“I don’t care who you think you are Mr. Parkinson”

“I don’t care who you think you are Mr. Parkinson, my customers pay their bills”

Michael Parkinson touched all our lives.  Though I never knew him, I have a story of a chance encounter with the man.

18 years ago, I was party to a stand up row between him and my boatbuilder Peter Freebody that happened in Hurley. I needed to speak with Peter but as I approached his workshop I heard loud voices and a choice conversation  that ended with the line above.

There followed a pregnant silence – and then that famous Yorkshire chortle as Parky realized he’d met his match. The conversation ended amicably, I suppose hands were shaken.

I waited for Parkinson to leave and went about my business with Peter who, like Parky, had moved on.

The definition of celebrity

Who do you think you are? – Michael bleeding Parkinson?” is quite different. An old boss used to say it to us if we asked questions. It’s the kind of jibe we used to make to nosey parkers (no connection).

Michael Parkinson was nosey but not intrusive. He was very subtle in the way he treated his guests – even when the guests weren’t subtle back

For decades, Michael Parkinson allowed people to define themselves. We fondly remember him and most of the people he interviewed.

Bernard Manning defined himself a rascist when he made two bad jokes on the show; the studio audience roared with laughter. Esther Rantzen, who was next to be interviewed, was asked her opinion and stunned the  audience by saying she didn’t find the jokes at all funny. The audience sided with Manning, the country sided with Rantzen. Manning paid a heavy price and lost a lot of work . Parkinson had many ways to make a point

Parkinson and the Thames

Michael Parkinson came to be in Peter Freebody’s workshop because he lived on the river and had a boat- much like the one in the picture – a slipper launch. Parkinson lived in a big square house at the end of the Maidenhead reach of the Thames on the bend into Bray. He lived four houses down from Rolf Harris. He was a celebrity , had a celebrity lifestyle and for the most part was inconspicuous to the gawping crews of Lady Lucy.

But passing his house, sat on a grass mound was a highlight of a trip to Windsor and I will be sorry to have to tell my guests “that’s where Michael Parkinson lived”.

Though I am enjoying the memory of the man, I am sorry for his passing (as I am sorry that Rolf Harris’s family).

Peter Freebody and the Thames

I miss Peter Freebody who died in December 2010. This weekend I will be thinking of him as Lady Lucy motors past the Hurley regatta. Peter used to attend the regatta in the sunflower hat pictured below.

Peter is survived by his children, who run the business.  The business goes from strength to strength.

The Thames has a tight knit community of customers and we all seem to pay our bills!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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