I’m delighted that this month I’ve actually found time to read My Life by David Jason, the book chosen by the U3A book group to which I belong.
Published by Penguin imprint Arrow on 5th June 2014, My Life is available for purchase through the links here.
Born the son of a Billingsgate market porter at the height of the Second World War, David Jason spent his early life dodging bombs and bullies, both with impish good timing. Giving up on an unloved career as an electrician, he turned his attention to acting and soon, through a natural talent for making people laugh, found himself working with the leading lights of British comedy in the 1960s and ’70s: Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Bob Monkhouse and Ronnie Barker. Barker would become a mentor to David, leading to hugely successful stints in Porridge and Open All Hours.
It wasn’t until 1981, kitted out with a sheepskin jacket, a flat cap, and a clapped-out Reliant Regal, that David found the part that would capture the nation’s hearts: the beloved Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in Only Fools and Horses. Never a one-trick pony, he had an award-winning spell as TV’s favourite detective Jack Frost, took a country jaunt as Pop Larkin in the Darling Buds of May, and even voiced a crime-fighting cartoon rodent in the much-loved children’s show Danger Mouse.
But life hasn’t all been so easy: from missing out on a key role in Dad’s Army to nearly drowning in a freak diving accident, David has had his fair share of ups and downs, and has lost some of his nearest and dearest along the way.
David’s is a touching, funny and warm-hearted story, which charts the course of his incredible five decades at the top of the entertainment business. He’s been a shopkeeper and a detective inspector, a crime-fighter and a market trader, and he ain’t finished yet. As Del Boy would say, it’s all cushty.
My Review of My Life
A first person account of the life of one of Britain’s most well known television actors.
I rarely watch television or visit the cinema and I’m not remotely interested in celebrity lifestyle so when My Life by David Jason was chosen for the U3A book group to which I belong my heart sank. I was completely wrong to have this reaction. My Life is a hugely entertaining and engagingly written book that I found totally absorbing and interesting.
I found My Life quite funny and chuckled aloud on several occasions. I thought the tone of the book showed David Jason as surprisingly honest and self-deprecating, especially in his assessment of his reluctance to commit in relationships and in the references to his physical stature. He writes with a wit and intelligence that makes My Life a pleasure to read and the asides to the reader make it feel as if he’s simply talking through his past with a friend. I very much enjoyed the mini chapter summaries which are frequently quirkily deadpan and surprising such as ‘How I delivered Bob Monkhouse’s babies’ or ‘Some questionable behaviour with bongos’.
I particularly enjoyed David Jason’s obvious affection for some of those he’d worked with like Ronnie Barker, and his sometimes blunt assessment of how he got on with others!
I think what appealed to me most was the trip down memory lane that My Life afforded me. I remembered the programmes from my childhood and the actors in them that David Jason writes about with such clarity and with frequently surprising anecdotes. His prose certainly made me feel nostalgic, especially his reference to Apethorpe Hall as I spent the first eight years of my life in that village, my father working at the hall, so all kinds of wonderful memories were kindled outside the actual content of the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed My Life. David Jason has managed to illustrate that missing out the autobiographical genre from my reading means I’m missing out on memory, entertainment and enjoyment. I’ll be including more memoir in future!
About David Jason
Sir David Jason was born in 1940 in North London. His acting career has been long and varied: from his theatre work in the West End to providing voices for Mr Toad from The Wind in the Willows, Danger Mouse and The BFG; and from Open All Hours and The Darling Buds of May to his starring roles as Detective Inspector Frost in A Touch of Frost and, of course, Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in Only Fools and Horses. He lives with his wife, Gill, and their daughter, Sophie, in Buckinghamshire.