I have been reading some of your readers' letters that they have written to you, the Editor of this magazine (these are what are called "Letters To The Editor", seeing as how they are written to you; this is of course a mere matter of form, they are not written to you personally, but if we do not have forms then we have chaos, as Schloer wrote in his Treatise Upon The Properties Of The Miasma; Being A Study Of The Inner Mechanisms By Which That Seemingly-Formless Mass Has Its Evident Character).
Some of the letters were by people who have known famous persons. Let me state at the outset that I have not known such a person, but my family has in the past had contact with information about Franz Kafka, the author of such work as The Trial and Metamorphosis.
A relation on my mother's side had a friend - a Mrs Schlupp - who said she met Kafka while he was on vacation at Graal-Muritz on the Baltic in July 1923.
She said that he was a fat jolly man with a huge black moustache who was very fond of oysters and beer and singing military songs. She added that one day he buried his wife up to her neck in sand while she slept and that he roared with laughter when she awoke.
However, my research into family history has recently discovered a bundle of letters. One of the letters has a reference to "that awful Mrs Sclupp who ended her days in the asylum at Warsaw", so there is a suspicion that the Kafka story may be apocryphal.
Can I just say after all these years that Whistling Jack Smith who had a hit with "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" in the 60s actually stole his idea from my Uncle Arthur?
Uncle Arthur was a lawnmower repairer who in his spare time played local pubs and clubs as "Arthur Trippear & His Musical Ears". What he did was to have a song playing in the background (if it was in the foreground it was too loud and deafened the audience so they stopped doing that after a disastrous show at Stepney). Then he would dance and while he danced he would move his ears to the beat.
His favourite rhythms for ear-gyrating to, were bossa nova and anything latin. He was ever so sharp in those days, got up in his crushed velvet suit and frilly shirt like Brian Jones, and he really looked the part. He was quite popular for a time round the locals.
We always reckoned that Whistling Jack Smith stole his act off Uncle Arthur. If you watch that film of him on Top of the Pops which is still available on Youtube, you can see the resemblance. We always say, if it wasn't for the hit record, Jack Smith might have just played the pubs like Uncle.
Sadly, Uncle went on a bit too long, after putting on weight. Also, times were changing, and people didn't really get the act in the 70s. It all ended after a difficult gig at the Golden Peacock in Staines in 1976. Some wag shouted "if I wanted to watch a daft fat cunt dancing I'd get me wife to go on stage!" and another shouted "I don't think much of yer stripper!" Uncle was mortified and never performed again in public, though he did do a turn for us at Christmases and weddings if he'd had a few pints.
I felt that I had to write in after reading about Lord Tennyson playing the banjo on holiday. This didn't surprise me at all. When my husband Norton and I ran "Ocean View" guesthouse at Walton-on-the-Naze, many of our regulars were fond of "switching off" from their usual lifestyles and letting their hair down while they were with us.
We had Scottish folk who would come and spend lots of money, Trappist monks who never stopped talking and chatting up the young ladies, and we had a lovely young couple from Germany every August who were a laugh a minute and didn't mind at all if conversation in the TV lounge turned to the War and the World Cup.
But our real "claim to fame" was that we had Enoch Powell at "Ocean View" for the same fortnight each year, and I have to say that - like Lord Tennyson - Enoch was a wizard on the banjo. Norton and I were always fans of the Black and White Minstrels and Enoch kept us royally entertained with classics like "Camptown Races", "Shortnin' Bread" and "Li'l Liza Jane". Sometimes, if he had had an extra glass of dry sherry, Enoch would put the banjo down and do his Al Jolson impressions. But this was, I have to say, a step too far and, frankly, a bit embarrassing. His voice wasn't deep enough and he didn't look anything like Al Jolson (though, from the rear, he did walk a bit like him). But most of the time we loved it when Enoch came to stay. He was nothing like the character he played in Parliament.
When we moved to North Korea, we were sad that Enoch - and most of the lovely people who had patronised our establishment at Walton - didn't follow us. Indeed, we always found the going tough in North Korea, but there you go.