A Star is Born

I was at the bar of the 'Craven Heifer' along with other 'memory cavers' when "Psst", a voice said in my ear.

"I generally am on a Saturday night", I answered, turning round, but there was nobody there. I looked down and there was Sid Perou, stood on a chair, trying to attract my attention.

"I can make you a star", he said, "We're making a film and we want you to stand in for George Cornes". "Not the George Cornes?" I gasped, completely overcome. It was like being told to stand in for Queen Victoria. "Yes", answered Sid, solemnly drawing himself up to his full 3' 6". "You have been chosen".

"Will I have to use make-up to look like him?". "No", said Sid, "there's no make-up good enough. Anyway, we're using your legs and George's face. He does the talks and you do the walking. You get paid", he added and explained that the going Equity rate was £16 an hour but because I wasn't a paid up member I would probably end up with 12p an hour at least.

I asked would I be a professional like Mr. Lyon of 'Whernside Welly' fame or even like Mr. Waltham? "We've done 'im", said Sid, "but he rates 15p per hour because he's a jolly geologist and he knows about rocks and can talk proper!"

The great day dawned when my legs were covered in yellow gaiters and appeared on film underneath George Cornes' face and then it happened! Sid discovered that George Cornes Superstar, who is a well-known 'Oggie Waffler', could only talk with an Oxford accent. George was sent for electrocution lessons, but still his voice came out the same.

"Alright for 'Wednesday with the Wurzzels'", said Sid, "but no good for 'Under the Pennines'; the film is ruined."

"What about 'im", asked Lindsey pointing at me. "Can't we use his face as well as his legs? Would the camera stand it?". "Yes, we'll risk it", replied Sid.

It was the moment I had been waiting for and soon I was the star of the Show. I stood in the pissing rain above Lancaster Hole pitch, lifelining twenty volunteers down, 52 ammo boxes and various odds and sods including... wait for it... Karate Bill and Derek Brandon who had also volunteered. Karate secretly fancied himself as the working man's James Cagney, whilst Derek with a name like Brandon couldn't go wrong. Tiger had come too... and I immediately got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days, for Tiger is a walking disaster area!

Hours later the film crew were ready, extras lined up and the Star was ready to descend. "Lights", "Sound", "Action" shouts Sid. "Er - can we go out now?", said a voice. "We didn't think we would be underground so long", said Brandon. "We only came to look at the lights", said Karate. "Me mam worries about me", said Tiger. So I lifelined them up again and swore at them every foot of the way.

"No need to lose your cool", said Tiger, "I mean you've only been lifelining for three hours. Remember Gingling!!"

What happened at Gingling, young Pennine members may ask.... read back issues of N.P.C. comics to find out the times, horrors and traumatic experiences from which veteran cavers have never recovered.

After a very shaky start, when the last two cavers who just happened to be carrying the camera and tape recorder arrived, we managed to get filming.

The generator on the surface was working well and the large floodlights lit up my handsome face, when suddenly we were plunged into darkness. "Oh", said Sid, "did we fill up the petrol tank?", but Lindsey didn't reply and we slowly made our way out to the pitch where we discovered two young S.R.T. experts. They had SRT'eed over our wire and finished their descent in a shower of sparks. One of the cast was looking up the pitch when a drop of water hit him in the eye and knocked out his contact lens. So we spent the rest of the day on our hands and knees in a muddy, gravelly pool below the pitch feeling for a contact lens. We found several sardine tin keys, bits of glass and what looked suspiciously like the end of a french letter, but no contact lens.

I was rather despondent as we later made our way home, but this was a good day, and much worse was to happen (like Ron Bliss going down the hole in a blue overall and emerging several weeks later in an orange one). This was a typical Sid situation; we had no-one in charge of continuity and all sorts of wierd things happened, like my socks changing colour and my watch disappearing as I climbed down Lancaster Hole pitch; like the camera suddenly starting working as I carried it across the moor and by the time we had found the switch I had filmed over 100 feet of blue sky and a very bent nose which kept peeping into the lens; like the time I jumped down Kaths Way forgetting I had the microphone wire up my leg and was closely followed by Lindsey's headphones, taperecorder and Lindsey.

Sid now became known as Sir Alfred Hitchcock not because of his ability as a director but because his film was fast turning into a mystery.

One day the B.B.C. sent two reporters up to report on Sid's filming technique amd to interview the budding Star. One happened to be a nice young lady dressed in the height of fashion and we explained to her that caves and cavers are nasty things and nice young ladies need overalls on to keep clean and to protect vulnerable young bodies from rock projections and cavers' knobbly fingers. "You also need boots", I added.

"Oh", said the young dear and rushed off to reappear in thigh-length stilletto-heeled tooled Moroccan leather jobs which would have looked great in a sexual fetish magazine.

"Do you like them?" she asked. "Very nice", I said, "awkward on ladders, but very nice".

The young man who accompanied her was the photographer and was obviously an expert (derivation: 'ex' something that has been; 'spurt' - a drip under pressure), because he did not use flash equipment and when I queried this he explained, "I've got a very fast film in here which will take all the pictures I need with the light of an ordinary caving lamp". So I lent him one of mine. Exactly one hour later, the poor bloke was stumbling around trying to take photographs in a dull yellow gloom which gradually deepened as the bulb filament was reduced to glowing like a fag end as my light failed. Eventually he approached me and spoke: "When I said that the film was fast I didn't mean it would work in the bloody dark!" I apologised about the lamp and told him it probably needed some more tap water in it. It's hard being a Star.

Eventually I took the young lady off to show her some marvellous formations. I was brought back by Sid who made me get on with my acting and by the time I had finished she had gone off with Ron Bliss who really was showing her formations.

The following week we all rushed to buy the 'Radio Times' and found it was not being printed because of a strike.

We were filming down Easegill when suddenly disaster struck. They say that lightning never strikes twice but when I saw Tiger's homely face I knew they were wrong, especially when Tiger poked his face into the lens while Sid was shooting.

"Cut", said Sid, when he saw the magnified refugee from the Muppet Show appear in the viewfinder. It was marvellous self control; he jumped on his camera and then went quiely to a corner of the cave where he cried, "Why me?!" We tried again, but it was hopeless. The NPC are not noted for tact, manners or common sense so it was no surprise when they all gathered round the camera and started smoking, and poor Sid disappeared in a cloud of smoke. I looked on with horror as I slowly made out the faces of Cadge and missus, Tiger, Pybus and missus, and Irish Pat (who says he isn't) and somebody else's missus and one or two others. I then noticed that one of them was carrying 200 feet of rope; another was carrying several ladders. Now this in itself is not unusual but down County it was most extraordinary. So I asked them what the rope was for. "I thought you'd ask that", said Pat, "it's for Lancaster Hole". "Ah", I said, "but this is...". "yes", said Pat, "well, we were going to Lancaster Hole, but we came down here. Ta ta; here, any for PJ?". So the lesser mortals of the NPC passed us by, leaving in their wake a completely fogged up cave, a demented Sid Perou, and a really puzzled veteran caver who still couldn't understand why they should carry 200 feet of rope with them. Perhaps it's some sort of handicap; no, they've got enough handicaps without that.

It was Ron Bliss's day, his finest hour, as he did his acting with gusto and then settled down to eat his sandwiches.

"Not yet", said Sir Alfred, "let's shoot a bit more nearer Platypus Junction", and we wandered off happily down the passage to be brought back to earth suddenly by a thick cloud of tobacco smoke, four ladders and 200 feet of rope. "Hello, Jim", said my clubmates. "I thought you were going to PJ", I asked. "We were", said Tiger, "but we couldn't find it".

After several hints like 'piss off', we eventually got rid of them and Ron Bliss did his stuff. "Well done, Ron", said Sid, "You can have your sandwiches now". Ron rushed over for his sandwich box and opened it in anticipation, for his mam knows that Ronald likes goodies. "Eh, it's empty. I'm sure me mam filled it". "I'm sure she did, Ron, and to be sure I'll let you know who bloody emptied it", I replied.

Eventually, in spite of protests and various pressure groups, trade unionists on strike (at the 'Radio Times' printers) and a strike by B.B.C. technicians the film was shown on BBC2. The T.V. Service Engineers were snowed under by so many phone calls, as complaints like "my horizontal hold's gone" or "me pictures slipped" flooded in that the B.B.C. had to flash on the screen - "Do not adjust your sets, this nose is real' !

J. Eyre

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