HI everyone and welcome to another get together around a cosy log fire now we are into the miserable months of the year.

May I start by thanking everyone who requests to become a ‘Facebook friend’ but to be honest I like to keep my Facebook page limited to about sixty people who are friends. 

Alas I have no interest in twitter or other cyberspace contact methods as it is not my scene in the same way as I prefer a real book as opposed to the kindle version.

I was at the University of Herts the other day and in their canteen everyone was hooked up to a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, but I guess that is the world today. I found it frightening in a recent survey of teenagers that one in five did not own a pen and one in three had never handwritten a letter.

However, I wish I had a digital camera when I visited the recently-closed giant MGM Studios in 1970 not long after it had closed. Today just a few bricks on the front perimeter fence and a sub power station remain, but in its day the studio was considered the Rolls Royce of British dream factories.

Last week, I visited the show house on the new ‘Empire’ estate being built off Studio Way that was once part of the MGM Studio. 

A three-bedroom terraced home now sells for £525,000, which is amazing when you think MGM sold the 115-acre site for under two million pounds. The old backlot is now a housing estate and I was pleased to be asked to name the various roads, which I used as a way to celebrate stars who had worked there and other British studios. 

We picked stars who had already died, with one exception. That was Neagle Close after Dame Anna Neagle who made a couple of films at the studio, including Spring in Park Lane, which once held the record for the most number of tickets sold in UK cinemas.

I had the pleasure to invite Anna for her last visit to Borehamwood, where she started her career in the 1930s and was once a resident, to one of my events at Elstree Studios in 1984. She was a lovely lady and I still think her best film was Odette, shot at the old Gate Studios next to the Borehamwood rail station. In 1998, I invited one of her co-stars from that film, distinguished actor Marius Goring, to unveil a plaque at that studio but sadly when the studio was demolished the plaque was stolen.

MGM was a marvellous facility with its own fire brigade, generators, greenhouses and a huge backlot that was home to the Ivanhoe castle for several years, the great Chinese set for The Inn Of Sixth Happiness, a French chateau built for The Dirty Dozen and an underground Tube station for Quatermass and the Pit. 

I wonder how many residents on the former backlot realise such films were shot in their back gardens.

I am currently writing a book about MGM and if you ever worked there please let me know. After it closed I was given permission by the new development owner’s to visit the site and I spent three days there. 

I was greeted at the Elstree Way gatehouse with a security man and his frightening guard dog. He gave me a set of keys to the 115-acre site and said ‘enjoy yourself’. 

It is hard to explain to non-film buffs the pleasure of having a whole film studio to yourself. It was a bit like visiting the Mary Celeste as I wandered around the backlot sets and then entered the various now eerily quiet buildings, including the sound stages, offices, workshops and dressing rooms. I could almost feel the ghosts of Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, Gene Kelly and the cream of Hollywood’s golden era.

In the make-up department I found discarded 10 x 8 photographs of many stars and in another room fascinating files relating to the films made at the studio.

I so wish that visit of 45 years ago was happening today when I could have gone equipped with a digital camera and a video camera to record an end of an era. 

I wish I could have saved more material that was subsequently dumped by the demolition crew. This was before the era of eBay and the interest in film memorabilia.

I guess most residents today have no memory of the great MGM British Studios as the town has changed a lot, which is very sad. 

I wonder how many residents living on the Studio Estate know the origin of the name of their road. 

In a perfect world each street sign would also contain a plaque explaining the star or studio the name celebrates but alas I doubt it will happen. 

The same applies to the old Gate Studios estate and the recently built homes on the other side of the rail station, opposite the Allum Hall community facility. I was very happy to come up with the film themed names but do residents understand them?

Perhaps one day we will have a visitors centre or museum celebrating our unique 100 years plus film and television heritage, but who knows. Time for me to say goodbye until we meet again next week.