April 30th 2009

Zipperty do dah, zipperty hay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day. This is the day my latest book, WILD ABOUT HARRY, my 13th Detective Inspector Angel story is being published. It also marks the winner of the competition for the best entry of a celebrity, over 80, who is still regularly working. I have had so many entries that I feel I should give more than one prize, but I’m not going to.

As a late entry, the queen has come up with Pete Seeger, who is 90 on May 3rd, and is playing in a huge concert in the US on that day to celebrate. I can add it to the list, but I can’t award the prize to her, can I? It would be a right twist. Besides the house is full of books. She has a free entitlement to a half interest in any book in the place. In fact, she has a half interest in everything in the house. She says that her solicitor told her so!

So the winner I have chosen is Simon Wellman from Leeds who submitted the name of Nicholas Parsons who is an amazing 85. Simon! A signed copy of WILD ABOUT HARRY, is on its way to you, with many thanks.

There were older celebrities submitted by you lovely people, but they had been already suggested by Alan Titchmarsh, or the celebrities were not British, and I thought the competition should have been confined to Brits, although I didn’t say so, (with apologies to my readers in the US and elsewhere). I do hope you think that I have been fair.

The complete and amazing list of celebrities, believed to be over 80 and regularly working, submitted by reader's of this column is…

Betty Turpin 88 years
Peter Sallis 88 years
Liz Smith 87 years
Dora Bryan 85 years
Robert Hardy 84 years
Angela Lansbury 83 years
Jean Alexander 83 years
Geoffrey Palmer 82 years
June Brown 82 years
Bruce Forsyth 81 years
David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
Honor Blackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93
B B King 83
Leslie Phillips 85
June Whitfield 83
Nicholas Parsons 85
Pete Seeger 89

Well, it’s been a lot of fun and quite revealing to find so many lovely old people still working, but the competition is, sadly, closed.

About something entirely different …

Can I let off a bit of steam?
My car insurance is coming up for renewal, and it’s £36 dearer than last year. I don’t like prices going up like that. I haven’t had an accident or anything.
Well, you know those heavily advertised comparison websites, where you submit the details of your car and the drivers and so on, and they automatically come up with cheaper insurance offers? In some of their ads, I’ve heard grinning actors say, ‘I saved £170.’ ‘I saved £200.’ ‘I saved £90.’
Well, I spent 20 minutes submitting all the details of the car, the queen, the house, my marital status, my occupation, my age, my sex, even told them what side of the bed I sleep on, and the result was two quotes … one, £126 more than my present insurer and the other £180 more. Then I phoned two other famous high street names directly for a quote and both were also dearer, so needless to say, I re-insured with my present insurer. Well, what would you have done?
But that was about an hour’s writing time lost by their persistent (and in my case, wasted) advertising.
In that one hour, I could have written about five paragraphs of my new Angel book, deleted four of them and pruned the other down to two sentences. And tomorrow morning, I could condense those two sentences into one, and then tomorrow night, if those sentences were full of unnecessary description, I could delete them, because nobody reads description anymore.

How I ever finish writing a book, I’ll never know.

Come back soon for more ramblings from of an old writer.
April 18th 2009

Glad you came back.

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to have been the small boy who saved his country from sinking under the sea by sticking his finger in a hole in the dyke? Must have felt really good. Made the boy seem important for once in his life. Well I had an experience a bit like that last Thursday. You see the head interviewing honcho at BBC Radio in Sheffield, Roney Robinson, a sort of cross between Dr Anthony Clare and Jeremy Paxman, had a slack half hour in his programme to fill. His troops had arranged for some poor soul to be interviewed but the interviewee had apparently taken fright at short notice and cried off, so they had a half an hour to fill at very short notice, so they phoned me.

‘Would you do it? Can you be here for two o’clock?’
‘Yes. Of course,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’

Well, it all started very well. I was met by a delightful producer lady, all smiles, fingernails, high heels and a cup of BBC tea in a BBC pot. When I got into the studio itself, there he was, Mr Robinson, hair sleeked back and wearing a khaki jungle suit. He was talking away, pressing buttons and sliding faders as slick as a Las Vegas croupier spinning a roulette wheel to a packed table of punters. Slaves kept running in and out with cups of tea, sealed envelopes, and bits of paper with secret writing on them. Messages kept popping up on CCTV screens. A red light behind him kept bobbing on and off erratically. It was all a bit unnerving.

Roney Robinson started off being charm personified, but slyly introduced questions such as, ‘How old are you?’ and ‘How long have you been married?’ and ‘Are you rich or mega rich?’ and subtle stuff like that. He asked me where I lived, and whooped with delight to hear that my house was smaller than his.

News reports and travel information were being interspersed throughout the interview so that I never quite knew whether our chat was being broadcast or it was merely private between the two of us. That’s how he caught me. There’s no time to think, you see. It’s live. You reply. It’s transmitted to the listening millions and then it’s on record.

I had prepared stories about my childhood, such as how I set fire to the bedroom curtains when I was only three or four, and how my parents moved house without telling me and when I got back from school I didn’t know where they had gone to (true!), and ditties like that, but he didn’t ask me about my early life. I also wanted to tell him all about my books and Angel’s success both here and in the States, but he hardly gave me a chance. Anyway, the time soon passed and it was all over. He said that I had done well. Frankly, I came out of the studio a bit dazed. The producer lady with a big smile also said I had done well. I beamed. I’m a real sucker for a bit of smarm. I felt warm all over, and I drove home singing, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ But, you know, thinking about it now, I know that I had said far too much.

Anyway, can’t do anything about it.

Now about other things …

Did you see the piece in the Daily Telegraph on March 29th?

Reading can help reduce stress’

‘And it works better and faster than other methods to calm frazzled nerves such as listening to music, going for a walk or settling down with a cup of tea, research found.

‘Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.

Reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, according to the University of Sussex research.’

It’s absolutely true, if you get a really good book. Don’t you agree?

Moving on …

I’ve had more entries in the competition, but only three names are valid. One is from Joseph Herries, an ex pat living in the town of Mandeville in Jamaica, in the West Indies. (This blog gets everywhere). He remembers from old films, Leslie Phillips, who is 84. Well done, Joseph.
A lady, she doesn’t indicate anything more than her name, Mary Cleary from near Aberdeen, reminds us that June Whitfield is still hard at work and is 83. Also Simon Wellman from Leeds submits Nicholas Parsons who is an amazing 85.

They are all valid and added to the list.

Unfortunately, I am still getting names of celebrities who have sadly died or retired. Remember, the entries have to be celebrities, over 80, and still working. The competition closes on April 30th. For the most interesting addition or additions, I’ll send the winner a copy of my latest book, WILD ABOUT HARRY, which is to be published on April 30th. I’ll even write in it if you want me to. My email address is <angeldetective@uwclub.net> Good luck.

The full valid list so far is

Betty Turpin 88

Peter Sallis 88
Liz Smith 87

Dora Bryan 85
Robert Hardy 84
Angela Lansbury 83

Jean Alexander 83
Geoffrey Palmer 82
June Brown 82 years
Bruce Forsyth 81
David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
HonorBlackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93
B B King 83

Leslie Phillips 84

June Whitfield 83
Nicholas Parsons 85

The competition closes on April 30th.

It’s always nice to hear from you. Keep submitting. See you soon.

April 7th 2008

Hello puzzlers.

Had lots of entries of celebrities who are already on the list - please see last three diary entries.
Had an an entry from James Corbett of Barnsley. His entry was David "Honey Boy" Edwards who is 94. Now I've never heard of him. I told James that I didn't think he could fairly be regarded as a a 'celebrity' if I'd never heard of him. James hinted that I must live in the dark ages. I think if six people tell me that he's a celebrity, I'll put him on the list, otherwise he stays off. That's fair isn't it?

Easter will soon be here. Oh the glories of chocolate!

See you soon.
April 4th 2009

The competition is hotting up. More names have come in …

David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
Honor Blackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93

I’ve had Les Paul aged 93 submitted by fellow author, Shirley Wells. Plays the guitar. Used to work with Mary Ford. This must be the oldest celebrity so far.

Elaine of Wombwell submitted the man on our doorstep, Sir Jimmy Savile. Fancy me not thinking of him.

Keep submitting.

Nice to hear from you.
April 2nd 2009

Replies to the competition are pouring in, but the only additional acceptable entry so far is B B King who is 83 and is still touring. That’s from Sue of Stocks Lane. Great stuff! Sue says, ‘Age is just a number.’ Quite right too.

Remember, for the most interesting addition or additions, I’ll send you a copy of my latest book WILD ABOUT HARRY which is to be published on April 30th. I’ll even write in it if you want me to. My email address is angeldetective@uwclub.net.

Adrian in Berlin suggested the Queen. Well, she is over 80, she’s still working, but she’s not a celebrity, she's a VIP.

I am even getting suggestions of celebrities who have retired or have died, or who simply aren’t over 80. Entries must be of celebrities, over 80 years and still working.

Keep submitting. Love to hear from you.