Can you call someone one of your best friends if you’ve only known them for less than two years?
Never did I used to believe in fate, but from the moment I met John and Carol there was some sort of spark, we ‘kicked it off’ from the very start. From filming in Belgrade, to introducing him to Serbian royals, to informing him of his honorary citizenship of Serbia – the friendship I had with John was special to say the least.
I met John Challis when I went to his one man show in October 2019, which was all thanks to my sister for giving me her spare ticket. Little did I know that this ticket from my sister was about to change my life.
I knew how popular Only Fools and Horses was in Serbia, so entering the venue there he was, I had to introduce myself and tell him about how much of a big deal he was outside of the UK. To my surprise he had visited Serbia a few years back, he told the story during his one man show, which made me think… afterwards I approached him and proposed we film a documentary about the popularity of OFAH in Serbia.
We spoke over the weekend, met up a few times and within 3 months we were in Serbia filming Boycie in Belgrade. I couldn’t believe I was walking, talking and working with such a legend. Every word he said on camera was ‘gold’ it was like watching poetry in motion. His genuine interest and curiosity was at work and he was on a fact finding mission.
From filming Boycie in Belgrade, John had a genuine love for Serbia. He supported a charity gala I organised at The Berkeley in London under the patronage of HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and loved spending time with the royals learning about their mission.
Our friendship grew and so did John’s love for Serbia. During lockdown we even developed ‘Boycie’s Four King Poker Set’ to celebrate the famous “FOUR” moment from the OFAH episode ‘A losing streak’
On Twitter he’d be the best Serbian ambassador out there, from defending the country from the slander of Elizabeth Olsen to supporting the Serbian Eurovision entry.
I had an invitation from the deputy mayor of Belgrade who expressed he’d like to meet, he thanked me for the work of Boycie in Belgrade and expressed how he would like to show gratitude to John Challis by way of honorary citizenship. I couldn’t wait to tell John of the news, it was a very proud moment for me, when I told John, he couldn’t believe it!
We had many plans for the future including visiting Montenegro and Croatia next year and also to film a six part series ‘Great British Houses with John Challis’ all of which we were all looking forward to.
One month ago today we filmed ‘A marriage made in Peckham’ we had John Challis and Sue Holderness reunited as ‘Boycie & Marlene’ sharing their experience of Only Fools and Horses.
Little did we know he would leave us and say goodbye 3 weeks later.
John will always be known to many as an icon, a legend and a true gentleman who cared about others.
Thank you for your genuine friendship
The opportunity you gave me to work with you
and for being so kind
Rest in eternal peace… until we meet again