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My friend Harry Harrison


Being down on my uppers
Brian Aldiss Writer
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The chap who came round and talked to me every week and took my pittance of rent, which was possibly seven-and-six a week did I pay for that room? I can't remember, but it was not extortionate. And he had married the daughter of Edgar Wallace, and at that time a German film company came to her to buy up all the Edgar Wallace estate. And she had it, but she was pretty well down on her uppers, as they say, and so, suddenly she became enormously rich from this great spasm of money coming regularly from the German film-makers.

And so my partner, her husband, went up in the world and came and said to me, 'Oh, Brian, you don't need to pay me for this. You know, I don't… I don't need it now. You'll be okay, won't you?' I mean, the goodness of people was amazing when you were down on your uppers.

And some of the women who lived on Paradise Square would come and knock at my door and say, 'Mr Aldiss, I understand you're a writer?' 'Yes, that's right, I do write.' 'Do you think I could have a dip of your ink?' And they'd come in and I'd give them a dip of Quink. I mean it was all very homely, really, but not entirely satisfactory.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: rent, friend, windfall, kindness

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015