IN 1982 a big block of about 80 flats in Stockwell in London was entirely occupied by squatters. One of the flats, 291F Clapham Road, was occupied by a 30-year-old graphics assistant from Hampshire. That was me.

I remember going to one of the neighbouring flats for a party one night and finding that, as well as mostly squatters, the guests included a television star.

The much-loved actress had starred in possibly the most popular British comedy ever. She played Sybil Fawlty in the BBC series Fawlty Towers, made three years or so before the party.

Now Prunella Scales was being ignored. Perhaps people didn’t know what to say to a star, or maybe the party was too dark for many to recognise her.

And parties at that time were going through a curious phase. I remember going to a latest-thing “video restaurant” in London around 1982, and popsters Dollar were singing about dancing in a “videoteque”. Video recording had not long been invented, and the falling cost of VHS technology was bringing it within reach of consumers.

At the party, guests were impressed that video screens were showing a film. It was the downbeat prison drama Papillon. I found Prunella Scales dutifully sitting in front of a screen, watching miserable Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen.

This was a party so I thought I had better amuse the celebrity. She told me Dick, the party host, had invited her. She was in a West End play and Dick was her dresser.

She asked about me and I told her I worked for the BBC. She brightened up. I was in showbiz, like her! But then she asked: “What do you do?”

Her curiosity curtained when I said it was my job to type in the end-credits. She searched for a suitable response. Eventually she came up with “Do you enjoy it?” Then she looked alarmed at having put a tactless question to someone in a hopelessly boring job. I assured her the job was surprisingly varied. It included football results, for example, but I think the thought of typing football results only added to her discomfort.

Poor Prunella must have come to the party on her way home from the theatre, with her driver and car waiting outside the squats. I didn’t know at the time that she had two teenage sons at home, as well as perhaps her husband, actor Timothy West, if he wasn’t away working. So it was generous of her to find time for a party thrown by a junior backstage employee. Party host Dick was a flamboyant character who owned a parrot, as well as one of the first affordable video cameras. Eventually he would land a well-paid job as an ITV cameraman. The co-host, his girlfriend, also worked in theatre, in costume design I think.

The squatted flats were owned by the London Borough of Lambeth, which had left them empty for years, I believe. It had emptied the flats of tenants in preparation for refurbishment but the council failed to find money to carry out the work.

I suppose my parents were not proud of me squatting but they didn’t object. I lived in squats for about two years, which helped me save for a deposit on a mortgage.

Squatting is almost unknown now. A few years ago the law was changed to make it a crime. Squatting helped me, though, and thousands of other young people, and presumably it reduced the proportion of UK homes lying empty.

A few years ago, despite having dementia, Prunella Scales co-presented with her husband Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys documentary series. Last year he published a book, Pru and Me, about their marriage.

I was impressed by Prunella’s modesty and fearlessness – qualities which probably make her dementia a little less hard to deal with.

I’m glad the video-everywhere craze didn’t last. It ruined that party.