The Sunday Times, 14th December 2008
Time and Place: Julian Rhind-Tutt
The actor, who starred in the medical comedy Green Wing, recalls growing up in a spooky home in Middlesex - and the cupboard he was forbidden to enter
Interview by Hilary Whitney
When people used to ask me where I lived, I’d tell them that the next time they flew into Heathrow, just as the undercarriage opened up, they’d see this horrific scrubland, and that’s where I grew up.
My parents met in the army towards the end of the second world war. For a while, they lived in a council property within spitting distance of Hyde Park, but they decided they needed more space and moved out to West Drayton [in Middlesex]. So, instead of riding a pony in Hyde Park, I spent my childhood in the distinctly unglamorous suburbs of west London, near the ever-expanding Heathrow airport.
To be fair, they moved there a long time before I was born, and they definitely needed the space: I’m the youngest of five children by 10 years. The story goes that when my mother told her doctor she thought she was pregnant, the doctor said, “Don’t worry, Mrs Rhind-Tutt, we can soon sort that out for you.” My mum replied, “Oh, I think I can manage another one” – and that was me. My siblings still register mild surprise that I’m old enough to drive a car.
All the houses in our road are traditional 1920s semis, except for two rather peculiar houses, one of which is ours; my father still lives there. It’s a detached 1950s house, with a tall, pointed, gabled front, built out of dark brick, with a lantern over the front door that makes it look a bit spooky. It could almost be mistaken for a church or a chapel. It looks quite grand because it’s very wide, but it’s only one room deep. I used to think that we must be a bit special – if you have a funny name that you always have to spell, and you live in a funny house, you grow up feeling a bit different.
When you go through the front door into the hall, you can turn left into the kitchen or right into the sitting room – but, whatever you do, you mustn’t look in the hall cupboard. My dad has certain super-secret spaces, and that is one of them. Throughout my childhood, none of us was ever allowed to look in the hall cupboard, which made the house seem even spookier. I recently had a quick look, but all I could see was my dad’s coat and some old newspapers.
The sitting room had fake wood-effect wallpaper and an electric fire with a bulb that had a multicoloured filter, so the back of the fire would change from orange to blue to red to green. I’d stare at it for hours. We used to watch a lot of telly in there, but the main hub of the house was the kitchen. There was a huge Formica table with a slippery top: when I was a baby, my brothers and sisters used to dress me up like an Arab, stick me on the vegetable rack and slide me up and down the table.
Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.