Some kind readers have asked me over the years why don't I publish a book containing the best of my columns over the past 44 years. There are two good reasons. Firstly I cannot imagine anything more boring and secondly I do not keep copies. To me today's newspaper item is tomorrows fish and chip wrapping. Do you remember when you could buy fish and chips wrapped in a newspaper? I always thought it was better use than cutting it into squares and use in the toilet. However some of the stuff I read in certain daily newspapers deserves that fate, although that is nothing new. I once made the front cover of a magazine called Titbits in the 1970s, I think it was about my film collection. I was also invited to do local theatre reviews by the Evening News but then it folded.

This week I turn the clock back to 1996 when we had just saved Elstree Studios. I was confronted with a large room full of many hundreds of film cans that had been stored there. I volunteered to spend several weekends going through all the cans as we needed to clear the area. Not being an idiot, I called upon old friends in the business to advise me on what should be saved and what could be junked. I then proceeded to fill several skips with unwanted material. What was left I tasked myself to locate the owners and request they collected their material. That proved to be an interesting exercise .

I found a brand new 35mm print of the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor and gave it to the director, although it was worth £2,000. I found the music masters of the film Quadrophenia just as the owners were thinking of releasing the film on VHS but assumed the masters were lost. They rushed down to collect them but with not a word of thanks.

I recall finding material belonging to Paramount, which they gratefully collected. In return I asked for a copy of a photo of old stars gathered together for a particular anniversary of their company but they declined.

It was a bit tiring climbing up ladders to record each can of film so I would take the occasional break and stand outside and take the air. The building was opposite three sound stages. On one very hot day they had left a stage door open and I was serenaded by Shirley Bassey and an orchestra who were rehearsing, so that was nice. On another occasion Tom Jones turned up and asked me where the nearest toilet was and I escorted him. We had a chat about his days at the ATV Studios opposite, now BBC Elstree Centre, in the 1960s which helped make him a star. Tom was smaller than I thought and a lovely chap considering I must have looked like a cleaner.

I have still retained the files I compiled on all those cans of film but it is now history. I still have a one-inch tape cassette marked Michael Jackson Thriller somewhere in the loft. I apologise if you have read these memories before but my escape clause is to say this column now appears in several papers and there are always new readers. Incidentally I did have a chance to meet Michael Jackson when he made a private visit to the set of an Indiana Jones movie being filmed at Elstree but I declined - silly me. Finally, get well soon old timer Harrison Ford. Until next time, take care.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios