I recently read this memoir by Tommy Steele. It’s a good book, a real page-turner, and for me full of memories. When I was 7 and 8 years old Tommy Steele was ‘my’ pop star. My best friend Sandra had Adam Faith and her sister Marie always chose Cliff Richard. They were needed when we played those games that required each of us to choose a rock’n’roller. I can’t remember now what the games were. But Tommy Steele always worked for me. I went to see Tommy the Toreador – it wasn’t gritty enough for me. By the time Half a Sixpence came out I had moved on, I had passed through my Beatles’ phase, was immersed in Tamla Motown and was tentatively buying Buffy Sainte-Marie and Fairport Convention LPs (at last! we had a record player).
Time went by. It was 1979. I was studying for my Bar exams, and to earn some money I went back to my old job as a teacher. For a couple of terms I was a ‘temporary terminal’ English teacher at Bacon’s School, Bermondsey. And guess what! Bacon’s was the very school that Tommy Steele attended. A coincidence?
Two years ago Val Wilmer, knowing something of my history, asked if I’d like to go to the London Palladium to see Scrooge starring Tommy Steele. We went and it was very very good. It was the first time I had seen him perform live – after all those years. He was on stage practically for the whole show and sang, danced and acted splendidly. A joy.
And then, 55 years after those childhood games played in the street on our council estate, I publish my collection of short stories – A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories. It contains a story called Tea for Tommy – where Tommy Steele goes to Linda’s house for tea. A month ago I sent the book to Tommy Steele’s agent. Last week, I received a card, from Tommy Steele himself! saying that he had enjoyed the story very much. ‘A lovely lovely read,’ he wrote. I cannot describe the pleasure it gave me. It was worth the wait.