Famous people I have met

I’ve been compiling this list for a while. I am amazed by the number of famous (and not-so famous) people I have met – mainly in a very small way.

Jonathan Aitken – when he came to preach at St Nicolas Church, Newbury

Sue Lawley – when she opened a fete at Ebbingford Manor, Bude in the 1970s.

Harold Wilson – when I sat next to him at a concert in the Isles of Scilly

King Charles – when he talked to me on “walkabout” in the Isles of Scilly (he was Prince Charles at the time)

Margaret Thatcher – I shoke hands with her and talked with her when she visited a printing plant opposite where I worked in Reading (during a general election campaign).

George Harrison (?) by phone. I think it was him. I worked with his nephew at a Reading brewery and someone with a Liverpudlian accent phoned and asked me to get the nephew to call a number which turned out not to be the normal number of the nephew’s home in the lodge gates. At the very least I talked to George Harrison’s brother!

Denis Thatcher – shook hands and spoke to him after I spoke to Margaret Thatcher

Sir Keith Joseph – He smiled and said hello to me when I was working at an office in Arlington Street, London.

Jacqueline Bisset (via phone) – I was deejaying on Radio 210 in Reading and she phoned to ask for a request for her father, Dr Bisset, who lived in Tilehurst locally.

Alan Freeman at Quiz Kid ’75 in Taunton when I was a contestant.

Arthur Edward (Royal photographer for The Sun) – he was follwoing Price Charles in teh Isles of Scilly ( above) and I chatted with him.

Gok Wan – I briefly chatted with him when he filmed part of “How to look naked” in Newbury.

Bob Harris – I worked at the same radio station as him in the 1980s.

Steve Wright – I talked to him at the Radio One Roadshow in Bude.

Richard Briers – I said “hello” to him in the Radio 210 bathroom – he was very cheerful.

Diana Dors – I interviewed her at Reading bingo hall for Radio 210.

Joe Brown – I briefly talked with him at Radio 210

Charles Kennedy – I talked to him about David Bowie when he visited Newbury

Paddy Ashdown- He stayed with us overnight three times in 1993 for the Newbury by-election. My hero!

Meg Whitman (via question) – I asked her a question at a HP staff talk in London.

Carly Fiorina (via question) – I asked her a question at Bracknell ice rink – another HP staff talk.

Menzies Campbell – I interviewed him with three other bloggers in a Brighton hotel when he was leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg – I interviewed with four other bloggers when he was campaigning to be Liberal Democrat party leader at Portcullis House in Westminster, London.

Tim Farron – I spoke to him when he sat next to me at a by-election campaign for Oldham East. Also, I had a cup of tea and a chat with him at Portcullis House.

Maddy Prior – I chatted with her after a concert at the Corn Exchange Newbury.

Tim Vine – I chatted with him after a concert at the Corn Exchange Newbury.

Ian Hislop – I spoke to him after a TV recording at Southern Television.

Les Gray (fleetingly) – I spoke to him during a concert at Reading University.

Toyah Wilcox – I spoke with her in the corridors of Radio 210.

June Brown – She spoke to us in Brighton and complimented us on our little daughter! She was so sweet!

Kenneth Macleod – I interview him about his days as a broadcaster at Westward Television in Plymouth. Lovely man.

Kenneth Baker – I chatted to him in the street in Lewes, Sussex.

Shirley Williams – As a conference steward, I showed her to the room she needed at a Liberal Democrat fringe.

Jeremy Thorpe – In Harrogate at a Lib Dem conference I helped him downstairs and to where he needed to go.

Paul Ross – he made a joke about me at a HP works staff meeting.

Jenni Eclair – we chatted with her at a cafe at Paddington Station before she left for a gig near Saltash, Cornwall. Lovely lady.

Neil Oliver – I chatted with him after a Corn Exchange Newbury performance.

Judith Chaplain – She asked me for directions in Newbury.

Michael McNair Wilson – I went to see him when he was my MP, to complain about the poll tax.

David Rendel – I was a friend and campaigner for the great man.

Richard Benyon – I have had the pleasure of chatting with Richard on many occasions. He treated me to tea in one of the plush tea rooms of the House of Parliament once. He is a lovely man.

Lord John Gummer – Richard Benyon introduced me to him when I had tea at the House of Parliament.

Lord Nigel Jones – I chatted with him at a Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool. A really lovely and brave man.

Norman Lamb – in Prague for a friend’s brithday, we talked with him and his wife quite a lot at breakfast, lunch etc. He is a really lovely chap.

Malcolm Bruce – I chatted to him at a Liberal Democrat conference.

Robert Maclennan – at a Lib Dem conference in Glasgow he had just given an exhibitor a bottle of champagne but I told him that the party had voted to boycott French goods just half an hour precisely.

Lord David Trimble (via question) – I asked him a question at a Liberal Democrat conference. He was a great and brave man who played a pivotal role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

Fiona Armstrong, newsreader. I worked with her on Radio 210 and introduced her several times on air.

Matt Allwright – I held a door open for him at Bracknell Ice Rink and he said “thank you”.

Pattie Coldwell, TV pioneer. I was one of her local councillors and I worked with her to attempt to get speed restrictions in her road. A very admirable woman.

Updates January 2023:

I interviewed Chris Tarrant for Kennet Radio at the Speen Community Cafe, when he came to judge the Great Speen Bake-off. He was the perfect gentleman and extremely generous with his time and bonhomie.

In December 2019, during the election campaign in Westminster, I interview Hugh Grant for Liberal Democrat Voice.

I had a lovely chat with retired Archbishop Douglas Carey in Staples, Newbury. He really was exceedingly gracious.


On meeting Prince Charles – and pooperscoopers

On July 20th 2021 I met Prince Charles. In fact, the photo above shows him actually talking to me!

It happened at Porthcressa Beach, St Martins, Isles of Scilly.

At 10am we queued up for our wedding anniversary brunch at “Dibble and Grub”. That is a wonderful restaurant and bar in the old fire station building (hence the name, Trumpton fans) – with a fantastic view of the beach and bay, as you eat.

So, we really enjoyed our brunch and took our time. We then noticed a few more people than normal filtering onto the beach and promenade. These extra people also seemed to be unusually dressed for the beach – like in suits and uniforms. A policeman and dog handler sniffed around the bins. Bear in mind that, normally, the Isles of Scilly only has three police staff and a very low crime rate.

“Charles and Camilla will be here later” our waiter informed us, upon enquiry.

So, anyway, we continued enjoying the view as even more people gathered. We then thought we would hang around.

The royal couple arrived around midday and walked down a line of local people such as NHS and care workers and the experts who looked after “Wally the walrus” on his visit to the islands.

My nearest and dearest got very excited and hovered around inside the crowd.

In contrast, I am a Republican and held back in the crowd. I thought I would see if I could get a good picture, though. I started videoing Prince Charles in the hope of getting a good screen shot later. As I held up my mobile phone, I could see that the view of Prince Charles was getting better and better. And then he was standing, more or less, straight in front of me. Then, I heard a familiar voice, somewhat testily, saying:

“Are you going to put down that infernal thing and talk to me?”

I put down my phone, rather stunned but smiling broadly at HRH, as you do.

“Is that a pooper-scooper?”, he asked – gesturing to my dog.

It’s possible that he didn’t say “pooper-scooper”, but I think he did. He meant – is the dog a cross breed, like “cockapoo”?

Because I didn’t really understand what he said – particularly bearing in mind that I was a bit confused because my dog is a pure breed bichon frise, not a cross breed – I just smiled sweetly at him.

He then answered his own question: “Yeauus – I came across a cross of a poddle and a greyhound the other day – ghastly – but not him (gesturing again to my dog) – he’s lovely” and then he walked on.

And that was it. My nearest and dearest was green with envy because she missed the encounter. And we stayed to watch the royal couple working the crowd, which they did brilliantly. They chatted at great length and took their time.

Starting afresh with Facebook – on your terms

About a year ago I took a look at the data which Facebook held of mine. It was about three gigabytes worth! I joined Facebook relatively early in its genesis and had shared all sorts on it.

Call me bloody minded, but I didn’t see why that smug person Mark Zuckerberg should benefit from all that data of mine.

At the same time, there is no real alternative, other than Facebook, for sharing baby and travel photos with close friends and family.

So I took the decision to download all my Facebook data – all three gigabytes of it – and come off Facebook for 90 days. That way, all that data got deleted from the Facebook servers.

I then re-joined Facebook using a different email address.

But I re-joined under my own terms – and fully aware of what I was doing (unlike when I first joined it many years ago).

I have not shared my phone number with them (although they have probably snaffled that via WhatsApp). My profile photo does not show my face so that it is not easy to see which Paul Walter I am amongst the scores of other Paul Walters. I am careful about what I “like” – because that tends to give Facebook more data about me. I have used the maximum privacy settings. Most importantly I only use Facebook for personal things like baby photos and travel photos. I do not share political and news stuff on Facebook.

And perhaps critically, I reduced my friends from about 300 to about 60. So now I only “friend” people who I have actually met and talked with, who I actually like and who don’t argue needlessly with me, and who are….well, actual friends. You know the kind of thing.

I use Twitter for politics and news.

To find out how to do what I did, Jack Schofield of the Guardian wrote an excellent article about it.

Kevin Ayers, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett – all on the same radio show

It’s no exaggeration to say that my lockdown(s) mental health has been saved from the abyss by volunteering on my local community radio station.

I worked as a freelancer on the wonderful Radio 210, the local commercial radio station for the Thames Valley, from 1979 until 1984.

This started with, literally, recycling gash recording tape (yes, tape!) from bins.

Let’s step back a bit.

I was a bit of a lonesome creature, growing up.

I had some great times at primary school in Bude. But winning a scholarship to a public school rather thwarted local friendships during the school holidays.

Fortunately, I made some great friendships at West Buckland School, particularly in my sixth form years, which were wonderful.

As an outlet, I got interested in listening to the radio.

Radio Luxembourg was a particular passion – especially under the bed covers in my school dormitory on Tuesday nights when they did the Peter Stuyvesant Top Thirty with dear old Bob Stewart.

Even Radio Two was of some amusement as I tended the till at my mother’s Canal Forge shop near the lock gates in Bude.

When you’re desperate for music, Norrie Paramour and the Midland Dance Orchestra can seem quite a relief.

Ed Stewart did the first Radio One Roadshow at Bude. I turned up hours early and watched them setting up. It was quite magical to me. As we watched the show, it started to rain. I shared my anorak with a pretty girl.At that age, however, I was too tongue-tied to say anything to her. I just returned her smile.

I managed to pick up Radio Caroline (post-Tony Benn) and Radio NordSee in Bude. I loved it.

I remember hearing Radio 2 in the mornings. Brian Matthew used to start with a clip from “Singing in the rain” at 5.30am. Yes, 5.30am – I used to wake up early to listen to what was going on. “We’ve danced the whole night through, good morning, good morning to you” – was the song clip.

What else? Ed Stewart’s Junior Choice. He was a great broadcaster. So natural.

Johnnie Walker. A fantastic deejay.

Kenny Everett.

Terry Wogan

Annie Nightingale

Tony Brandon

…The list of my radio heroes and heroines is endless.

When I moved to London I absolutely fell in love with Capital 194. Roger Scott – what a fantastic broadcaster he was! Michael Aspel. Graham Dene. Peter Young. Duncan Johnston. Kenny Everett (again). A particular favourite was Kerry Juby. Also Tony Myatt. I really loved that station. It had such a fantastic jingle collection. Perhaps the best radio station ever in the 70s and 80s.

When I went to university in Reading in 1978, my room mate had the most unbelievably gorgeous sound system, which I was able to use to listen ro Radio 210.

I heard all the presenters in fantastically resounding stereo on my room mate’s wonderful stereo system. He was called John Ross, by the way. Thank you John!

Then my university career came to a hand-brake turn after a year and I went to the university careers centre.

The lady looked into her card system (that dates it).

“We have a note here from David Addis, the news editor at Radio 210, saying he would be keen to talk to anyone interested in a career in radio”.

OK. I said. I’ll contact him.

David was the most marvellously enthusiastic and charming individual. (I was also referred to a personnel fellow at the BBC who I saw and was very nice and encouraging. HE said I should consider a career as a producer.)

Anyway, David Addis was very welcoming. A marvellous chap, in fact. Quite brilliant and remarkably affable. I am extremely grateful to him. He helped me through a hazardous period of my life in more ways than one.

Would you like to recycle some of this tape? – he said, pointing to a massive bin full of gash recording tapes.

“Yes” I replied. Trying not to betray my feelings that this was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me!

To hear these fellows in the Radio 210 newsroom (see some above) talking normally to each other, after hearing them on the remarkably brilliant John Ross stereo system, was just magical.

I was floating on air as I went into an empty studio to recycle these bits of tape by sticking them together with editing tape….


Fast forward (for the moment) to Kennet Radio in 2020 and my Musical Circle from 7th November, which includes Kevin Ayers, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett.

A joyous record – rediscovered – from Rupie Edwards in 1974

I bought the 45 rpm “Ire Feelings (Skanga)” by Rupie Edwards in 1974 at Woolacotts, Bude, Cornwall.

I have just re-listened to it, perhaps after 46-odd years, and realised what a gorgeous, joyful record it is. It is absolutely wonderful!

But, I have to say, it was a bit weird buying at the time. It was hardly played on Radio One and it seemed odd. Just unusual.

It was, I learn now, the first “dub” record to hit the charts. It made Number 9 in the UK charts in 1974.

Here’s a little bit of what it says about the record on The Register:

In late 1974, out of nowhere, the first dub hit anywhere in the world leapt into the UK Top Ten.

Upon its release that autumn, Rupie Edwards’ innovatory Ire Feelings had received virtually no airtime on London’s Capital Radio and even less on BBC Radio One – the country’s biggest stations – but the demand from kids in discos and clubs made the haunting, echoing reggae 45 into a massive hit.

And it wasn’t just a “new” artist they were hearing – Edwards, a Jamaican, had never been anywhere near the British charts before – but an entire new genre, perhaps the first that genuinely fused both modern culture and the latest technology.

“I’d actually booked the studio that day to record Shorty The President,” says Edwards now, “and Shorty was late and I had this song in my head to do. So I dropped it. ‘Feeling High’ – and trust me, I was – and Errol Thompson, the mixer from Studio One was then working for me. And we had this big copper pipe I’d dragged in off the street and I whacked it, recorded it, just for the sound. And Errol said ‘I like working with you, you’re always trying new things’.

“So we recorded the song and the next day we mixed it and at one point Errol said, ‘Hang on, it’s different, it’s changed, we should start again’. And I said ‘no, no’, ‘cos I knew that if we started mixing again we’d never get it back. So we finished it and Pat Kelly mastered it, then I left a copy with my partner in the shop I had on West Parade, downtown Kingston. And she rang me that same evening saying, ‘Every time I play it the street block up!’”

BBC repeats and Hitler

– That is a mischievous title, if ever there was one…

One of my favourite presenters was Ray Moore, who graced Radio 2, and also the “ENT-ER-TAIN-MENT tonight on BBC1” trailers, for many years.

He used to humourously refer to BBC TV “repeats” as “a second chance to see”.

This week’s Radio Times uses an even more skilful phrase to describe a repeat.

(I mention en passant that I haven’t read the Radio Times since it used to cost 36 pence. It now costs the princely sum of £3.50, so I am determined to wring every last penny of value out of this week’s edition by reading it from cover to cover.)

Anyway, on Wednesday, BBC2 are showing “Vienna Blood” at 9pm.

Radio Times majestically describes this repeat as follows:

Another chance to see the handsome period crime drama that passed many viewers by. In 1900s Vienna an unlikely duo investigate murders.

I like that: “that passed many viewers by”. Roughly translated as: “no one watched it”.

Anyway, I will watch it this time if only because I am curious to get an idea what 1900s Vienna might have looked like. This is because I am currently reading “Hitler’s Vienna” on the young life of the dictator.

This allows me to say things like “I am finding Young Hitler slow going” or “I am not getting on well with Young Hitler” – the sorts of things I have wanted to say for years.

As an aside, the major thing which comes out of the first 100 pages is how Hitler was utterly obsessed with buildings. In his last days in his bunker, when he should have been worrying about bringing the Second World War to an end without shedding more blood, he spent his days mesmerised by an intricately detailed model of urban regeneration plans for Linz in Austria. The model was so advanced that it even showed lighting at different times of the day and seasons. And he used to show in guests to have a view of it and spent hours staring at it. (Similarly he spent much of his younger days studying Viennese buildings so that he could even describe the surrounding pillars of back doors.)

I kid you not.

Did you play cello on a Beatles hit and forget to get paid? You could be ‘worth a fortune’.

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, and the lockdown has finally provided the time. Perhaps we should call this “Lockdown blogging”?

Malcolm Jack wrote an excellent music article called “Payday for the kids choirs” in edition #1388 of Big Issue, which was the “Bumper Festive Edition” last December. You can read the full article here.

As the title suggests, the article was mainly about children’s choirs which have sung on Christmas hit singles. A fellow called Peter Rowan is a specialist in gaining lost royalties for those who performed on such records. He has had particular success with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the wall”, for which former pupils of Islington Green School in North London, now in their fifties, are receiving regular cheques for their lusty singing 40 years ago of such famous lines as “Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone”. – All because they happened to be at a school next to the studio where the engineer, Bob Ezrin, had been told by phone: “go get us some kids for this record” by the band, who were stuck in LA for tax reasons.

“I wish it could be Christmas everyday” by Wizzard has proven lucrative for former pupils of Birmingham’s Stockland Green School.

But there was a little comment from Peter Rowan at the end of the article which particularly caught my attention:

 The best thing to be is the only session musician on a record. For example there’s a cello player I couldn’t track down who’s on a Beatles record. And I think he’s worth a fortune, because it was one of their big hits, but I don’t think he ever signed up.

This got me thinking. Which “big hit” by the Beatles is this referring to? “Eleanor Rigby” seemed to be the obvious one, as it has a superb cello piece throughout it, including a solo. But there are two, not one, cello players listed for it – Derek Simpson and Stephen Lansberry.

I have gone through the list of Beatles hits and I can’t find another one which has a prominent cello part. Perhaps you know better? Please leave a comment below if you do.