WELL, we have held onto the wreckage for another month and with the clocks having gone back, have entered my least favourite time of the year.

I hope, with the help of my next door neighbours Nick and Nadia, to at least benefit from the dark nights and enjoy the night sky with a range of telescopes and fancy computer attachments. I grew up watching Patrick Moore on the Sky At Night tv programme and in the 1960s corresponded with him and he always took time to answer. I finally got to meet him in the early 1990s. As ever, I digress.

This week I take us back to 1929 when Elstree Studios was just completing a silent film directed by their 'boy wonder' Alfred Hitchcock, who they were paying the then enormous sum of £6,000 a year. It was called Blackmail and the management realised there was a new craze called talkies coming from Hollywood, so Hitchcock added sound sequences on a temporary 'sound stage' and it thus is now credited as the first British talking film.

I was very lucky to begin interviewing film stars and crew veterans in the 1970s which included several who worked on that picture. They all said it was not a glamorous life and the strong film unions had not yet been formed to improve standards. A couple of the men required to record the sound scenes told me of their problems. They included having to go in at about 6am and fire blanks to persuade birds that decided to roost in the stage to fly away before they burst into the 'dawn chorus' and having to encase the camera in a sound proof box to avoid the whirring noise being picked up by the sound recorders. They would hide microphones around strategic points on the set and the actors had to ensure they were standing next to that prop or part of the scenery.

The star of the film was a Czech actress named Anny Ondra, which was fine for the silent version, but no good for the sound sequences. Hitchcock was, shall we say, fond of her so the Studio agreed she could stay. Obviously they did not have the technology to dub her voice as they would today, so they employed another actress to sit by a mike and say the lines whilst Anny mimed to them. That young actress retired from acting in the 1930s and married well and her daughter became the Duchess of Bedford.

Anny married a German world heavyweight boxer in the early 1930s named Max Schmeling and naturally Hitler and Goebbels loved them for propaganda purposes, although neither of them were Nazi supporters, but after the war it ruined their careers. Anny died in 1987 but remains a part of Elstree Studios history albeit a forgotten name today.

I have been very lucky to amass perhaps a unique archive of memories from Elstree veterans long since gone. Alas due to copyright law most of it regarding taped or filmed material dating back to 1973 will have to be destroyed when I kick the bucket.

Meanwhile I am going to extend my telescope with the hope I don't spot a UFO and undergo being abducted and probed but then again you will be able to read that scoop only in this newspaper!