Ade Edmondson, one of the most successful comedy writers of his generation
But the part that had to go was one the author had been particularly proud of: “It was a bit where they stopped off at the circus and because the animals could talk they could arrange what to do if the police turned up, which they did. Boadicea escaped, dressed as a pantomime horse,” he says with a big laugh.
“I had to cut it out because it didn’t move the story along but I thought it was really good and it took weeks and weeks to bite the bullet and cut it out.”
And if you think that’s a good wheeze, wait till you see what’s left in the book.
It’s full of uncles who break wind with the sound of a brass band, squirrels called Mr Nutcase, seagull poo, a hotel called Courtly Manor and a thrilling and moving ending – things young readers love.
But you may be surprised to hear that it’s also about stoic philosophy.
He’s in a horrible place but someone is kind to him and he follows the route of kindness
Edmondson’s first children’s book, Tilly And The Time Machine, was about a little girl whose mother had died; the new one is about a child torn away from his mother who has a dreadful life with cruel relatives – both living with their situations the best they can.
“I like stoicism,” he says.
“It’s a proper philosophy and I’d consider myself a stoic. Not in a 1950s stiff-upper-lip way but it’s accepting what you can and cannot change.
“In the book, Jack accepts his situation and doesn’t really complain.
“He’s in a horrible place but someone is kind to him and he follows the route of kindness and goes for it and things work out in a karmic way.
Ade’s latest children’s book
“It’s about saying, if you’re nice to people some of it will come back; and I think that’s true.”
Now 61, Edmondson must have put a lot of “nice” out into his universe, as he seems a delightfully contented individual.
One of the leading comedy writers and performers of his generation, spending years smacking frying pans in the face (and lower, more sensitive body areas) of comedy partner the late Rik Mayall in comedies such as The Young Ones and Bottom, he now has a satisfying portfolio career as an actor, writer, TV presenter and musician, as well as father of three successful adult daughters and husband of 32 years of Jennifer Saunders.
Most recently he was Malvolio in Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company; on TV in War And Peace, and he played Captain Peavey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But he seems keen to escape the comedy straitjacket.
“I’ve sort of avoided doing comedy on TV because I’ve done an awful lot of it and I want other excitement,” he muses.
“I just went off to do a couple of episodes of a series that has a lot of men with guns and no shirts, slicing people up in the Far East, which is terribly exciting.
“Having a variety of roles is great when it comes to writing and all those experiences have impacted a lot with the play we’ve just written.”
The other half of the “we” is Young Ones co-star Nigel Planer, with whom Ade has created Vulcan 7, a play in which they will tour the country this autumn, about two actors who were at drama school together and find themselves in a sci-fi franchise 40 years later, at differing levels of success.
“We’ve been looking to do a play together for 30 years,” explains Edmondson.
“This one has been in the background for two years and writing it has been a joyous experience as we’ve had no pressure to do it and have been writing it to entertain ourselves.
“I think it’s interesting when you get to our age – in a few weeks I’ve got a 40th anniversary reunion of my drama course at Manchester University and I’m a bit worried about that.
“This is the age when you all judge each other and how far you’ve come, and I know this because one my daughters went to a reunion of school friends and at the end of the meal, someone yelled, ‘WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OF ALL OF US?’,” he laughs.
Possibly no prizes for guessing who might be the most successful of Ade’s year but he wears his success lightly, putting it down to the graft that most entertainers have to put in.
“I hate the idea that people are somehow ‘lucky’. Very few people are and anyone who has made it in the writing and entertainment industries has normally had to fend off some severe criticism and just hang on.
Ade Edmondson has carved out a portfolio career as an actor, writer, TV presenter and musician
“I do nearly everything I’m asked to do, which are some very nice things, but I go for a lot of auditions for things I don’t get as well. I’d say it was about a 50 per cent hit rate and I tell my own kids that.”
Projects he’d still like to do include one on explorers.
“I’d like to do one in particular about the explorers who crossed America.”
There’s also his third book for children. Surprisingly, he was “terrified” about doing presentations for young readers to promote his first book.
“I said to Jennifer, ‘I don’t know how to do this’ and she said, ‘Just do what you normally do but take the swearing out’, which is what I do.”
Edmondson is terrific company; grown-up, wise and curious. But signs of Bottom’s Eddie and The Young Ones’ Vyvyan are still delightfully there.
As we talk in his publisher’s stunning Thames-side office, a ship’s horn goes off.
“Pardon me,” says Edmondson, deadpan. And when we’re discussing books about etymology, the study of words, Edmondson remembers that he’s got a dictionary app on his phone that says the words out loud.
Which one does he choose as an example? “Fart”. No wonder the kids love him.
Junkyard Jack And The Horse That Talked is published on Thursday by Penguin at £6.99. To order postage free in the UK, visit expressbookshop.co.uk or call 01872 562310.