The train journey down to Kent was arduous. I was going to see Ray in The Brownlee Care Home for Demented Actors. He’d been there for a month and I was full of trepidation. There were no taxis at the station so I had to catch a bus. I was dropped outside the Home. Imposing gates and high walls surrounded the place. I rang the bell. Vicious dogs barking as I approached the front door.
‘I’m here to see Ray Brooks.’
My heart sank, they don’t even know who he is or was. What way to end a career.
The Brownlee Care Home had only been operational for about ten years. It caters for actors who have suffered from severe depression after they’d been given the push from ‘soaps’. It contained ex EE, Coronation Street and Emmerdale thesps etc but their star attraction currently is Nigel from The Archers. (For those of you who never listen to that particular show, he’s famous for his unique scream when falling to his death from a roof. It created a sensation. But of course nothing lasts.)
I was shown into the principal’s office, who looked like an extra from Adam Adamant, wearing a ginger wig which had slipped over over his left ear.
‘You’re here to see Mr Brooks, I understand.?’
‘I think it’s best to warn you. He’s changed.’
‘But not for the better, I’m afraid. He’s becoming very friendly with the most disruptive inmate that we’ve ever had. Roger Walker. Have you ever heard of him?'
‘He worked with Mr Brooks on Big Deal.’
I almost rushed from the room to be sick. The principal continued.
‘I’m afraid that it’s becoming a most unnatural relationship.’
I recoiled. ‘Mr Brooks does not bat for the other side!’
‘I’m not suggesting that. For instance, Roger Walker’s room here is festooned with pictures of Stephen Fry. I ask you, is that natural?’
‘He seems obsessed with him. Now Fry, as you might remember, absconded after the opening night, of the Simon Gray play called Cell Mates. Distressed by the reviews he disappeared. It was thought that he might have killed himself. The Sun newspaper even suggested a Fryday and encouraged it’s readers to wear black armbands out of respect for the great man. There was a world wide search for the lost actor. Then there were rumours of sighting in Australia, the North Pole, darkest areas of the Amazon even Belgium. But everyone, of a morbid disposition, thought he was dead. And then he returned from the grave, the sweet man was contrite, weeping, the public greeted him as a hero.
Call me silly but I have an inkling that Mr Walker and Mr Brooks might want to emulate Frygate. Disappear and return in triumph.’
After my meeting with ginger, I went to ‘the Day Room’ for the inmates, still in a daze, and what a depressing place it was. Old actors sitting in chairs, faces encrusted in makeup, watching UK Gold on TV hoping for ‘repeats’. Ray was sitting on the other side of the room, staring out of the window. He must have eyes in the back of his head because as I approached, he said.....
‘Nice to see you, too.’ I said. I noticed a bunch of ‘actors’ on the lawn. ‘What are they doing?’
‘That bloke waving his arms about is Gordon Glow. who is apparently an extremely distant relation of Andrew Lloyd Webber, anyway he’s cobbled together a musical version of The Mousetrap. They’re rehearing. And the great Nigel of Archers fame is playing the Detective. I auditioned for the Detective and Gordon Glow offered me the old bird who’s knocked off in the First Act. There wasn’t even a song! He said I was too wooden to play the Detective! Me! I’m the most adroit and flexible actor in the world! I’ve played Detectives all over the globe, even on Radio Four!......
I let him ramble on for what seemed like a couple of hours about how nobody appreciated his soaring ‘talent’ and finally he stopped.
I eventually asked the question that was burning a hole in my head. ‘So, tell me about Roger Walker.’
‘I worked with him when I did Big.....’
‘I know, I know.’ I said hurriedly.
‘Then he went into Eldorado, the BBC spent zillions on it, building a township in Spain. They thought it was going be bigger than EastEnders,’ Bile rose in my throat but I managed to keep it down. ‘Within a year the BBC pulled the plug on it. Actors thrown on the slag heap. The cruelty of it. A dedicated motorcyclist Roger and he was falsely accused of trying to run down Alan Yentob, the one who had pushed the reject button. But it turned out to be a bloke who’d played a Munchkin in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on his way to audition for a CBBC version of Old Mother Hubbard to play a Singing Clothes Peg. But mud sticks and poor Roger was Black listed. He spends his days now down in a small engineering workshop here in the basement.’
So the ‘ginger’ principal was right. There was a friendship with Roger Walker. Finally I wished him goodbye and left but my thinking was not happy. ‘Disappear and return in triumph.’ The principal had said. That phrase whirled around and around in my brain all tied up in that lurid headline ‘Frygate.’ Escape? Roger and Ray? They’d never get out of this place.
The bus was full of pimpled kids going into town to get off of their faces. I had to stand all the way to the station, not one of those little shits would give up their seat for an old man, who was bouncing this way and that like a drunken skittle.
I managed to get off the bus first and when I was a safe distance from the detritus exiting the clapped out vehicle, I shouted. ‘ You’ll get old one day, you spoilt little bastards.’
I can’t repeat here the abuse they hurled back. I resolved never to return to this god forsaken place but of course I had to. The sacrifices you make for a ‘friend’.
But would my ‘friend’ still be there when I returned?
Frygate. Dum, dum, dum.
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Ann Wilson(Saturday, September 21 13 03:08 pm BST)
Cynically amusing write Ray!
Mark(Wednesday, September 25 13 03:48 pm BST)Roger Walker seemed determined to corner the market in amusing animal related named characters at the beeb for a time. Kipper in Big Deal, Bunny in Eldorado