Bob said he was : 'Pleased with they way it had been made. The gold-faced Axons looked good and sounded totally convincing. In fact, apart from a few dodgy SFX moments, both Dave and I felt very well served by the Director and the production team', They were invited to the recordings where they : 'Met the wonderful Jon Pertwee and his then companion, the delightful Katy Manning'. (link)
Their next commission from Patrick Dromgoole was : "Write me a thriller set in Bristol" and as part of their research they were introduced to a 'peterman', a safe- blower called Grant, with whose help they hoped to make the safe blowing scene authentic. They learnt from him that "Doin' the job! Greatest thrill you'll ever get ! It's all about the 'bottle'... from cockney rhyming slang, 'bottle and glass' -ass, in other words doing a scary job without shitting yourself." Apparently, Grant who was married with a couple of kids had spent 20 of his 40 years in prison. Bob said : 'It was then that we decided to call our story 'Thick as Thieves' '
Leonard Rossiter, seen here on the right, was taken on to play the safebreaker 'Eddie' and Corinne Redgrave, on the left was employed as 'Mr Big' who planned the job. Dave and Bob introduced Leonard to Grant and Bob said : 'Len picked up the inner violence of the man and the manic laugh and put it in his portrayal of Eddie'. The shooting went well with Dave and Bob playing occasionally as extras. They managed to get the location catering done for the crew at their friend, Keith Floyd's new Bistro in Bristol. Televised on the ITV network in 1971, it was well received by the critics and the following year it won the Pye 'Oscar' at the British Film and Television Awards. (link)
Bob said that they were pleased with the result, but had little time to think because they were commissioned to do two episodes the popular TV police series 'Z cars'. For the first episode, 'Quiet as the grave' they used a safe blower format and in the second, 'House to House' starred the regular players, including the trilby hat wearing, John Slater.
For their fourth 'Doctor Who' they settled on a story based on a severed hand and when they cautioned the script editor, Bob Holmes, that it might be too scary for children's TV, he said : "Yes it is.. so let's frighten the little buggers to death" and they agreed. Called 'The Hand of Fear', it was partly set in and around a real nuclear power station and they gained full cooperation from the management who saw it as an opportunity to show that nuclear power was totally safe and the show garnered over 10 million viewers.(link)'To explore our 'Roland' whose dark tower is represented by the tower block of flats he lives in - on the top floor. We decided to make him 'out of place in his school, as a scholarship boy who attends a smart private school because of his singing abilities'. In addition, he lived : 'In a broken home situation, having a step mother, as opposed to the conventional set up. We made his father a mad keen jazz musician who had little time for his son'. (link) Aired in 1977, it was dubbed as 'Kafka for Kids' and despite some misgivings from the ITV, it was nominated for a BAFTA Award as 'Best Children's Serial', only to lose out to 'Ivor the Engine'. (link)
It was followed by their last collaboration, 'The Armageddon Factor' (link), with Dave telling him he wanted to write novels and TV was a terrible distraction for him. Bob said : 'I was not only sad, but a little frightened that this would be our last writing collaboration'. In fact they worked again once more more for HTV on 4 episode of 'Murder at the Wedding', filmed and shot on location in Somerset. As a result every newspaper critic with the exception of Philip Pirset at the Mail slated it. He said : 'It was my dark night of the soul. It was like being beaten for some misdemeanor you hadn't committed'.'We were two minds in tandem always up to speed on what the other was thinking and for the most part thoroughly enjoying work and play together'. By this time his marriage to Vikki had ended and his relationship with his new partner, Angela, had produced a son, Andrew. He now received no commissions and he said 'as the work drought went on I began to feel pretty lonely'. His next break came with a new private-eye series for the BBC called 'Shoestring' named after its eponymous gumshoe, Eddie Shoestring and set in Bristol.
Bob wrote the second episode for the series, 'Knock for Knock' and then took on the job as Script Editor for the remaining 19 episodes of the series. (link) He was working with the producer Robert Banks Stewart who was 8 years his senior and found working with him 'tough and exhilarating' as 'he was a stickler for getting the story just right and would keep on nagging at it until he felt it was ready to be shown to a director'. Bob then found working with Robert and the director 'often grueling, but I loved it, all of it, seeing a script come together stronger than it'd been before'. He worked on 'Shoestring' for the two seasons it ran.' Had some highs and some very low, lows'. The space work was the good but the monsters were bad : 'You could see the feet of the actors playing in them which made them totally lose all suspension of belief when they were on screen'.(link)
For 'Into the Labyrinth' in 1981, starring Ron Moody as devilish time traveller, 'Rothgo', Bob wrote the first episode and then worked as script editor. (link) He said he chose his writers carefully and used two from 'Doctor Who' and one or two new ones. Bob said that it was during the filming of the series that he met the Aardman Animations team, Dave Sproxton and Peter Lord.(link) His episode, 'Forced Run', had Jack making a routine trip to France for brandy and intercepted by a Revenue cutter. He said that 'Smuggler' he was 'proud that with the right stories you could make an expensive looking series on a fairly low budget'.(link) He said it combined : 'at least two of my strong interests : thriller writing and my love of jazz; bring in the Bristol element and I was as happy as the proverbial pig in shit !' He was, however, displeased with the result, saying that it lacked pace and was too long and at the same time in his personal life, things took a turn for the worse, his second wife, Angela, left him with taking their two children with her and in the Autumn his mother and brother died in quick succession. (link). It focused on Gromit's birthday present of techno-trousers for Wallace, designed to save him taking him on walkies and included a sinister penguin, a robbery sequence and a train chase. Bob said that when he saw : 'Nick accepting the Oscar on morning TV, I couldn't quite believe my eyes. I was walking on air for days'.
His last project, at the age of 69, involved the recreation of 'K9' for Australian TV with Bob as script editor. While in Australia he was besieged by problems and was thrilled to see that 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' had been nominated as 'Best Animated Film' at BAFTA and he had been nominated too. (link)
Bob's 'An autobiography – K9 Stole My Trousers', came out in 2013 and when he died he was still developing a number of projects, some K9 related.
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And now his early life ......
Bob was born in Bristol the summer of 1939, two months before the outbreak of the Second World War, the son of Roma and Stanley and was brought up with his elder brother by his parents and 'our Gran' in a new pebble dashed semi-detached, pebble-dashed house which his parents had bought for £250 three years before. He described the area in which he grew up, St George's in the eastern suburb of the city, as 'a hotchpotch of council housing and private semis, plonked into an old coal mining and quarrying district, full of tiny cottages and small holdings linked by narrow lanes'.
Bob was seven years old when his father, who he scarcely knew, returned from the War and attending he was now attending Air Baloon Junior School, which he said was 'run by a tyrant. A totally humourless cow called Mrs Robinson' a Wartime replacement 'who insisted she was called Madam' and who 'often wielded a stick and used it whenever she thought appropriate'.
She stood in complete contrast to 'Miss Horne, a sleepy-eyed lady of twenty-one or two' who each afternoon 'read us stories of 'Brer Rabbit' from 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. I'm convinced that it was this as much as anything that awakened my childish mind to literature and storytelling. In later years another teacher read to us from 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' and I recall waiting in anticipation each day to hear more about Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and maybe, Injun Joe'.We were mostly in a state of poverty, which could be an acute embarrassment - not being able to pay bills, begging for credit, little of which I understood at the time'. It meant that young Bob had collect 'nutty slack', a cheap coal dust mix, which he dragged back to the house on a cart, with his head dipped in shame. Worse still, he said : 'We were the last family in the street to get 'the ITV'. I well remember my mother being distraught at being unable to discuss the ITV commercials and soaps with the neighbours and, of course, there was no way of making out you had ITV because of the tell-tail aerial'.
By the age of eleven Bob was the favourite of the new young and attractive head teacher at school, Miss Lovell, who he had erotic dreams about in which she was 'naked and tied on a rope from the school rafters, swaying back and forth in front to me, and I would smack her ass as she went by.. No sex (I didn't know what that was), no kissing. Just that'. In fact he became her favourite and 'as I was good at art, she'd single me out to paint pictures for the school'. It was around this time that he excelled with his essay on 'Rain'. 'I remember that I suddenly shifted a gear in writing prose and I became quite philosophical for my young age. It was praised as much for its length as its content'. It broke the exercise book single page barrier and went on for a few lines on the next page. 'I recall feeling the pleasure and enjoyment at writing that essay, plus of course the accolades that came with it'.
Bob failed his eleven plus exam in 1948. He said that having seen his elder brother at the boys grammar school : 'I surmised that if I failed I'd do less work; I wouldn't need to wear a uniform or carry a satchel, or do homework' and consequently didn't try hard to pass and duly failed. He now attended Air Balloon Hill School, unusually a 'mixed' secondary modern school and cane be seen here at the age of 13 in 1952, smiling and third place in on the left in the second row.
He enjoyed his music lessons but when he brought in and played his brother's New Orleans Jazz records was disappointed that Jell Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong raised no interest, but David Whitfeild's 1953 hit, 'Answer me, my love', brought in by one of the girls, went down well. He recalled : 'My claim that this was commercial crap was ignored and any attempt at converting others to jazz evaporated. How naïve I was'.'Came the Festival of Britain. It was well advertised and it seemed unpatriotic not to go there, so Dad announced that we were to go to London on the train to see it. All I recall is being totally underwhelmed. I kept thinking : ' Is this it ? Where were the fantastic inventions ? The plans for a rocket to the moon ?' which I' assumed would be there ? I needed to be excited, shocked. Why not ? However, shock and awe extended to the Skylon, a tall double-pointed structure resembling a rocket - but not. That was, in fact, totally pointless'. (link)'Was the cradle of Methodism, It was where Wesley preached Hell Fire and Damnation to the poor miners coming up from the coal mine, knackered after twelve hours or so of grueling work in the pit. He obviously held their attention. It's said that many a miner went home with streaks of white in the coal dust on their cheeks. What a bastard he must have been ! That Wesley. You work your bollocks off down the mine for 12 hours a day and here's this vicar threatening you with Hell ! Because you are a 'sinner' '. Bob said he couldn't imagine they had a lot of time to 'sin' anyway.
Bob enjoyed painting and won a competition, set up by the twin-town Bristol-Bordeaux Trust, with his entry using his father's oil paints, with a painting of a French café with the Eiffel tower in the background and wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps and attend art college. However, his ambition was vetoed by his mother who feared he would copy his brother and descend into what Mum called the 'Bohemian lifestyle' - jazz, long hair, the obligatory duffel coat and worst of all ... girls'.
He walked John home and apologised to his mother, who took it with good grace, smiled and said she hoped he hadn't broken his jaw. John would leave the group when he went to study at King's College Cambridge and as 'John Fortune' made his career as a satirist, comedian, actor and writer and was best known for his later work with John Bird and Rory Bremner in the TV series, 'Bremmer, Bird and Fortune'.
Bob said 'from here on John Wood and I became best of friends and the fight thing was completely forgotten'. As well as listening to jazz records the band members started listening to classical music and attend concerts. 'For me it was like looking at a painting but, instead of image colour and drawing, going into patterns of sound. I achieved this revelation while listening to Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral'. In addition to concerts, they also attended the theatre sat in the gods of Bristol Old Vic and watched Peter O'Toole in 'Look Back in Anger', 'Hamlet' and 'Brighton Rock'.
This was the formative period of his life and he said 'the exploration of theatre and music combined to form an enormous inrush of information, making it a time of huge emotional and educational experience for me'. The band also went for long walks 'all the time talking and always questioning everything, including, of course, changing the world for the better'. At first in the company of these grammar school boys he just made jokes but 'within a year or so, by joining in discussions with them I was, without realising it, gaining and education. We entered into deep philosophical discussions and perhaps, one might have detected the first bud of satire from John Wood'.a really clever guy who would build word pictures, not just humorous ones, but of any situation whether it be attempting to deal with girlfriends, the way the busses ran or world politics'.
He now took the step which would decide his future when, with three friends, he set up a film company, Hexagon Films and said : 'I'd entertained the idea of being a director, but felt the dark shadow of my glaringly inappropriate background, sans formal education, sans drama, sans English literature, all pulling against me. I'd have embarrassing visions of trying to be clever, by being totally out of my depth and making a bloody fool of myself. Best keep my specific ambition vague, I felt, just see how things go'."turning money into light".