Only Fools and Horses

John Challis: Love for Only Fools and Horses is sign of the times

I am pooped! I’ve taken my little show, Only Fools and Boycie, far and wide this week, from Burnham-on-Sea to Leeds and on to Workington.

In between dates there was the annual Only Fools and Horses convention in Watford.

This year there were 11 cast members signing, which, I have to agree, proved a few too many for the fans, who queued all day, some for eight hours.

That is true dedication.

It’s not fair on anyone to just scribble an illegible signature, avoid eye contact and growl ‘NEXT’ – you have to give some time to each person and a selfie is de rigeur these days.

John Challis with actor Paul Barber (aka Denzil) at the Only Fools signing event

So multiply those five minutes-plus at least four signatures per person on DVD covers, blow up dolls, tattooed limbs, little yellow vans and all manner of merchandise, and you will realise that all of us signed our monikers over 6,000 times during the course of Sunday.

I applaud everyone’s patience and endurance – even the odd grumpy straggler at 8.30pm. But you can’t just pack up and go home before the queue has come to its natural end.

The venue staff have to be commended for hanging in there because the place looked like Glastonbury after the festival.

There was a great party spirit all day and a shared passion for Only Fools that brings people together and friendships formed.

Parents bring their children, some dressed up as mini Delboys with flat caps and sheepskin coats, while the very youngest fans can sing those tunes word for word and quote the script better than any of us can remember!

Special thanks to Rob @RockinRobsCakes who donated two splendid cakes which were auctioned for charity, the lime green Capri and the yellow Reliant van.

I hear that he even does Boycie’s E-Type Jag in jam sponge with white fondant icing.


The Reliant Robin cake from Rob @RockinRobsCakes

Theatre Varieties Music Hall in Leeds will be familiar to everyone who used to watch the Good Old Days on television in the 1970s and 80s, but I’ve never played it before, so I was really looking forward to doing the show there.

Now, I always get lost in Leeds but since I was there last there has been a lot of rebuilding and the old familiar landmarks have disappeared.

After driving round the ring road five times I ended up going down a bus lane and grinding to a halt in a taxi rank, in desperation and despair.

“You can’t park that here!”

I almost gave in to a bout of full-on road rage.

Quite how I chanced upon the new entrance to theatre varieties is beyond me.

It now lies tucked away down a cobbled alley leading off a shopping precinct that I shouldn’t have driven down, but what the hell.

I wasn’t going to miss my 5pm assignation with Twitter pal @TishSimmonds.

I pulled up outside the stage door and unloaded the books but was then told I should park elsewhere or I’d probably be ticketed, so you can imagine the sheer frustration that was mounting.

I left the car where it was.

Tish and her mum Dawn were there on time and I recognised them from the world famous clips on Vine.

We did a couple of selfies, a double act for Vine, a Boycie laugh and a quick blast of ‘Put him on the back seat? He’s the driver’, and that was it.

I gave Tish a guided tour of the theatre which she’d never seen before and said my goodbyes.

Half an hour later my dear friend Billy Pearce turned up to see the show and there was joyful reunion.

He sat in a box next to the stage and behaved himself, but I was terrified to have such comedy royalty in the house.

Anyway I introduced him and he got a round of applause.

If you have a chance to see Billy in panto at Bradford Alhambra, where he’s been resident for 15 years or more, then this year’s production is Snow White – and that nice Joe McElderry is in it too.

Last year, Billy had Chico with him and this year I’m with Chico in Plymouth.

I have been warned!

Then at the end of the show a complete surprise and a surreal experience. A man got up and without any introduction stood at the front of the stage and read out a poem that he’d written about the characters in Only Fools! I thank you!

Disastrous news from the front in Ludlow.

The annual Arts Festival has been cancelled.

I have had the pleasure of playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Jacques in As You Like It in the magnificent castle, but the simple truth is that not enough people came to see the shows.

Whether it is the price of tickets or that it was an open air production and the weather was generally pretty damp, or plain Shakespeare fatigue, I know not, but it’s a damn shame. Like everything else it’s all about money and if the figures don’t add up, then it’s futile to carry on.

Too many cooks spoil the broth and other such truisms apply, but it would be a pity if all parties concerned cannot reach a compromise.

I was moved this week by the story of First World War soldiers whose remains were discovered where they fell on a battleground in Northern France.

Eleven of them have been identified and they have been reinterred with full military honours with members of their families present.

Twenty-eight year-old Private John Richmond from Ravenshead in Nottinghamshire is remembered thus: “He fell and was lost but now he is found.

“Rest in peace at last, his life given so that we might be free.”

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