Well, it’s 1.01, or too-late-for-my-own-good.

The old man has just arrived home from Hornchuch where he’s been giving his Trinculo in the Tempest. I watched some TV after driving for two and a half hours from the centre of London, where I did a voiceover for an advert that I WANT. Sorry, I don’t mean to shout but we jobbing actresses have to take whatever we can get.

I didn’t know that Jane Asher, she of no middle name, started acting when she was five. She is of indeterminate age, a step grandmother, with a sylph-like body and a fab sense of humour. She made cakes on the show and all the time I wanted to ask her what she thought about Heather Mills, or as she was so aptly described in the paper recently as ‘that one legged charity campaigner’, but Ms Asher has class and discretion and she would never reveal what she really felt about anybody, and certainly not an act like Mrs Mills.

Longevity in the business does equate with how many people you have miffed. June Whitfield is renowned for being a lovely woman. My mentor Betty Marsden, of the same generation as Miss Whitfield, and the female voice in ‘Round the Horne’, pee’d off everybody she met. If she didn’t like them, she told the truth. She taught me to do that in both my acting and writing.

I wrote a comedy drama with her in mind. We would sit at her big round walnut table on her house boat on the Thames. She would shriek, ‘No darling, It doesn’t ring true’. When she died, I was devastated. Not just because I had lost a teacher but because she was lovely. Her funeral was a scene out of a Robert Altman movie. Mourners were hanging off the rafters – literally. There were travellers, actors, gentry and us. When the coffin went down to the strains of ‘There’s No Business Like show Business’, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house of God. I did do a sitcom with her, with Ben Fogle’s mother playing the wife, Belinda Lang playing the friend,
a big welsh geezer playing the husband and me playing the sexy secretary. Well, I was only 32. Betty taught me to listen and get my timing right.

Which is what we learnt on today’s show – getting the timing right for a three course meal for a lovely woman in Bucks. Paul Bloxham (he of the small frame and big repertoire), Anjum Anand (she of the Indian blood and Genevan education) and Madeleine Marsh (she of the Cambridge education and fifties wardrobe), gave of their best for a really interesting show. Lay out all your ingredients and pots and bowl before you start. First rule. Then take your time. Have good music and remember whatever your mood, it goes in the food.

Madeleine taught us the origins of etiquette. How the sharp point of the knife was used to feed the Lord’s wench, hence ‘ladies first’ as the Lord shoved his pork sausage in her delicate mouth. How the head of the table got the first slice of bread, hence ‘Upper crust’, and how salt was for the rich and plates were made of bread. Not a lot of washing up but a lot of crumbs.

We had prawns on bamboo sticks and Israeli cous cous, which you can buy online or in Golders Green, and a trifle that had white chocolate and marscapone whipped together. Writing about it makes me feel full. I was going to say sick but that would be unfair.

It is now 1.45 and Jim is brushing his teeth. The dog is on his bed. The cat is on the dog. The rain is splattering on the windows and I am knckered.

It’s been a long day but if it hadn’t been for Malcom the AA man, I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.

It’s Saturday now. I hope you have at least 5 moments of peace today and that you enjoy the last day of March on Sunday. Ain’t it gone quick? Cu2morrer.

4 thoughts on “1.01am”

  1. Jeni
    Even at 101am ie the middle of the night to you but not quite teatime to me (or at least would be if the American had teatime rather than the blue bird special at the diner)
    but I digress……….
    you are my dear simply put
    I think yoour friend upstairs from around the horn is trying to tell you something…..ermmmmmmmmm.
    maybe she;s tring to get you to listen and get that writing done.
    But don’t buggar off to Whirby it;s still Drac’s home, thank God!!
    Christian xx
    ps did Jim have to take his teeth out before he brushed em!!

  2. I had no idea of your friendship with Betty Marsden, Jeni! Maybe she could have made an appearance on GFL as Dame Annie Haddock, one of her regulars on ‘Round the Horne’. Some time ago, the story of how Betty died was in ‘The Stage’. It said she ordered a gin and tonic, drained the glass and died at the bar. If it’s true, a more perfect ending to such a rich and gifted life you couldn’t ask for. I will always envy her vocal skills – her voice was one that just oozed charisma. So that’s where you got it from Jeni!
    Chin up.

  3. hi jeni
    absolutely loved the rapport you had with jane asher…..absolutely fun and could be fabulous….where is this leading me?????? oh yes….
    a tv series…..2 friends…..you and jane invite each other to dinner….. with other amusing guests….and a celebrity chef who does the cooking whilst everyone eats and talks and talks and talks………….
    ……and the (fly on the wall) audience enjoy it all whilst eating their own meals at home……?
    just an idea but worth a little think?
    one guest (eg olly or joe) brings the wine; another brings the flowers, another brings the chocolates…we see where they got them from and then your opinions as you eat them…..you could even invite the meat and fish etc suppliers as guests sometimes to see what a chef can do with their products…
    oh the possibilities are endless for ‘dinner at jeni’s’
    anyway gird your loins for next week and stiffen the sinew, summon up the blood for the crew, for the chefs, for england and saint jim……!!!!!!!!
    take care


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