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Where Babies Come From...

Haberdashery Girls... An excerpt from my forthcoming book of interviews:   Where Babies Come From. I asked people, ‘How were you told the facts of life?’ And, ‘What information were you given?’ Here is Belinda, who used to be an escort.  She is now in her eighties. My sister read about Dutch caps.  We looked at Old Masters paintings and wondered how having those funny big white hats on their heads would stop women getting pregnant. In British Guiana, we had native servants who would do the deed al fresco au natural.  From the age of five, I was playing 'sex' with my dolls.  They’d have their dolls’ tea party, a recitation lesson, then I’d have them mount each other. When we came back to England, I had a nanny.   Katrin was fresh from the convent. She was all mummy could get for me.  I expect it was a time of general strikes.  Mummy would send Katrin for breaks back to the convent meanwhile sending me for remedial elocution.  This would happen when I’d said one too many ‘tinks’,

Jerry Sadowitz and my Honey Flap

No, no to the venue staff at the Pleasance, Edinburgh, being able to pull Jerry Sadowitz's show because it doesn't 'align with their values'.   During Jack and the Beanstalk, in 204, one of my Dame Trott costumes was late out of the workshop.  It was a beehive.  There was a nylon thread attached, but because of the bulge in the beehive, I couldn't see where this thread led to or what happened when it got there.   Wearing the new costume, I went onstage to meet the King, played by Brendan Coach Trip Sheerin.  The King's coach had broken down.  Brendan's opening line was, 'Hello, my good woman, I bet you'd like to help with my big end and lubricate my dipstick.'   I pulled my thread.  Brendan looked down.  Apparently, I had just opened a tiny drawbridge in the lower part of the hive.   Innocently, he said, 'Is that your flap where honey comes out?' The adults out front giggled, tensed for my reply.  I said right to them, 'The kids won&#

How Not to Give a Press Interview

        Regimental Sergeant Major 'Pam' Ayres emailed me when I was just back from performing in Iraq.   Iestyn my mate, you are truly barking as a turn and I don’t know how you do it, particularly where you’ve just been.  I was surprised to say the least when I heard what you were to be about in the wilds of Iraq.  But I suppose you have little choice but to carry on with it because of the scarcity of Rest Homes for Retired Sugar Plums.  Perhaps you could find one, however, and have a little lie down over Christmas?   Thank you for your kind information that I have been mentioned in interviews you’ve given to the Mail on Sunday , T he Times and whatever Full House Magazine may be.     I would, however… RATHER  READ THE FUCKING  BEANO !!! Take care, kid.  Best...Pam   '...whatever  Full House Magazine  may be...'    Therein lies a tail...   'The phone's  in Major Flynn’s office,' Stacks, Royal Marine said, leading me down honey coloured hallways in Camp So

He Travels Fastest Who Travels Alone

  I would never have written a book if I hadn't dealt with my chronic inability to be alone.   My Proper Nan Silcox would use the line of Kipling quoted above when any of her grandchildren complained of being lonely.  'Have you lost your library card? Lonely, indeed! Lonely having tea with Miss Bates? Lonely on travels with the Pickwick Club? Lonely at the Horse of the Year Show with Rupert Campbell-Black? And furthermore, let's remember that the banding together mentality is all lovely when it leads to The Huddersfield Choral, or the Massed Bands of the Coldstream Guards or those monkeys with the typewriters who are one day going to finish Timon of Athens - but not when it means the Gestapo or the WI, or when it leads to an epidemic of the illness of the moment...' Serious illness was her thing - we had regular bulletins about complete strangers dying in lingering agony up at the Forty Houses in Gelligaer - and she had contempt for what she called illnesses of the mome

Cruelty to Animals

  A woman with wiry, flicked hair, in a pink vinyl mac, and gingham pedal pushers came through from Thorpeness Meare, leaving her jack russell off the lead as she continued past the duck pond. Three pairs of nesting swans and the egyptian geese were grazing there. The woman turned as people remonstrated with her, then stood in a bevelled pose, like a resting burlesquer, and indicated that she was happy for her jack russell to run to and fro barking by the water's edge.  The goose nosed the tiny gosling into the pond and jumped in after it followed by the gander. The swans stood absolutely still, feathers up all around, in front of their cygnets.    The woman smirked indulgently at the jack russell, until a man picked the dog up by the collar, walked over to her and thrust it into her arms.  ' Take this back to wherever it is you're from!' he told her. After a stunned moment, the woman loped off across the grass, drawling back over her shoulder, 'Crouch End!'   

Gerard, Spell

  The Simpson's annual pop up summer bistro in East Suffolk went vegan the year Francis Quentin-Curnow was six.    Francis had apparently been born gluten and lactose intolerant and with IBS. His wasn't cradle cap so much as Intensive Care Baby Incubator cap. By the time he was four he was asthmatic, eczmatic, diabetic; rivalling pure violet light for taking up space on the spectrum. Aged five he asked to go in the carnival procession as Anne Frank. The following year he announced that he was vegan, please.  On the QT that year, Gerard Crastley - whose grandmother, Lady Simpson, remember, made him spell out long words, as he went to the wrong school: Harrow rather than Eton - encouraged Francis to adopt a yak. Daphne, Gerard's mother, was Francis's godmother.  'You adopt the nice yak, chap, and you get a photo and it will write you letters,' said Gerard.  'What joy, eh?  The yak is being endangered to death, Quent,  And it's not a quick death - as with B

My Jubilee

  An oh so proud, pre-plague moment.  Hosting the Dance for Victory Ball at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.   'After sound check, you have a query out front,' said stage management, pointing.  'Her over there. She's been too difficult even for the circus archivists.' Her over there was a woman with a waved combover, in a sequined puffa jacket, nylon culottes and pink trainers. Wafting Lily of the Valley and carbolic.  'You may have seen my quick step earlier to the Wurlitzer.'  She was giving me an undecided look, her tone no-crap librarian.  'Every Wednesday I've danced here since before even my mother passed on. To the Wurlitzer only when practicable.'   Spiralling her right wrist at me, she said, 'Now, I've got these three expected carrier bags.  In this first one: Happy Shopper vodka. Not paying your bar prices. In two - shrimp that were Morecambe-bought, home-self-potted. In three - glad rags. So, I'll thank you to tell me your ba