As the tour went on it seemed as though every day there was something new, though none of it quite as bad as those few horrific minutes in the cinema when a Polish actress made use of her natural assets to kill a man.
As Dickens said: “They were the the best of times; they were the worst of times.” Although there were more good times than bad.
Certainly the very best of all times came in the third or fourth week of the tour when the venue stage manager told me there was a letter for me being held at the box office, front of house.
I knew that only three people had the addresses for the tour, my mother and father, who had written to me a few days previously, and that very special person in Basildon – the one I knew had needed breathing space.
The letter had been forwarded from our last venue and I recognised the hand immediately. It wasn’t that of my mother or my father.
It was a newsy letter, a very chatty letter, but most of all it was friendly.
It certainly gave me the boost I had needed.
That evening, after the show, I settled down and wrote a long, carefully-worded reply. I responded to the news in the same spirit in which it had been provided. I talked about the places we had already been, and those that lay ahead; I told her of the characters at each venue, because they were all different; I sent my best wishes and next day I posted it.
Then it was back to work, but back with a jubilant heart.
From then on she wrote each week and I replied each week.
Meanwhile it was on with the show and we were playing to packed houses all week at every venue. It appeared that children throughout England just couldn’t get enough of the puppet trio.
Harry, of course, would be up on stage and able to see everyone in the auditorium, as could Howard during his escapology act; Lawrence and Toabs had to keep their heads down behind the scenery.
I got to meet the audience up front and personal because before each show, during the interval, and for half an hour after the show I manned our Sooty merchandise stall in the foyer as the children queued up with their parents to buy badges, story and puzzle books, puzzles and, of course, puppets of our three stars.
Although I shouldn’t have had a favourite I did and I soon found out my favourite seemed to be the children’s favourite as well.
My measure for success between Sooty, Sweep and Soo was based on which of the three badges sold the most. Some children would persuade their parents to buy all three while others might have to chose one over the others as they would already have laid claim to a book or a puppet.
Week by the week the badge sales varied, sometimes Sooty leading, sometimes Sweep, only rarely did Soo feature at the top of the league.
After five weeks, however, there was a clear leader in the badge sweepstake – you’ve probably guessed by the choice of descriptions for the competition, yes, of course, it was that lovable rascal Sweep.
Then again there were times when our venue hosted another form of entertainment in the evening, sometimes it would be a play or musical, at other times a single concert from a music group.
I was clearing our equipment into the wings one evening when the band playing that night turned up – it was Magna Carta, who I had met earlier that year after watching their performance at Basildon.
Considering how many people they must meet they recognised me immediately and asked me what I was doing there instead of reviewing entertainment for the Basildon Standard Recorder.
I explained about taking a break from journalism.
They then asked if I had any badges as all of them were fans of the Sooty Show. Harry allowed us a few badges to give away to friends and family so I swapped a set for a few of Magna Carta’s own badges.
That night I had a prime spot to watch their gig, on a chair in the wings. The lads also slipped a couple of extra numbers into the show as I had mentioned that they were among my main favourites.
It was more fun on the Sooty Sow tour than it was Hard Times.