graveyard on a Summer's night the spectres dance in sheer delight
and down a moonbeam slides a ginger cat in plimsolls and a paper
was all I could find of a poem I wrote aged 12. Last year, aged
about 40 something, I finished it. The poems had been written
on the backs of envelopes, film scripts and in letters to friends
over a period of years. When there appeared to be some interest
in publishing them I found I was turning out old boxes of papers
and writing to friends asking if I had by chance written them
a poem, and if so, could I have it back. Keith Michell sent
me some that I had completely forgotten writing.
and I met when we were working together in Robert and Elizabeth
at The Lyric. He being the leading man while I clanked on and
off stage in Household Cavalry armour, as a dotty lover of his
girlfriend's sister. To pass the time I would scribble about
the trials and tribulations of a lonely frog or a penniless
French mouse (both situations closely akin to my circumstances
at the time) and Keith, an excellent artist with a great sense
of humour, illustrated them. Our collaboration ceased abruptly
when the Management allowed me to appear in a film, on the condition
I would be back for the evening performance. All my part required
was that I should stand in front of a cannon and be shot. The
explosion blew me across the studio, resulting in a lot of surgery
and a get well slowly card from my understudy. I convalesced
for part of the time in Jamaica and wrote Dilys the Dachshund
on the back of an old record cover, which I received intact,
minus Joe Loss's Greatest Hits,12 years later.
reason I was suddenly trying to recover the poems was due to
Lance Percival reading one on the radio show 'Start the Week'.
A publisher expressed interest, but I was told that at least
30 would be required to make up a book. About this time I got
a call from Keith: could he read some on a TV show? Delighted,
and please could I have them back? Fate was obviously taking
a hand, for a few days later I met Jonathon Rowlands, whom I
had known in LA when I was writing 'Laugh In'. I discovered
that together with his partner, Hugh Murphy, his company had
produced the Sir John Betjeman albums, of which he gave me copies.
I was enchanted by Jim Parker's music, to which the poems were
read, and showed him mine. In between writing 'Are You Being
Served?', Jim, Hugh and I worked together for a year, with me
writing new poems, Jim composing the music and Hugh producing
the album. I still find it hard to believe that these characters
have come to life as a book and a record album, but they have
and I'm delighted as they are.
Jeremy Lloyd 1977.