Celeb Spotting-there’s an Art to it-

During the late years of the seventies I lived in Putney, South London. Some parts of the area, even then were considered fashionable and therefore beginning to be pricey, although not the parts I inhabited which were firstly a room on a shared ‘maisonette’ and secondly a two-roomed ‘flat’. The former of these two homes was acceptable, if shabby; but policed by a zealous, basement-dwelling landlady whose unwavering eye focused on our comings and goings [we were four girls]. The second would not, under any circumstances have passed the scrutiny of a housing officer nowadays and is best left to be described in a future post.

I loved living in Putney for a number of reasons. There were wonderful pubs, plenty of green spaces; I was within walking distance of my place of work [a special needs school] and it was an easy hop into central London. But these advantages also made it a magnet for what would these days be called ‘celebs’, so that regular sightings of well-known actors or presenters were commonplace, provided you paid attention.

Those who live in the capital find it difficult to see why anyone lives anywhere else or indeed how anyone copes with living elsewhere, but as the seventies receded I did leave London for the South West of England, which proved satisfactory enough place for me to remain-and here I still am, forty or so years later.

Here though, celeb-spotting is an art acquired only with practice, but one that we have honed to the point of expertise. For the 18 years we’ve frequented the hostelries in and around the coastal town that is our place of residence we’ve seen dozens of famous personas-far more than I ever did in Putney. How has this been achieved?

At just one of our locals we have seen-on a fairly regular basis-the following: Richard E Grant [actor], Ricky-from-Eastenders [whose name escapes me], Ian McShane [actor] and Charles Hawtry [actor-deceased].

No-we haven’t seen these actors. But since we began to frequent the pub we have grown used to identifying other regulars by their more famous dopplegangers. As a result the names have stuck.

Now while this method of identification has worked for years and enables us to discuss said punters with ease it is not without its difficulties. One of the pseudo ‘celebs’ has subsequently become a friend. Adjusting to his actual name took time and we were often in grave danger of blurting out his ‘stage’ name. We had to overcome the problem by using a type of hybrid name [which coincidentally happened to be the name of a historic footballer] until his real name became glued on to him. There is no question of revealing the history of his stage name since it is unlikely that he would be flattered.

Since we began pseudo-celeb watching, Richard E Grant has had a baby and Ian McShane visits less frequently. Ricky-from-Eastenders, however continues to be a regular. I must confess to a certain reluctance to know their actual handles and so, for the foreseeable future I’ll be avoiding any possible introductions.

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Out with the Old, In with the New.

                Whilst lolling around in our favourite music pub on Saturday night an acquaintance [friend of a friend] bumped into me and introduced me to her new beau. Now this acquaintance is a very attractive, vivacious lady, but is of a similar age to myself-in other words-of mature years. It did occur to me later that we have seen her with a number of new beaux, and that either she suffers from ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome or that her determination is a victory of optimism over experience. In any case she may be kissing more frogs than is necessary or desirable.

                But I digress. This particular new man is called Gerry-or Alan-or something but the thing I remember about the introduction was that he is from Brentford. Now there is only one ‘ping’ in my brain at the mention of Brentford and that ‘ping’ is Brentford Nylons, the mainstay of bedding supplies in the 1960s and 1970s.

                My parents seemed to be in the grip of an obsession with Brentford Nylons for more than ten years. All of our beds were clothed in items from this mail order company. The sheets were made from an odious material called bri nylon which was a peculiarly nasty material to sleep between, being both cold and slithery on entry and horribly sweaty within minutes. Some of the sheets had a curious fuzzy texture and would snag on toenails or crackle with static electricity. There would also be matching, quilted bedspreads with frilly nylon skirts. My parents favoured pale blue and lemon yellow so these were the colours that dominated the airing cupboard during that period.

                Not content with mere bedding in this material my mother took the further step of equipping both herself and me in quilted, lemon dressing gowns, one of the most extremely unpleasant, unflattering and uncomfortable garments it has been my misfortune to wear since the invention of the collapsible, folding, transparent rain hood of earlier years. They were also a fire hazard, meaning that any foray into the proximity of the open coal fire-for instance, en route to switch on the TV for ‘The Billy Cotton Band Show’- was flirting with death.

                In time bri nylon was eclipsed by the new miracle in sheeting that was ‘polycotton’. Polycotton was an improvement in that it did not make your hair stand on end or stick to you, but had its own discomforts in the form of unpleasant, scratchy little bobbles which appeared after a few goes in the twin tub. At last piled up sheets and blankets gave way to the miracle that is the duvet-all the way from ‘the continent’. Indeed, this is what we called them at first-continental quilts.

                All this change demonstrates the progress that textiles have made, and not only in bedding. These days sheets and duvet covers are cool, smooth, easily laundered items in any design, colour, size or pattern imaginable. I like to get ours in a certain, Scandinavian home furnishing chain that shall be nameless.

                I wonder if thingy from Brentford will endure as long as the nylons company? Or will he be making way for a newer product? Thank goodness I didn’t blurt out ‘Brentford Nylons’ when I was introduced!