Hi-de-Hi readers and once again we have held onto the wreckage for another week and ready for another stroll down Memory Lane via Dead Man’s Gulch and Lovers’ Leap.

I started writing this weekly column in 1977 and it was for my local newspaper. Nowadays it appears in several local newspapers but what I often forget is they have online versions, which of course can be read anywhere in the world.

Imagine my surprise and delight to receive an email from Los Angeles from Patricia. It read in part: “I read your lovely piece about dancing with my late husband Gene Kelly. I can see him doing the steps with you.”

How wonderful for Patricia to take that trouble. Back in the 1970s until the 1990s I often used to correspond with Hollywood stars in their latter years, knowing that due to distance I would be unlikely to meet them. I have kept letters from stars such as Joan Crawford, Robert Young, Gregory Peck, Roddy McDowall and many others. I did get to meet some, like Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, David Niven, James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and a host of others – but enough of name dropping. I think I have been a very lucky council house kid from Borehamwood. OK, younger readers often have no idea who these people were, but that is the passage of time and showbiz. However, if you had grown up in the halcyon days of cinema you would appreciate the talent of such people as Gene Kelly and the others I have mentioned.

As a youngster I used to go to Saturday morning matinees at a local cinema. Often it was just an excuse to help mates in free of charge as the fire exit was next to the toilets and all is fair in love and war. I liked to sit upstairs so I could pelt kids down below with the rind of the oranges my Mum gave me. I suspect some of you so-called respectable grandparents did the same! Once you became an adult, did you exit as quickly as possible at the end of the film to avoid standing for the national anthem? You had to be quick as in those days as the credits did not name everybody who breathed air on the film set. Can you believe that after all that Prince Charles awarded me an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 1997 as they had run out of worthy lollipop ladies. Sorry, I must stop using sexist terms.

In 1999 I helped organise for Prince Charles to open the giant new sound stages at Elstree Studios. In March he visited the new EastEnders outdoor set at the BBC Elstree Centre and I look forward to his appearance in an episode in June. He was a good actor in his university days so I suspect he will find playing himself rather easy. I was not invited even as an extra dressed as a pearly king playing the spoons at their jubilee party scene. How quickly we are forgotten.

Until next time, be careful when walking up those apples and pears and remember if caught by the police exclaim ‘gaud blimey guv you have got me bang to rights and I will come peaceful.’ It will give the judge a laugh.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios