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Anecdotal Antidotes to Tabloid Tittle-tattle

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RORY McGrath chats to everybody:

"Any more questions? I'll see you in the bar."

At a day's recordings for Call My Bluff, Penelope Keith insisted my daughter tuck into the sandwiches, leading to a relaxed natter about children and fresh vegetables.

John Hegley I hadn't seen for a couple of years when we met by chance at Didcot Parkway. His first thought was to offer condolences on the death of my son.

As production manager at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, I asked the catering staff to have strong coffee ready upon my early arrival each morning.

"They look after you well," observed the only other occupant of the Writers' Room.

We exchanged Sunday pleasantries. His face was familiar, but the name escaped me, until - with a straightforward tone of 'no reason why you should know me' - Jonathan Dimbleby introduced himself.

I adored Beryl Bainbridge. She cadged at least two lighters off me. When our lively yap-yap-yap was interrupted by a polite photographer, she insisted we carry on smoking and exhale simultaneously. The Independent's fug-filled image was a mischievous advertisement for tobacco.

It has been joyful, working with those down-to-earth public figures who shun pedestals and treat everyone with equal respect.

Which brings me to the dignified and gracious Sir Patrick Moore. We're not related. It's a common surname.

"He's upstairs," Joan on stage door informed me, pointing to the small television in her booth, which was showing a Bluff repeat.

"And one of my scripts he's doing," I chortled.

The astronomer was having a quiet cuppa. I explained my rôle at the festival and launched into a question about parallel universes, half-hoping he'd reply with that fond phrase of his: "We just don't know!"

"I ask because you appear to be in two places at once."

He smiled, closed his book, and invited me to join him. I was a teenager again, gazing at fuzzy pictures of lunar landscapes, recalling Spender's words about those who 'left the vivid air signed with their honour'.

Marcus's journal here