Dear Sir/Mr Marland (Nigel doesnít seem quite right somehow, even at a distance of 30 years or so)

I was prompted to do a Google search after seeing a glowing reference to you as a ďgreat amateur dameĒ in the Guardianís review of the national panto scene before Xmas.  You must have been fair chuffed that the fame of your fancy bloomers had spread as far as the Hackney Empire.

I remember asking you once if youíd thought of going pro and you said that you had a job you loved, the freedom to pursue any amateur project you fancied and a pension. I often thought of this sound approach whilst hanging around London with unemployable actors. Withnail and I is a sanitised and hopelessly sunny view of their behaviour and prospects in my experience.

The search brought up the reunion site as well as the theatrical stuff (of which Iíd been somewhat aware anyway). I was sorry to hear that your health hadnít been so good and I hope that things improve.

Iíd always felt a touch guilty that Iíd been such a royal pain as a schoolboy, so pointlessly cheeky and not funny enough to get away with it. The attached photo shows some of that foolishness, as well as some of my contemporaries: Steve Dobb, Paul Dickinson, Brian Rafferty (with whom you must have worked for many years), Javed Akhtar, Mark Thomas - I would love to know what heís doing -  and Robert Missen. Iím the one with his shorts around his ankles, of course.

Returned to Oldham for the first time in 20 years last June. Rather depressing, really. The town looked much better than I remembered it, but no-one seemed to have a good word for it. What we, in the optimism of the 70s and 80s assumed were temporary misunderstandings, had hardened into divisions that people assume are permanent and acceptable. The friends I tracked down, Paul, his wife Sakinna (nee Hussain) Steve Dobb and Rosie Nowicki were all well though.

That optimism is something Iíd like to thank all my teachers for, particularly the Greenhill ones. Was talking to Paul Dickinson about this whilst in Oldham and we agreed that it was the most amazing place. A 500 pupil school in a place like Glodwick with a 46 piece orchestra? Thatís added value for you.
Anyway, all the best for 2010 and the future, from an old pupil

Simon Turmaine
Director, Global Risk Regulator
'Gabardine Angus'