Yesterday, Martin Soan was performing outside a bizarre bazaar at the Salvation Army Hall in Nunhead, South East London.
He is off to Switzerland on Tuesday, where his Greatest Show On Legs comedy group are having a five-day mini-tour of five cities.
“I’m going to Poland,” he told me.
“I thought you were going to Switzerland with the Greatest Show On Legs?”
“I am, but I’m also going to Poland later.”
“Why are you going to Poland for false teeth?” I asked.
“Because they cost £10,000 here,” replied Martin, “and I can get them in Poland with a third off.”
“But will they reach?” I asked. And surely the cost of travelling to Poland is…”
“No,” Martin interrupted, “because when I am in Leipzig, Poland is only a 60 Euro train trip away.”
“But you’re going to Switzerland,” I said.
“Yes,” said Martin.
His body was found exactly a week ago – on Sunday morning – on the beach below East Cliff on West Bay, just south of Bridport in Dorset. The beach was used in the title sequence of the BBC TV series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Mr Smith had fallen or jumped over one hundred feet off the cliff. The cause of death was “multiple injuries”.
The Dorset Echo reported: Many dog walkers and residents were shocked to find the East Beach car park full of police vehicles and an ambulance and forensic team vehicles and said it reminded them of some of the scenes filmed for the popular television drama Broadchurch last year.
“When I first met him,” I told Martin, “he was a research scientist – vivisection – and because – obviously – he did not want to mention that too much, we never really talked about what he did during the day.”
“He stopped doing that years ago,” Martin told me. “He did micro-biology as well, so he filled-in a bit with that and I think he made a packet of money from something-or-other. He was into the early stages of whatever-that-is. I didn’t understand it. I don’t understand it. But I think he maybe had some sort of patent.
“I knew him for years and years.” Martin continued. “I did various village hall shows with him, stayed at his house and had beautiful evenings in his shooting gallery.”
“His shooting gallery?” I asked.
“It was just gorgeous,” said Martin. “Just some of the best evenings I’ve ever spent. He had this air rifle and a bit of a garage at the back – a huge workshop for all the bizarre projects he was always doing.
“He told me: I’ve got this lovely little porcelain angel; come round the back with me. It was about six inches high with wings. So he put it at the end of the workshop and then I saw there were lots of bits of broken porcelain on the floor.
“He cocked his air rifle and said: I’m going to take the right wing off… He put a bit of music on and we just pared this angel down, shooting bits off with the air rifle.
“Next time you come down, he said, make sure you bring some stuff. So I brought down a little bunny rabbit and we shot its ears off. I’m going to take the bunny’s right ear off, he said. Ph-teeeww!! Then we smashed the thing to pieces with a shot straight through the heart. All these little porcelain figures. It was just so much fun.
“He was a lovely, lovely man; I had wonderful evenings with him and all we did was play music, have a few beers and shoot the fuck out of airy-fairy bunny-wunny porcelain ornaments.”