The thought of meeting a self-confessed manic-depressive, albeit a living legend, made me nervous, especially when everybody warned me how difficult he could be. But Spike Milligan turned out to be a pussycat. I met him at a bookshop on Oxford Street in London’s West End, where a long queue snaked it’s way around the store towards a table where a frail, white haired, gentleman sat signing copies of his book: The Family Album: An illustrated Autobiography.

On that day Spike Milligan bore little resemblance to the man whom, allegedly, once tried to kill Peter Sellars with a potato peeler. He looked like a typical grandfather, smiling politely, exchanging jokes with his fans as they bought up copies of the new book at a feverish pace. But the black sense of humour soon re-emerged as one woman unsuspectingly handed him a book to sign. It was to be a present for her baby’s first birthday. Milligan looked up. ‘The first and last, is it?’ The poor woman, horrified, stared at him. ‘I hope not’ and quickly moved away. When a female member of the shop staff walked past, Spike’s mischief filled eyes followed her. ‘Now she’s got a nice bum’.

Born in India in l9l8, Spike believed the stress of nursing him wore out his parents. ‘You never stopped bloody screaming’ was how they put it, he insisted.

Born in India and brought up in England, Spike Milligan considered himself Irish and supported all things Irish – especially rugby and soccer. ‘I want the Irish rugby team to go on beating the shit out of the English’. He was fanatical about rugby and in his youth played winger ‘ I discovered that when I was with the Christian Brothers. I didn’t realise all these Irish priests were rugby buggers. They put me in a jersey and threw me on the pitch – and I was good too’ .He was so good he was invited to play for London Irish but the war came. ‘If it hadn’t been for Hitler, I’d have played for London Irish’.

His Irishness was inherited from his father Leo Milligan who was born in Sligo and Spike remembered his grandmother telling how she watched her cottage being burned down by the Black and Tans. ‘You only had to mention them and she would spit on the floor’. It was apparent he had been influenced by her stories. ‘Having read the History of Ireland’ he said ‘I think the English treated the Irish like a lot of shit. I don’t regard the English as anything important. They’ve been a load of bastards most of the time’.

He did like Prince Charles. ‘Our friendship is not very deep but he sent me a Christmas card of him and his sons’. He remembered meeting Princess Diana. ‘We went to dinner with them one evening and when we were leaving, she gave my wife a little box with a perforated roof with perfumes in. A simple gift from a princess. It was very nice.’ Recalling Diana’s death, he was quietly philosophical. ‘In the midst of life…’ but then shattered the mood. ‘I never understood why people were so desperately sad at her death. On that day in the world there must have been about 2million deaths. It was a car accident. Every day 4000 people are killed in car accidents. She happened to be one of them.’ Spike likened the Princess’ death to Marilyn Monroe’s. ‘The world erupted in sorrow then too. Very strange’.

Did he think Prince Charles would ever marry Camilla?

'I wrote to him, you know, and I said you better hurry up before you can’t do it anymore, but he didn’t answer. The swine. It was a very funny letter. I wrote inviting them to come and stay. I’ve got a lovely home with heated swimming pool, lovely views and he didn’t answer so fuck him’. Still smiling he said ‘I don’t think badly of him because he probably never got the letter. Perhaps it went through one of his assistants at Buckingham Palace’. ...

This complete interview appeared in the Sunday Express a few days following Spike's death on March 3, 2002.

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