Well I don't know about you but for me the last few weeks of extreme heat have been a nightmare, unable to do anything in the day and not able to sleep even with a fan in my bedroom. I am talking about a mechanical not human fan before rumours start!

Hopefully things are back to normal by the time you read this rambling. I even tried a rain dance for my poor garden but after five seconds I realised it was useless and got a cold beer from the fridge. You can't fight against nature.

This week I recall what is now the BBC Elstree Centre but before ATV converted it to television production in 1960 it was one of the first silent film studios in Europe, opening in 1914 and called Neptune.

The original owners chose Borehamwood or, as old timers like us call it, Boreham Wood, because it had a rail link to London, was way from the smog problems of the city and land only cost £100 an acre. Little did they know they had begun to create what by the 1930s was called the Hollywood of England and which it is becoming again all these decades later.

I once interviewed an old film veteran in the Red Lion pub, now McDonald's, who started his career at the studio in 1920. He recalled: "I was young and keen so would cycle every day from my parents' home in St Albans. In the lunch hour I could walk around the village but we were summoned back to work by a bell that they installed by the studio entrance. I earned an extra - then massive - sum of one pound a week playing the piano to accompany silent films shown in the local cinema opposite the railway station."

Amazingly, that building in Station Road has survived, albeit having undergone various changes as a public toilet and a florist's. I hope the council has listed it as part of our local heritage.

Stars of the future such as Deborah Kerr, Petula Clark and Bill Owen. not to mention future Doctor Who William Hartnell. started their careers at the studio.

During the war years George Formby whipped out his banjolele and Old Mother Riley got drunk in the nearby Crown pub, now a convience store.

In fact as part of the Cententary of Films in 1996 I invited Bill to unveil a plaque on the site. Of course in his latter years he was famous for his role in Last Of The Summer Wine. I also invited a star of EastEnders to be the co-unveiler as I needed to get maximum publicity. They were also to do a photo shoot with Lord Snowdon but they forgot to turn up. Sadly, I doubt they have a career these days and that is a lesson for young actors. Fame can be very fleeting - just look back at the television soap awards.

That is enough ramblings from me. I must write it all down one day and share the memories of those veterans and actors of yesteryear I have collected over several decades.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios