Christian Rodska's Letter
(With thanks to Ray for the text)
Sadly Christian Rodska was unable to attend the 40th anniversary due to ill health but he wrote the following letter which Steve Hodson read out during the Saturday evening events:-
“Can you ride a motorbike?” they asked. “Yes” I replied.
“Can you ride a horse?” they asked. “Of course” I said.
The first answer was true - I had bought my Tiger Cub for £5 and rebuilt it in the hallway of my basement flat in Maida Vale, London.
As for being able to ride, well that was a bit of a porky - but ask an actor going for a job if he can fly a Jumbo, and he’ll say “Yes” quick as a flash and then worry about learning before filming starts. (This can backfire though - I well remember watching in horror as one unfortunate fellow actor, ploughed through the front of a greengrocer’s in Esher, because he hadn’t quite worked out which was the brake and which was the throttle on the powerful BSA he assured everyone he could handle - the film company were not too pleased!).
However, since Ron Stryker’s horse-riding capabilities were secondary to tearing about on a motorcycle, by the time filming began (and after a couple of hasty lessons) I could mount a horse, sit up straight (ish) and was aware that something called a ‘girth’ had to be tight, or you’d end upside down underneath the animal!
So began three years of what was one of the best jobs I’ve been lucky enough to have.
Imagine the hardship of turning up in the morning in the middle of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, working with talented actors and directors, and having the luxury of only doing thirteen half-hour episodes a year, resulting in a quality unparalleled in Children’s Television at the time - or possibly even, since.
And that still left several weeks free to go and do Theatre work and take a holiday. ‘Hey-diddle-de-dee an actor’s life for me!’
Tony Essex was the genius behind it all of course - his approach was unique - firstly in adapting Monica Dickens’ ‘Cobbler’s Dream’ and then assembling an outstanding cast, directors and crew.
The legendary Arthur English and Desmond Llewelyn, the gorgeous and talented Gillian Blake (are you blushing?) and that handsome dark-haired chap with the sexy voice, Steve Hodson (can you imagine how hard life is for us ordinary folk Steve?).
With the likes of Mike Apted, Stephen Frears, David Hemmings and Jack Cardiff (who received two Hollywood Oscars and was a lifelong friend until his passing two years ago), success was assured.
Generally, in between takes in filming ,one sits around in a caravan or dressing room waiting to be called, but on ‘Follyfoot’ we had these fabulous surroundings to enjoy, and if one asked Jane VERY nicely, she’d let us take a horse out to exercise. Thank you Jane. I even took up archery, shooting at hay bales in the yard, and miraculously never maimed or killed anyone.
Everyone here tonight is aware of how amazingly popular the series was, being sold to over thirty-five countries which, at the time, was pretty spectacular. And I’ll never forget the time, at the top of a mountain in the Alps waiting for a ski lift, wearing goggles, hat and jacket turned up against the cold, a Young German turning to me and saying “Follyfoot, Ja?”
To which I say on this fortieth (blimey! Is it really that long?) anniversary, most definitely “Ja!”, “Qui” ,“Si”, “Da” ,“Yes”, etc., in thirty five languages.
I’m really disappointed not to be here tonight, but trust you’ll be good enough to have a drink (or ten) with me.
And hats off to Jane, Linda, Rob, Jane Royston, Ray, Tamara and everyone who helped organize the event, and special thoughts for all those with us and gone, who were lucky enough to be part of “Follyfoot”.
Mind how you go and don’t frighten the ‘orses - bloomin’ things!