"They were so different but, of course, Beryl was rather a gourmet herself. She absolutely loved cooking, and hosting dinner parties. She even went so far as to publish her own cookbook, Food and Friends, a collection of recipes interspersed with memories. Fanny gets a few mentions in my book! Beryl's niece recalled a rather disastrous dish Beryl attempted one Christmas that I'm sure must've been a Fanny creation. It was called Oeufs en Gelée, Boiled Eggs in Aspic! It was apparently revolting."
Yes, it is one of Fanny's very special favourites, I'll be making them soon, perhaps to enjoy while I read the book! This picture of them makes me smile - will I be smiling when I read your book?
"Oh I hope so! Beryl was such a complex lady, very unconventional and totally unique. I've tried to get behind the laughter and see what the real Beryl was actually like. There's laughs a plenty though, with Beryl there couldn't be anything else! The book came about by accident really. I was in the middle of moving house and had to wait around for an electrician, so I just grabbed the first book on my shelf which was Beryl's 1984 autobiography, So Much Love. It's a wonderful book, but Beryl didn't write it, she dictated it to a chap called Eric Braun, usually after they'd shared a few glasses of brandy! As I read through it, I thought 'I'm sure there's more to this lady than meets the eye' and I wanted to find out more."
|Beryl relaxes at Honeypot Cottage, c. 1980.|
"In the book I talk about the 'Beryl Reid myth' - there's this idea that Beryl was a reclusive lesbian with 50 cats, an alcoholic who lived in a strange cottage in the middle of nowhere, and only played mad old ladies. But of course, there's absolutely no truth in any of that! I think most people assumed she was a lesbian after the 'Sister George' role. She was passionately against any form of prejudice or bigotry - in her own words, 'I don't care if you're black, yellow or bright purple, but I do care if you're a bore!' In fact, when two elderly ladies came to see her after a show, they said 'Oh we love you Beryl, but we didn't like that Sister George thing you did, we thought it very vulgar!' To which Beryl replied, curtly, 'Too close to home was it dear?'"
|Beryl with Bernard Cribbins and June Whitfield at the BBC, c. 1976|
"Beryl was an absolute workaholic, but it came from a rather fragile place. She would make herself extremely ill, refusing to take a holiday, taking everything offered to her. She would say 'I just don't want them to forget me'. She absolutely loved panel shows, especially Blankety Blank. She kept going back because she adored Terry Wogan. When Beryl left, Beryl left too. She felt it would be disloyal to him to go on. But you know, all you really needed to do to get television magic with Beryl was to give her a glass of something and leave the camera on her..."
|Beryl aboard the Orient Express, 1986, to celebrate her OBE.|
"I don't know if they ever met, but in Beryl's personal archive there's a rather haughty letter from Fanny, inviting - or is it more of a command? - Beryl to come to the Cradock home for a cocktail party. Fanny mentions that she adores Beryl's work, but then commits a cardinal sin and suggests that if Beryl did come, it would get the party (and therefore Fanny's new book) a nice bit of publicity. That was exactly how NOT to get Beryl to attend something! I believe Fanny got rather short shrift in response."
|Beryl with her agent Robert Luff at a celebration lunch, 1986, to celebrate her OBE.|
"It's twenty years since Beryl died. I was concerned that she was in danger of being forgotten. She deserves to be remembered. This will sound trite, but I can honestly say that in the time I spent 'with' Beryl, I came to absolutely adore her. So I took her 'don't let them forget me' as a sort of obligation. I want people to connect with her work, but also, to take something positive form her story, which is 'keep going!' I think the BBC should put together a tribute night, maybe even a drama, would't that be wonderful? But then, I would say that!"
Roll Out The Tribute and the film I say!
|Beryl as Gran in the BBC's adaptation of 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole'|