derby Telegraph in Burton, back in the 1960s, there was a character lodging at the Royal Oak, our office pub in the Market Place, who claimed that he had once dated Fenella.
He must have been quite a few years younger than her but you know what actresses can be like. So I've read.
Then again, this chap also claimed to have discovered singer Matt Monroe, taught Denis Compton how to bat, and set Henry Cooper on his way to the heavyweight championship of Great Britain and the British Empire.
So we took his alleged dalliance with La Fielding with a heavy sprinkling of salt.
This was justified when he announced that he had to make an urgent call to Dave Charnley, the British lightweight champion, who he said he managed.
He was busy on the pub telephone, apparently arranging a world title fight for the Dartford Destroyer, when the landlord picked up the extension to listen in.
You may be unsurprised to learn that there was no one at the other end. We decided not to let on because he was such good entertainment value.
Then, one Sunday morning, he took the landlord's prize pedigree bitch for a walk, let her off the lead, and returned with her pregnant by a mangy mutt that was roaming loose in Stapenhill Pleasure Gardens. It was a misdemeanour too far. When the truth emerged, he was asked to find new accommodation.
I wonder if Fenella Fielding remembers him...