I felt it was something of a privilege to be at the funeral of Jeremy Paul yesterday. St Mary’s Church, Swanage was packed with people from all walks of life and the service was a significant reminder of the man without being in the least bit mawkish. It achieved what most good events like this should, which was to knit together all the facets of the life of this rennaissance man and present a whole. We all knew of him through the enormous catalogue of work for television, many series of which I had watched and enjoyed from “Upstairs Downstairs”, “Hetty Wainthrop”, “Midsomer Murders” and dozens of others long before I ever was acquainted with the man.
I knew Jeremy because of his love of theatre, his cricket and his family. He had taken the trouble to see plays I had written and made suitably supportive comments and I had seen some of hs work. Not enough, but the reading of “Bogdan’s War” was always gripping and drawing you in to the strange world of a country and people at war. He had sent me a script of another piece he was working on for comments, which is a large thing to do because of his enormous reputation and consummate skill as a playwright and because, for most writers, it is a real challenge to put scripts in front of other writers. You have to be very secure both as a playwright and as a human being to do that. And for a few short weeks we had discussed a project for a play set in a bar in Swanage which we would have written together. So, yes, I knew something of that side of him. I knew of his love for cricket because that always cropped up in conversations with Jeremy and he was kind enough to send me a signed copy of “Sing Willow”, his amusing and informative history of his team, The Invalids, which was the inspiration for one of the great pieces of English comic literature in A.G. Macdonald’s “England Their England”.
I suppose I knew Jeremy most through his family and his life in Swanage with his four beautiful and talented daughters and grandchildren and, of course, the energetic and elegant Pat. Pat and Jeremy created a family ambience in their home which was always welcoming, always supportive.
The most surprising strand of his life which I wasn’t aware of was his love for Stoke City Football Club. And this was not the sort of faddish “turning to the back page on a Sunday morning to see how ‘my’ team had fared the day before” sort of support but real “turning up to stand on the terraces of some bleak Northern town with cold rain trickling down the back of your neck” sort of support. The real thing. And this was underlined, we were told, by the fact that he got the name of a Stoke City Player into every episode of his television series. We’re going to have to buy all those box sets of dvds of tv series just to see if that’s entirely true. One way of securing immortality, I suppose.
A great man and a great send off.