Spike Milligan

I hope Spike Milligan needs no introduction!

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Dear Spike

In my bookcase sits the box set of your war memoirs, a prized possession. I must have read them all a dozen times now and, on every occasion, I laugh again and I laugh afresh. A writer is only a great one if they can make you laugh out loud one moment and tear your soul apart the next, a skill you carry in abundance and which is perfectly illustrated by these two excerpts from the first in the series, Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall:

“All the action was around a field kitchen. Several queues all converged on one point where a cook, with a handle-bar moustache, and of all things a monocle, was doling out. He once had a glass eye that shot out when he sneezed and fell in the porridge so he wore the monocle as a sort of optical condom.”

This was followed, just paragraphs later, by:

“Tragedy number two was Gunner Leigh, thirty-six (old for a soldier); as he arrived at the camp he received a telegram telling him his wife and three children had been killed in a raid on Liverpool. He went insane and never spoke again.”

Spike Milligan

A wonderful photo of Spike by Nils Jorgensen.
For me, it perfectly captures both the comedy
and sadness of the great man.
Reproduced by kind permission of Rex/Nils Jorgensen

In 1992 I wrote to you, via your manager, Norma Farnes. I wanted you to see some of the stories I’d written – very much in your style – and to seek your thoughts on them. In January, 1993 came your reply, typed by you on an old manual typewriter and signed with a lovely flourishing ‘Spike’ at the bottom. When I hold it up to the light, I can see three spots where you made mistakes and Tippexed them out. It’s just awesome.

Spike Milligan letter

You suffered mental anguish and pain for much of your life and, through my own brief experience of mental exhaustion some 15 years ago, I think I may have had just a small insight in to how withdrawn and afraid that must have made you feel, sometimes for extended periods.

Thank you, Spike. I have lost myself in your work for many an hour, and I continue to do so. I feel a great comfort from the laughter and warmth of your words and am humbled by their occasional poignancy.

Love, light and peace

Simon Bailey

You see can more of Nils Jorgensen’s photos at www.nilsjorgensen.com

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