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Moon Boots and Dinner Suits

by Jon Pertwee

Book review by Brenton Bowley

Like me I bet that most people had not heard of Moon Boots and Dinner Suits up until now. I happened to be reading an article on Jon Pertwee when it mentioned his autobiography and on a visit to the local library I soon discovered the book.

The title was thought of by Jon after a remark his son made whilst Jon and his wife Ingeborg were skiing in Andorra. Jon told his son that he and Ingeborg would have to finish early as they had a dinner engagement and Sean remarked "Moon boots and dinner suits as usual I suppose."

Moon Boots and Dinner Suits is an excellent book, not just for its value as a book about someone who played the Doctor, but also as a book in its own right. I found it not only an interesting read but also entertaining. Jon wrote this book during a break in work in 1984.

In Moon Boots Jon explains how his family originally came from France, but was driven out in the late 1600s. Their name was then Perthius but due to the English's inability to pronounce their name they later changed it to Pertwee. Jon also claims that he is a direct descendant of the Emperor Charlemagne who ruled France in 800AD.

I found it amazing how many well known people Jon met during his childhood and his school days. He knew people such as A.A. Milne (he was friends with Milne's son) and Laurence Olivier who was related to Jon through marriage and often came to tea. He was in Winston Churchill's daughter's acting group and attended a tea with him, and he had tea with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. These are just a few people who spring to mind as I write.

Having read Roald Dahl's first autobiography Boy I see many similarities between their childhoods, but this is probably due to the fact that they would both have attended school around the same time. Jon was a very rebellious boy and had a mixed up childhood. He was at first raised by his uncle, Guy. His father came to visit him once in a while. His parents were divorced and Jon did not even know his mother until he was sixteen. He never knew her as a mother though, and was upset when she told him that she did not want to be called mother on the street or to any of her friends as everyone considered her much too young to have a child Jon's age and she was ashamed for people to know her real age. Jon and his brother went to stay with their father Roland permanently when they were much older.

Jon mentions his schooling. He was always naughty and frequently got into trouble and never seemed to do well academically. He had a strong tongue and used it often in abusing people verbally when he lost his temper. He was even suspended from some schools. Then he finally found his direction in acting. He began appearing in school plays and went on slowly from there, later breaking into radio plays.

Jon talks about his family. His two brothers were both named Michael. One was his brother and the other was his step brother (he called his step brother Coby, which was short for his surname). They were close brothers but if anyone got left out it would be Jon. Jon was very close to his grandmother who helped look after him with his uncle Guy. He was very upset when she died of cancer.

Jon's dad was very good friends with A.A. Milne and Jon was invited to go to tea one afternoon and met his son Christopher Robin Milne. After tea Christopher took Jon upstairs to show him his toy animals whose names were Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Christopher's favourite, which was of course Winnie the Pooh. He also allowed Jon to ride on his donkey which was of course named Eeyore!

Jon goes on to talk about his days in the Navy during World War II. Indeed most of the autobiography is about the period following leaving school, up to the time that he left the Navy and the end of the show The Navy Lark.

Apparently during the war Jon was assigned duties on a particular ship, and just before it set off to war he was pulled out and assigned a special task which meant that he did not leave with his ship. Hours after the ship left it was destroyed and Jon's parents were sent a notice saying that Jon had been killed at sea. It was naturally quite a surprise for them when he turned up on their doorstep a few days later!

Jon has many other amusing tales such as the one above, and considering he does not think he can write he does a great job at entertaining and amusing his readers. I like his honesty in this book, most authors would not reveal intimate moments or secrets about themselves. But Jon speaks quite openly about sex and homosexuality, a thing that was treated like the plague in those days. For this reason Moon Boots is probably unsuitable for younger readers.

Also included is the BBC radio programme which Jon helped start and which has become the longest running radio comedy in the world. This show is of course The Navy Lark which ended up running for eighteen and a half years and a Navy Lark movie was made, unfortunately not starring Jon. It was the Queen's favourite programme on radio and she even met the cast and Jon.

Unfortunately Moon Boots does not cover the period of time that spans from when Jon broke into television and Doctor Who, up until now. In a recent interview Jon said that he would soon be writing a sequel to Moon Boots and Dinner Suits as he does not have much planned for the future.

Jon Pertwee has written one hell of a book, worth every penny. An interesting look into the life story of someone who helped shape the future of Doctor Who and brought it into the seventies and into colour television. If this book is anything to go by then Moon Boots 2 will be well worth the wait. A great read and highly recommended.

This item appeared in TSV 25 (October 1991).