When I was on my first assignment in Plymouth, I bumped into Christopher Biggins, a famous children’s TV moderator from the 80s. I was in the hotel restraurant eating breakfast and was late to meet my colleagues outside to get to work. I was walking very quickly, as I rounded the corner going out of the room and nearly knocked Christopher over! It was only after I had apologised and walked on that I realised who I had nearly knocked over.
I met Jethro Tull and The Young Dubliners at a concert in Hameln, in Germany at the turn of the century. I spoke briefly with Tull, but the YDs were very friendly and we ended up talking for about 15 minutes during the break between sets.
At a motorbike show at Beaulieu there were famous bikes being ridden around by racers current and past (this was end of the 90s). I got to talk to several of them, including Carl Forgarty, Jamie Whittam and his lovely wife Andrea, and several others. All very friendly. It never seemed like you were talking to a celebrity, they just stood around and chatted with the other bikers, it was a great event. I was just standing in the crowd, when the commentator motioned me forward to hold onto one of the bikes, whilst he interviewed the rider, I just sort of stayed there after that and ended up meeting all the riders and then tagged along with them afterwards.
Another time, I was flying from the UK to Germany and I was sat with the McClaren F1 team, including Ron Dennis. Another time, I was in the same row as Boom Town Rat’s singer Bob Geldof.
I used to be involved in a lot of amateur racing and we would be at many race circuits at weekends and you’d meet a lot of motor racing giants milling around the pits. Again, it was great fun talking with them, nobody treated them like stars and they just talked normally about the cars and about racing in general.
There have been a few other chance encounters. But I’ve never run behind the celebreties or treated them any differently than anyone else I meet. I never collected autographs - especially in the sorts of situations described abouve; although the Young Dubliners did sign a CD for my then girlfriend for me.
But I’ve never really kept a record of who I met or when. Some like nearly knocking over Christopher Biggins or the long chat with the YDs stick in my mind, because they were something special. Other times, I’ve chatted to somebody for a few minutes, only for somebody to come up to me after they had moved on to ask me, if I knew with whom I’d just been speaking… Erm, no!
One of the funniest was ex-athlete and TV star, Kriss Akabusi. He took his motorbike license test at the same time as me and we both bought bikes from the same dealer and, in the UK, you used to get a new registration year on the 1st August, so the dealer held a party on the 31st July and we got to ride off on the new bikes at midnight.
Kriss rode his custom off the forecourt and stalled it, you could hear his laugh all the way down the street. We both used to meet regularly for ride-outs from the dealer. We stopped one evening in a pub for a soft-drink, before riding back to base. He was worried about being recognised, so he sat there in a ski-mask. But he was laughing so hard, everybody was looking at him anyway!