"Have you ever been made a monkey of and hung out to dry? This has happened to me a few times in my life. I don't mind being the butt end of the joke where friends are involved, but as for a family member pulling the old plonker, well, that's not playing ball, is it?
Way back in the 1990s, I was a big fish in a small pond and would as a general rule be in one of the Yorkshire regional newspapers four or five times a week. This was not surprising as over 860 national famous names and celebrities read from my books in Yorkshire schools and libraries between 1990 and 2002 and a number of international famous names had also kindly praised my writing. I had attracted such public attention by standing next to the celebrity who'd just read from one of my books as the press or tv cameras were upon them. So one could say that whatever notoriety or local celebrity I obtained during those years, was acquired through hanging on to the shirt tails of famous people who had been persuaded to read for me.
During those heady years, I was interviewed on local television or more often on local radio stations at pretty regular intervals and it wouldn't be unusual for me to do two radio interviews monthly. At the beginning of this period of adulation (which I must confess to greatly having enjoyed for the most part), I was quite happy to supress my natural modesty and ride the crest of the popular wave.
It was during such times that my brother Patrick thought that I was getting too big for my boots and decided to take me down a peg or two in my own estimation. One evening, aided by the connivance of a well-spoken accomplice I didn't know, I received a call from one of the local radio stations to do an interview on a forthcoming early-morning spot. It was to be at the unearthly broadcasting-hour of 6.30am in Leeds. Wishing to extend my fame a bit wider, I naturally accepted. On the morning of the interview, I was about to enter Broadcasting Centre when I received a telephone call to cancel it. It was my brother Patrick at the other end of the line. He had phoned to tell me I'd been 'had' and that the interview was a set up!
I have never needed to worry about getting above my station in life, as I've always known that if ever my feet were in danger of leaving the ground, my children, brothers and sisters would always drag me back down to earth!
I have also been at the other end of line also and have done the hanging out. I recall an elderly spinster friend of mine called Etta who was in her late 80s at the time a new next-door neighbour moved in. Etta was a cultured woman who kept to herself, yet always had a friendly and polite word to say whenever spoken to. Etta's new neighbour was extremely tidy and garden conscious and within the space of the first month, she had paid out thousands of pounds landscaping her garden.
Not content however with keeping her garden spotless, Etta's neighbour quickly wanted next door to have a similar makeover, to keep up the high standard which had been established. Soon the neighbour revealed her snooty and nosy parker traits. One autumn afternoon, the snooty neighbour complained about the leaves in Etta's garden and how they would blow across into her garden if left unattended in the wind. After making her complaint to Etta, the snooty neighbour suggested that she send her gardener around to tidy up and added that he'd only charge her £5 an hour. Etta, who was extremely proud, replied, 'I am perfectly capable of finding my own gardener, thank you very much.'
Later, when Etta told me what the snooty neighbour had said, I determined to hang her out to dry alongside her own dirty washing. I could have tidied up Etta's garden myself, but decided upon a different option. I arranged for a very good friend of mine (since deceased) to come and clear up Etta's leaves one autumn afternoon and to do a bit of weeding whilst there. The snooty neighbour spied Etta's new gardener and came out to observe him and no doubt give him a few tips also. When she looked over the wall, Etta said, 'This is my gardener friend, Geoffrey Smith.' Geoffrey was the nation's favourite television gardener at the time and was probably as famous as Percy Thrower used to be in the 50s. The snooty neighbour was gobsmacked and couldn't believe her eyes.
One week later, it was Etta's 90th birthday and I decided to put on a special birthday tea for her in her own home. I knew that the only television programme Etta ever watched was 'Countdown' and as luck would have it, my good friend, the late Richard Whitely was reading from one of my books at a school in Ravensthorpe on the afternoon of Etta's birthday. I invited Richard to tea at Etta's and he was more than pleased to make this 90 year old woman very happy. When we arrived, I asked Richard to pip his car horn three times loudly and he agreed. Richard duly got out of the car with present in hand, to give Etta the surprise of her life. Naturally, the tooting of the horn had stirred the nosy next door neighbour to peer through her curtains at the celebrity visitor.
Two famous faces visiting Etta's house in the space of one week had her snooty neighbour starting to think she'd come to live on Celebrity Row instead of Old Bank Lane, Mirfield. Ee by gum, if you didn't laugh you'd have to cry. By the way, a very happy birthday to my good friend, Anne Lister today." William Forde: September 1st, 2015.