The day I met… Frederick “Day of the Jackal” Forsyth

Just imagine, you finally get to meet your idol, only for it all to go terribly badly wrong?

Perhaps they disappoint you and disillusion sets in? Perhaps you throw up in their cumberbund? Or perhaps – like me – you manage to make an awful first impression.

I’ve received some great entries for this blog’s The Day I Met… competition. Some funny. Some poignant. All you need to do is email me your story – doesn’t have to be long – and I’ll publish it on this blog – a new one each Wednesday as long as it lasts. The competition details are here. But really, it’s as simple as emailing me at paulwaters99 @ (just remove the spaces in that email address). If it’s a funny story – all the better. And you’ll get a prize – the book of your choice from the list I’ll send you. But never mind that – just think of the prestige. Aaah.

Anyway – I need more entries – so please email.

And – just like junior army officers leading the charge on World War One trenches – I wouldn’t ask you to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. So I’ll kick off with…

The Day I Met… Frederick Forsyth. 

This was not how I had imagined things would go. Since internationally famous best-selling writer Frederick Forsyth popped up on the local scene, I’ve been secretly nurturing the hope that we’d have a chance meeting – over a pint in the local perhaps, followed by a quiet chat and erudite conversation about commonly held interests – the BBC, Africa, writing and local goings on.

Millinery maestro (huh!) Frederick Forsyth

Who knows where it might lead? Not to the disastrous encounter of the other day. That wasn’t what I had in mind at all.

And why wouldn’t we get on famously? After all, since Bill the window cleaner tipped me off that he was here, most people’s reaction to FF’s arrival has been “who?” Only I, I realised, was truly appreciative of his work.

And I’m not just talking about The Day of the Jackal – a classic and inspiration for two films (one also a classic, the other dire); The Odessa File– another good one (which also inspired a decent film) with a better and more credible twist than Robert Harris’s (otherwise very good) Fatherland; and all the others since. Not to mention his short stories. He’s been mightily prolific.

But also his columns in the Spectator, his reporting from the Biafran war of secession from Nigeria and his departure from the BBC over the way the conflict was being reported.

But despite spending every waking hour in the pub and every sleeping hour propped up against the gatepost of his estate – the chance meeting never occurred. He probably mistook me for a dead badger. That’ll be why he didn’t invite me in.


Hmm… Backtracking for a moment to make a correction. That last bit sounds both sad and stalkerish. It never happened. Nor do I ever touch the devil’s buttermilk (aka alcohol). Except when necessary. However I do occasionally run stagger past his entrance when out running.

So as I was saying: The chance meeting never occurred until…

Until an enterprising representative of the village fair fayre collared the great man at a supermarket (I know! Doesn’t he have people to carry out such mundane tasks on his behalf?) and secured his agreement to officially open the festive proceedings.

Happy days! It was clearly written in the stars that our “chance meeting” would occur on a sunny afternoon at the fayre. All I had to do was stay off the Pimms and not do anything stupid. How hard could that be?

Aye, there’s the rub. Not doing anything stupid clashes with the “sure why not” part of my character.

Fruit face hat - awaiting scallion hair.

Children attending the fayre were encouraged to make and wear special hats. And I am lucky enough to have a creative genius living with me, who had ideas for not one, but two hats. Which she duly created.

The only problem was, she had only the one head. Another was needed. Mine. And sure why wouldn’t I be proud to wear her next whatever outlandish creation?

I could have given this post a different title: Two heads are not better than one.

But as we prepared for the hat parade I was proud to model one of her millinery masterpieces. She wore the one with bananas and other fruit and veg. I wore the Moshi Monster-based “Simon Growl” titfer

Some tramp modelling Simon Growl hat.

Not many other adults were wearing unusual hats. Fainthearted (or sensible) bunch – though there was a bloke fully kitted out as Cap’n Jack Sparrow, head to toe. Respect. And quite a few mothers and fathers in straw hats – which, quite frankly, don’t count at all. Wimps.

So off we paraded. The fruit stayed aloft. No marchers were run over by impatient drivers. So far, so good.

Until it was time for the judging to begin.

As the wearer of such wonderful headgear, it was no surprise to find myself prodded and pressed by small children to join the line-up. And how could I pass up the chance to show off the handiwork of my resident creative genius?

What jolly fun, I thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Scallion hair for the hat - "Summer is here everyone celebrate!!!!! Yippie!!!" Now that's what I call attention to detail. And still good to eat.

I hadn’t realised that in his capacity as local celebrity fayre opener, Frederick Forsyth would also be judging the hat competition. The younger children were assessed and judged and the prize awarded. The older children were assessed and judged and the prize awarded. Two spectacular hats won.

Then, possibly out of misguided kindness to me lined up there with the children, an organiser decided that there should be an adult category. Well… The excitement of those around me was barely muted. I was nudged and bumped and all but congratulated in advance.

According to a straw poll of eight to eleven-year-olds I was a shoo-in for victory. My hat – which they knew really wasn’t my hat, but made by one of their own – was a startling object.

And for once, I too was feeling quietly confident of victory. And why not? I was the only adult competitor. No sign of Cap’n Jack Sparrow. It was in the bag.

"Dear oh dear, can't we find some other entrants?"

The judge – Frederick Forsyth – looked from right to left and back again. He pursed his lips. He frowned. He looked again. He frowned some more. He looked to be in some pain. He whispered to the organiser. There was an announcement – a megaphoned plea – calling for additional entrants. A couple of pretty ladies shuffled over to show willing.

Frederick Forsyth perked up. He smiled. He looked again from right to left and from left to right. I saw he’d made his decision. First prize to the pretty lady in the straw hat. No, to be fair, it was a straw hat with a ribbon.

She looked mildly bewildered and pleased. But at my waist-level there were gasps of outrage. The girls were not happy.

Meanwhile I was left to reflect on how I’d blown my chance of impressing Frederick Forsyth. All he would ever remember of me, with a twinge of pained disapproval, would be a fool in a bizarre hairy hat with eyes and a mouth.

Yum yum

Oh dear.

Maybe if I shave my head completely he won’t make the connection should we ever meet again.

But if I haven’t blown my chance I’ll eat my hat. Actually not mine, hers – the one with bananas on it.



Filed under In the village, The Day I Met... Competition

19 responses to “The day I met… Frederick “Day of the Jackal” Forsyth

  1. Maybe one day you’ll get your revenge, when you get to judge a knobbly knees competition, and deem Len Deighton’s to be insufficiently deformed

  2. Don’t worry…when your book becomes a best seller, other people wearing funnier hats will kick themselves for appearing before you for judging. Anyway, you are a hero in your daughter’s eyes i am sure! Who cares what jackal’s think.

    PS: Can I send in more entries of famous people I have met?

  3. Maybe FF was just jealous of your titfer and spunk to sport it!
    You have reminded me of….., never mind I think I will save it for another day and use it on my blog! Thanks Pal. 😉

  4. My heart bleeds for you. Part of the problem of being a celebrity is that others want to meet me and write about their experiences. Now how can I find someone who is a bigger celebrity? I, like Padmum, will wait for that novel to be published and then give it a shot.

    • blackwatertown

      You must find those kiss’n’tell tabloid stories a real nuisance. But a generous soul like yourself just can’t help keeping on giving.

  5. You never know, he may have been quietly absorbing your appearance and storing it up as the basis for a major character in his next novel. Watch out for the man in the funny hat who turns out to be a double agent.

  6. Lovely story and awesome hats. I’m a sucker for a silly hat frankly.
    Jipped I say, definitely jipped. Both worthy entries. He might be an awesome writer but he has poor taste in hats! (Then perhaps he has good taste in women, who knows.)
    Must have a think about this but seriously, I can’t remember having ever actually ‘met’ anyone famous. Seen a few but never a meeting.

    • blackwatertown

      He does indeed he good taste in women – though I mean that in a not-leching-after-my-neighbour sort of way.
      Re you not meeting celebs. It’s probably because you set the bar so high. For me it’s George Best, Pele, Nelson Mandela, Muhammed Ali or nothing. So Nelson and Muhammed – I have you in my sights – though not in a Jackal sniperish sort of way.

  7. Great read that post 🙂 You have an awesome way with words. The hats are so cool! Frederick Forsythe was clearly not at all a good judge of hats…lol…and suffered a distinct lack of taste in that dept! And I’m sure you looked very fetching adorned in that fine hat, posing proudly for the judging 😉

    • blackwatertown

      I know. The poor fool will have to console himself by clinging to his paltry writing success to make up for his headgear misjudgement.

  8. Hi Paul

    I have 2, although both quite short. One evening, having been out with some clients in London and was on the tube with one of them for part of the journey home. Being slightly lubricated I was trying to impress them with some big talk, the details of which escape me, but which I seem to remember even I didn’t think sounded very convincing, when I glanced over his shoulder at the guy standing behind him and realised it was John Hegley. I expect somewhere in one of his notebooks he’s got a poem called “Arse on the tube”.
    The other one was the time I stood on Mark Eitzel’s foot at an American Music Club gig – but really, why was he standing next to the loo at one of his own gigs in the first place?

    • blackwatertown

      Ah – you’d get on with Tanya – podcast link in previous post (Day I Met… competition – link in the 3rd paragraph of the post – she launched a similar attack on Donald Rumsfeld.

      But I love your John Hegley performance. At least Gazza wasn’t your witness, else it would become a song: “The arse on the tube is all thine, all thine. The arse on the tube is all thine.”

  9. You are in form! The paint fumes, perhaps?

    I had to put the coffee down when I got to ‘Not doing anything stupid clashes with the “sure why not” part of my character.’, I was laughing so much. Indignant 8 year olds, selective blindness, a hat with a ribbon, and your Hegley/Gazza mash up …

    Hats off to you, sir

  10. Barbara Rodgers

    You do have a wonderful way with words – I thoroughly enjoyed this story! Your kids must adore your sense of humor and playfulness. Bravo!

  11. Pingback: Grannymar » Breath

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