Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Remembering Peter Sallis

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 6th June, 2017

Peter SallisThe actor Peter Sallis, who has died, aged 96, was without doubt my favourite lunch companion, until fading health and increasing blindness limited his ability to get out and about. Though an instantly recognisable face (thanks to many years as the character Cleggy, in the hit TV series, Last of the Summer Wine) and an even more familiar voice (as Wallace in the wonderful Wallace and Gromit animated films), Peter was extraordinarily self-effacing, even self-deprecating, but with an absolutely wicked, mischievous sense of humour. He loved to hear what I had been up to in my political life, while from his side he would entertain me with tales of eccentric actors’ lodgings up and down the country. He was so small that even Queen Elizabeth had to bend down quite low to pin his well-merited OBE onto his lapel at Buckingham Palace, but his apparent meekness was a well-polished facade. As his sight faded, he created wonderful pictures in words describing various nubile assistants and mechanical contraptions which enabled him to continue working. He looked and sounded as one imagined the character of Clegg was, yet Peter was far more audacious in real life. My favourite memory is of the last time we found ourselves next to each other, seated at the long table in that venerable haunt of esteemed actors of a certain age, the Garrick Club. There was a sudden lull in conversation, which caused Peter to twitch his head from side to side, quizzically, like a mole whose snout had just penetrated the surface, after which he declared, very loudly, “Fucketty, fucketty, fuck!”. Everyone looked over towards him in astonishment, but by this time his almost sightless eyes were facing firmly down to his dinner plate. “Now I feel better,” he said to me, softly, and started tucking into the food I had cut up for him.

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