By his own admission, giving a private performance for the Shah of Persia was a little out of the ordinary for Alan Nichol - even in his line of business.

But Alan and his wife Christine did not have run-of-the-mill jobs. They toured the globe as a comic and acrobatic double-act, performing in theatres, casinos and for television networks around the world.

This week Alan, of Bishops Park Road in Norbury, paid tribute to his wife of 40 years, after she lost a six-year battle with cancer on November 25. She was 80 years old.

Christine attended the Italia Conti stage school as a child and launched a solo act as an acrobatic contortionist soon after.

At the age of 17 she joined the Entertainments National Service Association (Ensa), an organisation set up in 1939 to provide entertainment for the British armed forces during the Second World War.

Alan, 75, said: "She went up to Scarpa Flow, in the north of Scotland, to entertain the troops. You can imagine how cold it was to be in costume and going from one boat to the next in the middle of December.

"When France and Belgium were liberated she followed them and saw women who collaborated with the Nazis getting their heads shaved. She went to Belsen the day after it was liberated and was shown all the dead bodies of the prisoners of war. It must have been tough to see that - she was only 17 or 18 at that time."

After the war Christine became part of an all-girl dancing troupe called the Bentley Sisters who performed at the Victoria Palace for three or four years, sharing the stage with the Crazy Gang and boasting members of the royal family as regulars in the audience.

It was after this stint Christine started working with Alan, at the time an in-demand comic. The pair spent the next five years taking their double act to theatres all over Europe, including the Palladium and Hippodrome, as well as numerous television appearances in France and Germany.

"Our act was very much based on visual comedy, not much talking. Very similar to the style of Laurel and Hardy," Alan said.

"I think that's why we did so well abroad because the language barrier wasn't a problem. Chris had actually retired but at one stage in 1963 she came out of retirement and spent the next 10 years working with me all over the world.

"We had bookings in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, East and West Germany and were doing a lot of television appearances, including a few Eurovision Song Contests.

"We even shared the bill with Liberace and Louis Armstrong at a couple of shows."

Alan and Christine were due to film a television appearance in Munich on the day of the massacre at the 1972 Olympics, when 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian militant group Black September.

Alan said: "We had to stop the show because all of the cameras were taken to cover the murders. It always stuck in my mind.

"We had our home in Norbury but much of our life was spent travelling the world to bookings. Sometimes we would leave one booking in the early hours of a morning and be halfway around the other side of the world for that evening's show.

"You have to be very strong and disciplined for that sort of work.

"We went to Iran twice and to casinos in Lebanon, Syria and Paris. We even performed for the Shah of Persia in his back garden. Everyone seemed too scared to laugh until the Shah laughed first.

"I even saw someone being tortured while in Iran - a man was tied to a tree and had a hosepipe forced down his throat."

Christine eventually retired in 1973 and, although Alan continued with his show for another 15 years, the couple made their home in Norbury.

Christine was diagnosed with lung cancer and secondary brain tumours more than six years ago, but defied doctors who told her she only had weeks to live.

Alan said: "She lived with it for years after her diagnosis. She was so strong and so brave and never really complained about it, not even at the end. Her phsyical condition as a contortionist and dancer probably made her stronger than most.

"I was born into the entertainment industry and sometimes it was just a job to me, but Chris loved it. We had a remarkable life together."

Christine's funeral took place on Monday.