News of the death of Queen Elizabeth came as a news flash on my phone. I had been expecting it. Something in her face on that meeting with Liz Truss told me she was near the end. I’ve seen that look too many times now not to recognise it.
Still it floored me. She has been the constant in our existence , the mother yeast in the daily bread of our lives and I sobbed in my dressing room at the tiny Hope Mill theatre in Manchester, as I prepared to entertain an audience with a mesmerising Martin Sherman play set at a shiva.
A one woman play, Rose, dissecting the Jewish experience in the 20th century, cuts me to the bone at every performance. Surely, I thought, all theatres would be closed on this night which is so different from all other nights?
The society of West End Theatres deemed otherwise. The show, albeit with anthem and a minute’s silence, must it seems go on. I thought it disrespectful to her memory. She had worked , travelled, walked, and wisely guided us through war, peace and recovery, inflation, tragedy, both personal and public and triumph.
Surely , I thought, all theatres would be closed on this night which is so different from all other nights?
I thought she deserved a hiatus in the calendar to sit quietly and remember. I could have made a fuss. I had a Jewish charity and a Q&A afterwards so, on went the show and our tears that night were of universal grief as well as specific to the play.
It was only in July that her Majesty had arrived at Coronation Street and hopped nimbly out of her Daimler to walk the Cobbles. She was absolutely herself. Intelligent, curious, well informed and up for a laugh: ‘How long has the dog been in the show?’ she asked of my character, Evelyn’s Saluki cross greyhound dog, Cerberus.
‘Er, he came with me Ma’am’, I replied. ‘Four years ago.’
‘And is he a good actor? She asked.
‘Erm – let’s say I carry a lot of liver in my vest Ma’am’.
She smiled and walked on the next floundering thespian. She stayed a couple of hours, and as she walked through the brick arches to the Coronation Street theme, the hardest Republican hearts were softened and we soared with pride.
She always had something reportable and interesting to say and the skill and the timing she exhibited on the Bond spoof and the Paddington sketch made hundreds of us write to BAFTA asking for a special acting award for her.
I make no bones about it, I feel as though I have lost my oldest friend. God rest her dear soul.
I think she understood life through her understanding of horses. She was tender and firm, loving and knowledgeable. I have it on the best authority that, only last year, she admitted to a bit of muscle stiffness due to having ‘broken in a new pony yesterday.’
An example of a woman who worked at the same job, tirelessly for 70 years, travelling the globe and rarely taking a day off must be impossible to find. I make no bones about it, I feel as though I have lost my oldest friend. God rest her dear soul.
It was my late husband Jack Rosenthal’s birthday yesterday. I do hope he was there to meet her, with a nice hot cuppa.
But now we are grown ups and the best way we can honour her memory and thank her posthumously for representing our country so beautifully is to welcome King Charles with all the love and strength in our hearts. And to wish him and her extended family long life.
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