So, what do you think the actor Andrew Sachs, who died yesterday, had in common with my dad? No? I’ll tell you then. Sachs came to the UK with his parents as a pre-war refugee from the Nazis in 1938, the same year that my dad and his parents arrived also having fled the Nazis. Sachs’ family escaped the persecution of jews in Germany whereas my grandad was in Hitler’s ‘little black book’ for taking part in anti-Nazi activities in Czechoslovakia.
The second thing they had in common was of an altogether lighter note. Sachs’ most famous acting rôle was as Manuel the Spanish waiter in the TV comedy Fawlty Towers. His trademark struggles with the English language were central to his relationship with Basil Fawlty, as played by John Cleese. Dad didn’t struggle with the English language anything like as much as Manuel, in fact his English was extremely good, but he did have one or two idiosyncratic issues. The letters ‘v’ and ‘w’ were often substituted one for another, but his most amusing trait was that he always referred to a friend of my mother’s as ‘Mrs Radford’ and not by her first name ‘Eithwen’. The reason was simple. The first time he tried to pronounce ‘Eithwen’ it came out as ‘Eichmann’ and as severe a north-Walian as she was, she was no Nazi; so ‘Mrs Radford’ it was from then on.
Anyway, Sachs as Manuel has left a lasting humorous legacy, so to mark his passing, I give you:
You spun comedy gold as a waiter,
But have gone now to meet The Creator.
We laughed at your anguish
As you struggled with ‘Spanglish’
‘Hasta la vista”, Manuel, none were greater.
Postscript: Eithwen is, of course, the English spelling of the Welsh name Eiddwen and just as in, say, Pontypridd, the ‘dd‘ is pronounced ‘th‘. All of which brings me to a Welsh joke courtesy of @ehdannyboy:
“I used to go out with a Welsh girl who had 36DD’s.
It was a ridiculously long name!“