It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time ... continued

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They were a tight-knit crowd, the Crossroads team, but they generously absorbed me.  Noele was queen bee, of course, and a strong, forthright woman.  She knew she wasn't getting any younger, and made jokes about the Polyfilla truck being called out in the mornings to help with her make-up, but she was a professional to her toe-nails.

Roger Tonge, who played her son Sandy, was chatty and amusing and a whizz with a wheelchair.  He had been using one in the series for so long that evceryone thought he was genuinely disabled.  Once he and Ronnie were shopping in the local department store during the lunch break.  Roger stopped by a counter to examine a bottle of aftershave when suddenly a complete stranger rushed over, fell to his knees and slid his hands up and down Roger's legs.

'Yer see Elsie!' he yelled excitedly over his shoulder. 'They're real! They're real legs!'

Ronnie Allen was different again.  Totally professional, like the others, and possessed of a wry sense of humour, at times he could be silent and introverted.  He seemed friendly yet distant.  So when one night after work he suddenly invited me to dinner, I assumed he wanted to talk about the next day's scenes.  Ronnie took his work very seriously.  He liked to get things right as far as was humanly possible, given the schedule, and I'd had no hint that he was interested in me.  I thought we were going to talk scripts.

But that night in the Italian restaurant he let down his guard a little, and I realized that he was deeply unhappy and very lonely.  His dear friend Brian's death had nearly destroyed him, and in his own way he was trying to crawl into his shell and disappear.  He went around in dark glasses with the collars of his jackets turned up and he was drinking heavily.  At that time it was scotch, then he moved onto vodka, later he tried wine.  But nothing worked.  Instead of relaxing him, alcohol made him more tense and nervous.

Yet, despite sensing these underlying problems, it was in no way a sombre evening.  As he became more comfortable with me, Ronnie's dry humour slowly emerged and we laughed a great deal.  There was an astonishing chemistry building between us, for which I was completely unprepared.  I half wondered if I was imagining things, but at the end of the evening, when he took me back to the hotel where I stayed during the week, Ronnie kissed me.  This was no vapid, air-smacking luvvey kiss - but a full-blooded on the mouth job.

Afterwards Ronnie and I began dating secretly.  He was so popular with the female fans that Jack Barton the programme producer was worried there might be a bad reaction if the news got out.

It wasn't long before we went to bed together, and soon I moved out of my hotel and into Ronnie's Birmingham flat.  Whatever Ronnie's past, there was nothing wrong with our sex life.  Ronnie saw sex as an expression of love - otherwise I think he could have done without it - and there was no doubt he loved me.

He went out and bought a book on diabetes when he learned that I was a diabetic, purely so that he could understand and help me better.  He made sure I ate regularly, looked after me in countless ways and spoiled me rotten.  He was always buying me flowers and gifts of the antique jewellery in which he was particularly interested.

He even, in the end, gave up drinking - a sacrifice which was entirely for my benefit.  At first Ronnie's drinking hadn't bothered me, but the more I came to care for him, the more worried I became.  There had been alcoholics in my family,  and I'd reached the point where my tolerance of heavy drinking was very low.  I was not prepared to stand by and watch a wonderful man destroy himself.  I gave Ronnie an ultimatum: the drink went or I did.  He gave up drinking immediately.


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