Christopher Lee, RIP, but you can never be too certain.
As I continued to grow up in the 1960s, Christopher Lee featured heavily in my life. I was addicted to Hammer Horror films and rushed to the cinema whenever a new one came out.
I was about six foot three inches tall aged 14, so I never had any trouble getting into X-rated films. In between Hammer films, I read every single Pan Horror book that was ever printed, so my fantasy life fluctuated between Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. In a way, it still does. I was excited when Hammer once combined the two in one flick, but it was a dreadful disappointment.
Some years later, I was living in a sea-front house in Whitstable, when I took a dawn walk on the beach one Summer's morning. It was deserted apart from one other lone figure walking toward me on the strand, and as he approached I saw that it was Peter Cushing - the definitive Van Helsing to Lee's definitive Dracula. As we passed, he said, "Good morning'" and I said "Good morning" back, killing two birds with one stone - Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein.
Aged 14 I started to develop an interest in stone, and thinking that I had enrolled in a palaeontology course, enrolled in a geology one instead. My teacher didn't tell me the difference between the two.
This was a night-school course in Camberley, Surrey, a half-hour train ride (as the crow flies) from where I was brought up. There was one stop on this ride at a little halt called Ash Vale, and because it was early Winter, the tiny station - on the handful of times I was forced to alight there before abandoning the course - was shrouded in both mist and darkness.
There was one, flickering gas-light at this station which gave out a ghastly green pallor accompanied by a sort of distant whimpering sound, as if crying for help. I was always the only person to get off and the only one on the deserted station - there were not even any British Rail employees at night.
As I waited for my connecting train for about half an hour, I would pretend that I was in the opening scene of 'Dr Terror's House of Horrors' - it could well have been used as the set.
It was at Ash Vale, waiting for the train to come out of the darkness, that I learned what it was like to abandon all hope.