In 1970 I started in my first job at The Watford Palace Theatre. I got my Equity card and went on a trip to Harrogate to attend a children’s theatre festival. After tea and a plate of fat rascals in Betty’s Tearooms, we walked to ‘The Swan Hotel’ to watch an assemblage of visiting companies giving their work.
I walked past the open doors of a large room where a young man, with curly hair and charisma, was playing a lion.
In 1976, whilst casting a show for our theatre group, an agent in Leeds called me up.
‘We have a Jim…’
‘I know him.’ I said. ‘We’ll take him.’
He was the Lion from Harrogate. The old git joined our company. I was 28 he was 34.
After 5 months we were together.
Our first lodgings were on Queens Crescent. On thE 24 bus route, a five minute walk from Camden Lock and round the corner from South Hampstead. We paid rent, then we squatted – as you did back then.
Both of us were earning a pittance. We were argumentative, but happy. The kitchen had an old candlestick telephone hung on the wall, I had to stand on tiptoes to speak into the mouthpiece whilst holding the receiver next to my ear. Cook books, utensils and large enamel cooking pots lined the shelves.
Like now, finding cheap food was the name of the game.
Queens Crescent had a street market, an Irish family had a fruit and veg stall two minutes from our house.
‘Here she comes’ they’d shout. And they bent down and brought up a box of squashy tomatoes, potatoes, whatever out of date produce they had.
I never paid.
Now fast forward at least thirty years and I was working on ‘Good Food Live.’ a five day a week show that gave food centre stage and introduced a cornucopia of chefs to a salivating nation. From Sophie Grigson to Anthony Wirral Thompson. from Gino To Hollywood. We also had the best wine buffs and beer buffs and mixologists.
WAYNE COLLINS, a delicious boy from North London, came into the studio and mixed cocktails that floored us sun more ways than one.
Blue eyes, and a heart of gold. I loved the boy.
After a show, whilst stroking his lapels, I discovered that he had lived near Queens Crescent as a lad. He knew of the stall that had fed me and the old git for years.
Not only did he know the stall he’d worked on the stall trimming the cauliflowers and shining the apples.
Wayne Collins worked on the stall that was owned by his Irish uncles.
The connection was not lost on us. I loved him. When the show came to an end Wayne bought me a silver goblet as a goodbye gift. I polish it regularly and have a shiny wooden apple sitting in it.
That delicious Irish boy has died. A total waste of the grim reapers resources. Wayne was a good, beautiful man, and I’m told a good beautiful husband and father.
I didn’t see him after the early noughties, but I see him everyday on my mantle-piece.
I loved him. A lot.
He was a totally genuine feller who mixed a fearsome cocktail.
His memory will live on.
It is with a huge amount of love that I send condolences to his family.