A long time ago – well, 1982, to be precise – I got on a number 38 bus from the Bakers Arms in Leyton with Gladys, my Nan. One of those women of a particular generation who had grown up in the East End listening to the cut-glass accents of the announcers on the BBC. Half Dot Cotton, half Queen Mum. She’d got that bus during the war to go and be a fire warden in the City, I think.
Anyway, in my mid-teens we suddenly went through a golden period together of going to the theatre up the West End, to see things she wanted to see and thought I’d like. Frank, the love of her life, had died a few years earlier and maybe this was a good way of getting out and about, I don’t know, but I do know that I loved it. We went to see Evita and The Mousetrap and we also went to see Barnum, starring Michael Crawford, which was the most extraordinary, daring and accomplished thing I have seen on the stage then or since.
He was breathtaking, singing, dancing, doing acrobatics, going on the high wire above our heads at the Palladium. Amazing. I never forgot the thrill of it, sitting next to Nan. Wow. So I was thrilled again to be asked to interview him for Event magazine, the result of which is published today.
I have to say, he didn’t disappoint. One of the nice guys: polite, professional and charming yes, but also honest and open and lovely. Very revealing too. We got to talking about our Nans. He still talks to his. She raised him and still gives him comfort although she’s long gone. “I always take my Mum and my Nan out on the stage with me.”
He told me about going to the theatre with his Nan and I told him about coming to see Barnum, and I don’t mind telling you that both of us had tears in our eyes then. Moments like we had with our grandmothers change lives for the better. If you are one, thank you. If you’ve got one, cherish her. They’re gone too soon.
So here’s the interview anyway, for Gladys. Thanks Nan. See you at the great Palladium in the sky.