Only Fools and Horses is coming...luvvly jubbly!

LEADING ROLES David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Picture: BBC
LEADING ROLES David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Picture: BBC
Busy businesswoman Abbie Curtis with her one-year-old daughter Harper Picture by Habibur Rahman  (171362-754)

REAL LIFE: Balancing business with family life

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You’re in a room full of cheap tat with ’70s-style curtains, a bar in the corner and piles of knock-off phones on the floor.

There’s a blinged-up bloke at the bar, sipping a luminous cocktail complete with umbrella, and telling you that everything’s ‘cushty’.

CAST John Challis and Sue Holderness, who played Boycie and Marlene

CAST John Challis and Sue Holderness, who played Boycie and Marlene

You could be on the set of Britain’s favourite sitcom – or at a Portsmouth event celebrating everything Only Fools and Horses.

Or it could be a case of both. Visitors will be able to sit in the actual living room set from the BBC show when it makes an appearance at Portsmouth’s first ever Only Fools and Horses convention.

The event at the Mountbatten Centre on Sunday will plunge visitors into a comedy world devoid of tax returns and full of knock-off watches and Cockney patter.

Only Fools and Horses fans will be able to see the sets and costumes, meet some of the actors and snap up merchandise and memorabilia.

The event has been organised by superfan Perry Aghajanoff, who set up the Only Fools and Horses Appreciation Society in 1994 and has been running conventions for the past 14 years.

‘We like to take them around the country, so we’ve been Milton Keynes, Bristol, Maidstone, all over the place. But this year is a bit special because it’s the 30th anniversary – the first episode was in 1981,’ says Perry.

‘We like to pick places with an Only Fools and Horses demographic. We thought Portsmouth would be just the place, without meaning to be insulting. We just thought there would be a lot of fans there. And we were right, we’ve sold out and that’s the first time that’s happened.’

Unfortunately dodgy trader Del Boy won’t be there himself. But there will be plenty of lookalikes to don the jewellery, sip gaudy drinks and have their pictures taken with fans.

Actor David Jason is far too busy to dress up as his comedy alter ego and come to a convention, explains Perry.

‘I’ve spoken to him quite a bit over the years and he’s great about all this. But to be honest I wouldn’t even ask him to come. It would be like the Beatles. David Jason at an Only Fools and Horses convention? He’d be mobbed. He’d be lucky to leave with one sock on.’

And the same goes for Del’s long-suffering young bruv Rodney, says Perry. Actor Nicholas Lyndhurst, who lives in West Wittering, would be lucky to get out too.

But fans will meet many of the show’s other actors, including some big names. Expected at the convention are Roger Lloyd-Pack (Trigger) and Sue Holderness and John Challis (Marlene and Boycie).

Only Fools and Horses ran until 1991 and there were sporadic Christmas specials until 2003. But the numbers signing up for the conventions prove the sitcom’s enduring appeal.

It seems people never tire of Peckham traders Del and Rodney Trotter and their cohorts, who entertained us for years with their dodgy deals and misadventures.

In fact, the brothers’ three-wheeler – with its famous logo ‘Trotters Independent Trading Co New York Paris Peckham’ – has become one of the iconic images of British comedy. And it’s a safe bet there will be at least one of these turning up to Sunday’s event.

‘I think people love it because Del Boy is the eternal loser,’ says Perry.

‘I could go on about the quality of the acting and writing, which is obviously a big part of its appeal. But I think essentially it’s that Only Fools and Horses sits in the British psyche so well. We love a loser. In America they like their comedy to be about winners but we’re the opposite.

‘But also, Del is actually the kind of guy you’d like to meet. He’s a pretty good guy really. He’d do you a dodgy deal but he wouldn’t bash you over the head.’

Perry, who lives in Essex, had always loved the show but became a big fan when he was unemployed in the early 90s.

He says: ‘Like a lot of people I sought solace in the TV. I used to put the videos on and this is the show that got me through it really.’

Now a publisher, 48-year-old Perry spends his spare time running the appreciation society and website, putting together a periodical and running the conventions.

Over the years he has got to know many members of the cast and now counts them as friends. John Challis and Sue Holderness went to his wedding with their partners and he is also friends with Roger Lloyd-Pack.

And he has even appeared in the odd episode. When Del Boy was a contestant on game show Gold Rush in the 2001 Christmas special, Perry was in the fictional show’s audience.

‘They needed to get a lot of people together quickly and they knew I could get the fans to do it. So not only am I in the audience, but so is my milkman, dustman, postman, the lady from the shop...’

Members of the society come from all over the world and there are people heading to the UK from Germany and America especially for the convention.

Among the visitors will be the superfans, who know every word of Del Boy’s faulty French and dodgy English and bring their young children dressed as the Cockney trader. Perry even knows one woman who has a Del Boy costume for her Chihuahua. But there are many enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds keeping the Trotter torch alight.

‘The show still has huge appeal,’ says Perry.

‘As Del would say, it goes right across the social plectrum.’