I May Have to Get You to Help Frazer Hines

Bibliomaniac Tour Diary

After Carlisle had protests against refugees and counter protests for them on Saturday, I wondered if the recorder playing busker on the pavement has chosen There Will Always Be An England knowingly or whether he will demonstrate his impartiality later with a medley from Bob Marley’s Uprising.

As I am nearly out of earshot he blows the first few bars of The Great Escape. 

Carlisle is where I finish a week almost as busy as my 100 Bookshop tour of 2021. 

The rucksack is heavy on my back today, but deservedly so, it was light when I departed but my path has been strewn with necessary book purchases. The weekend began with a trip into Bramhall’s Oxfam before my talk at Simply Books. I found a copy of The Importance of Being Interested and asked if they would like me to sign it. Opening it up, I discover it signed already, “To Martin” and with the addition of a quote from Carl Sagan. I sign it a second time, “I hope you like this more than Martin did…”. 

It could be worse. The poet Simon Armitage tells the story of finding one of his books in his hometown charity shop and discovering it was the one that he had given to his mum and dad. 

I buy a book about sexuality and Dali (he loved Lobsters almost as much as that Incel Crayfish Fetishist Canadian), a book of essays on hysteria and book of philosophical essays by Robert Grant, that includes ones on Edmund Burke, Jane Austen and the rudeness of Viz. 

“And despite their spoof science fiction provenance, the only laugh (apart from the adverb)  that I ever got out of Buster Gonad and His Unfeasibly Large Testicles was the parkie’s comment at the municipal tennis court: “you’ll have to pay double, son, those testicles constitute a person.” 

I also pick up Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl purely because the novel’s blurb mentions Jean Rhys. 

“Today, I must be very careful. Today, I have left my armour at home.” (Good Morning, Midnight)  

In another charity shop, I find some 60s pop annuals which have splendid colour images of Sandie Shaw and Francoise Hardy and a page on Crispian St Peter, “a new star on the pop scene” from Swanley, Kent. I also buy Facts About a Pop Group, from the same series as Facts About a Feature Film, the book that taught primary schoolchildren about how to make a movie using satanic abuse horror To the Devil – A Daughter. For the pop group, they are on safer ground with Wings. 

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Simply Books is rammed. I open by asking, “Is there a Martin in here?”

Right in front of me, there sits Martin.

“Martin, did you give a book I lovingly inscribed to you to Oxfam?”

YES, it is that Martin.

Later I sign his book and also add “Oxfam £6.99” in the top right hand corner to save them time when it arrives there.

My friend Helen gives me a lift to Stockport station while her son sits in the back and reads us the first few paragraphs of a Dungeons and Dragons novel he is working on (which I like a great deal).

Paul picks me up from Lime Street and takes me to the hotel where the rest of the Doctor Who convention guests are staying. On the way I receive a text saying, “I may have to get you to help Frazer Hines”. Having heard about what some of these actors get up, I worry that it means he has taken part on a drinking game with some younger fans and will eventually be found naked under the stairs (as I believe once happened to one of the Blake’s 7 cast). But all is squeaky clean, he is driving to the hotel and diversions have led to him being slightly lost.

By the time I arrive, Frazer looks civil and clothed and is eating a cheese sandwich accompanied by a glass of red.

Our lift to the social club is delayed by two of the actors as they get caught in a maelstrom of anecdotes and Ralph Richardson and Michael Gambon, preventing them getting into the car.

Then, they need to stop off for newspapers. I arrive at 11am, the time of my first interview, so I do not speak to Colin Baker, who I have never met before, until we are sat under the lights. We start on Ian Hendry and move around Colin’s career from there.

This is quickly followed by Louise Jameson, with her I start by asking about Marty Feldman. She tells me her first and only line in The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine was “Dead Cats Really Turn Me On”. Being a convention, I expect that to be emblazoned on a T shirt by the end of the day.

We all sit about and eat cake while the Doctor Who stars sign merchandise and decide to stroll through the nearby graveyard seeking strange surnames. The most intriguing thing I see is the gravestone of a couple who died in the sixties – the cause of death – “died in a motor accident” is included on the stone. I seek out charity shops on the Hoylake hight street but fortunately none have any necessary books. I am still slightly haunted by being gaslit a couple of weeks ago, so it is good to see the sky and then walk along the beach and look at the remnants of wrought iron seaside promenade architecture. My final interviews are with Gary Russell and Keith Temple. Back at the hotel, I hear more acting anecdotes but, as I am not being delayed by them, I can enjoy them far more.

I am late for the cabaret, but flap about for 30 minutes to reasonable effect, then sit and enjoy watching the rest which includes a set from Mitch Benn and Rhys (whose surname I do not catch) who is a wiry spring of energy from a Gallifrey cabaret that is a regular event at The Vauxhall Tavern.

I am given a small tequila and Calpol shot (at least that is what I think it is) and then redden my teeth in Shiraz. Back in the hotel, my room is next to an old actor’s and sounds of apparitions and hauntings can be heard emanating, but he makes it down for breakfast.

Later, he leaves his Equity card in a puddle.

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Prof Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest books are The Importance of Being Interested and Bibliomaniac.

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