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.

Original Article