Back in 1990, I had just finished rehearsing with my band, The False Dots. It was 11pm, I can't remember what night of the week it was. I'd was walking back home with the bassplayer in my band, Paul Hircombe, who was also a great friend. Pauls flat was on the way back for mine. He said "Rog, hang on a second and I'll get Reg, he needs a walk". Reg was Pauls Jack Russell dog. He was a bit of a character, to say the least. After picking up Reg, we walked up Mill Hill Broadway, towards Mill Hill Circus. As we approached the Day of the Raj restaurant, Mike and Bernie Winters emerged. They'd just finished a meal and were in good spirits. At the time, Bernie was well known for his comedy partnership with a large St Bernards dog Shnorbitz. It was a time when comedy was gentler and I think everyone loved Bernie and Shnorbitz. As we pased each other, Bernie commented to Paul "Nice little dog, of course I've got a VERY LARGE DOG", with a sense of heavy innuendo. Paul shot back "we'll it's like cars, men with big cars have....". Bernie shot back "You've been talking to my wife!" At this we all had a good chuckle. What followed was perhaps one of the most hilarious exchanges of stand up comedy I've ever witnessed. Paul was a master of the quick one liner comeback. Bernie clearly loved this and Mike joined in. After maybe 10 minutes, Mike commented to Paul "You should be writing our material!". We then discussed music and comedy and the state of the business. After about 20 minutes, Mike said "We'd better get home, my wife will be getting suspicious". I've met quite a few celebrities and well known people. I can honestly say I can't remember any who were quite as nice or as funny as Mike and Bernie that evening.
After that I'd see them occasionally in Mill Hill. Sadly Bernie died of Stomach cancer not too long after that aged 59. We'd always have a nod and a quick chat. It was announced yesterday that Mike had died aged 82. Sadly Paul Hircombe passed away last year aged 47 of oesophagal cancer. Reg the Jack Russell also passed away in the mid 1990's. Sadly the only witness left to that hilarious twenty minutes of banter is me. Although I can only really claim to have ever been on nodding terms with the Winters, I felt an extreme pang of sadness at the news about Mike. As I read the obituaries, I was reminded that he had a period of estrangement from Bernie during the 1980's. When we had our little chat they were on absolute top form and it was clear to me that there was genuine warmth and affection. Whereever Mike, Bernie, Paul, Reg and Shnorbitz are now, I hope that they can get a good curry, have a bit of banter and a good laugh.
May they all rest in peace and know that in their own way they all brought a lot of happiness and joy to those who knew and loved them. Maybe I will have a memorial curry in their honour on Saturday, after I've walked the dogs of course !