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Thunderbirds Are Go - The Day I Met Virgil Tracy

Posted: 14/03/2012 20:45

We've all done it - you are in a place where you suddenly come across a famous person you instantly recognise.

For me, it was on a train carriage this week where the person sitting in front of me was Virgil Tracy, the pilot of Thunderbird 2 from the 1960s TV series. He is looking very good after all these years, has grown a lot, doesn't look much older and has dispensed with the wires (although I did not see him walking so am sure it would have still been obvious if he had got off the train before me).

Scott, in Thunderbird 1 was my favourite. He was the leader, the adventurer, the good looking one (if you aspire to fashion yourself as a puppet). Virgil was more of the dependable sort. Not flash, slightly boring - he was the Golden Retriever of the skies. This was the Virgil I saw. I looked him top to bottom and thought. He must have seen some things over his time. He should be on the Piers Morgan or Jonathan Ross show recounting his exploits doing lines of coke with Lady Penelope and letting it slip that Parker the Butler was in a relationship with Captain Scarlett, Indestructible man.

Instead, Virgil was sitting in front of me, reviewing a set up Board minutes in relation to the job he is now doing. The International Rescues must have become too much for him. We only saw the rescues that were successful. Perhaps one day after a night on the bourbon with Scott, he manoeuvred Thunderbird 2 into collect a posse of cute kids, landed awkwardly squashing them horribly. It was hushed up. He was spirited away from Tracy Island into a desk job and replaced by his spotty nephew Elvis.

I acknowledge that meeting one of the stars of a 1960s TV puppet show on the evening train to Southend is not an everyday occurrence and would stress that I had not been drinking. But, I am certain it was him.

I have had some lesser situations where life mimics art. Some time ago, I realised that I work with a man who is the living embodiment of Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age films. I have tested this similarity unbeknownst to him accessing a picture of him on my computer as he talked to the Finance Director in front of my desk. The match was exact save for the absence of fir. And knowing his cartoon alter ego also makes it a lot easier to work with him.

I realised too watching the 1997 Cartoon musical adventure Anastasia that the heroine of the film was in fact my perfect woman. Beautiful and feisty with stunning auburn hair and a voice that could melt you. It became clear that it was impractical to run away with a cartoon character unless you were content to spend your life in two dimensions, going left and right, up and down. I was fortunate enough to realise that I had in fact married a woman with these same features, a union which had given me the added dimension of an added dimension.

But the Virgil I saw was real. The face, the look of dependability and the slightly varnished exterior which picked up the lights of the train carriage.

If I see him again, I will drop a few hints - hum the theme tune of "Thunderbirds" quietly but in a way that he cannot miss. Replace the eponymous but grating ending to sentences "cool" with "F.A.B." when I talk to my wife on the mobile to tell her I am on the train. I am sure all I will get is a smile of recognition. Alternatively, he will commence the process of getting an injunction to prevent me being in the same railway carriage as him. The risk is worth taking.