On the evening of Friday December 9th, 1994, I was just about as happy as it was reasonably possible for me to be. I had finished filming my part as the Aztec High Priest on the sixth series of the Crystal Maze at the Aces High Studio and I was wildly celebrating, along with the other cast and crew, at a lively and extremely well-stocked wrap party, although with the passing of the years, I forget precisely where this celebration took place. The next day, December 10th, I was woken at home in London to be given the mournful news that my father had died in south Wales and it was extraordinarily difficult, in the circumstances, to grasp that he was no more, on this Earth at least.
All these years later, and my sorrow at his passing has been almost entirely replaced by happiness at the innumerable memories I have of him, although my thoughts are occasionally still tinged with melancholy because there were so many things I would have liked to have shared with him, had he lived on. Nonetheless, I regularly find myself lost in a blissful daydream in which I’m magically transported back in time to when I was out drinking with my Dad, on a motorbike with him, watching the speedway at Newport stadium or to any one of a hundred other joyful scenarios.
In these blissful reveries, I’m not aware of being any particular age or even of being younger than I am now, despite the fact that these events took place in an increasingly distant past. If I ever find myself stopping to think about the many times I spent with my father, whether in the course of my daydreams or else in the cold light of day, I always think of myself as being 27 years old, the age at which many rock stars of a former era died and the age at which I first set off touring around Britain, Europe and Scandinavia on the mediaeval jousting tournament that I’ve mentioned frequently before now.
Do I appear to others as if I’m still 27? Almost certainly not, although I’ve never conducted a poll of any kind to establish what my friends and family might think on this matter. It stands to reason that our actions, speech and perhaps our apparel at any given point leave a fixed and lasting impression on others, however far removed from reality that impression might be, and when I consider these things, my mind invariably wanders to the baleful figure of Matthew Hopkins, the Witch Finder General of 17th century England.
For those of us who are aware of him, Hopkins is indelibly fixed in our minds and memories in the likeness of the actor Vincent Price, my namesake, who was coincidentally 57 years old or the same age that I am now when he portrayed Hopkins in the vivid, brutal film made in 1968 by Michael Reeves. The truth of the matter is that the real-life Hopkins was a mere 25 years old or quite possibly even younger when he embarked on the bloody rampage that conferred immortality upon him, but history has contrived to leave us with the lasting impression that he was monster in his mid-fifties.
For my part, I am still recovering from the ravages of illness, bereavement and operations, from earlier this year, but it’s an article of faith for me that I shall fully recover, rather than consign myself to a premature and infirm old age. How I come across to others is something largely beyond my control, but in my mind’s eye, Time stood still around 30 years ago.