What kind of career’s advice did you get as a young woman?
Absolutely none! Women were considered second-rate beings, fit only for second-rate work, in a shop or a factory, secretarial work at best, and when you married you had to leave – as if signing a marriage license made you stupid. If you wanted a career (ha ha!) you had to stay single.
What did you want to be when you left education?
I wanted to be an actor, really, an actor/writer/film director as the films I saw as a child on our new black and white tv enthralled me. Films that we now consider classics, but were just referred to as ‘old films’. I never wanted to be a ‘film star’ but the construction and production of films fascinated me far more than the theatre, and I had been going to the theatre since I was three years old.
Did your mother work?
Actually, my mother did work. She had been a private secretary before she married. She did not work when I was a baby, but went back when I was a year old – my grandparents looked after me. She gave up when my sister was born and did not go back until I was eleven. We, as a family, did not need the money as my father worked abroad and we were very well off, but I think she went back to work so that she had a few more people to complain to.
Love & Relationships:
Do you think getting married is important?
I am in two minds about this. On the one hand, I have been very happily married for 31 years, however, I do not really believe in the institution of marriage. There is something fundamentally wrong with the legal situation of women in this country. Margaret Thatcher was the first politician to begin to address it, but the whole thing has been fallen to pieces again.
What did you dream your future partner would be like when you were a little girl?
It never crossed my mind – I was too busy studying and acting.
Is your relationship with your partner the same as your parents’ relationship?
Absolutely not. My parents were unhappily married, my husband and I are blissfully happy. I particularly remember one occasion (when I was still young enough to get a job as a secretary – I was a top-flight legal P.A. [what is referred to as an executive secretary]) and I was having champagne with another executive secretary from the same company and she told me the thing she liked most about me was the fact that I had never slagged off my husband. I told her that I had the best husband in the world, so why should I slag him off? She then told me that she had the best husband in the world, and we agreed to differ.
How like your mother are you?
I am the complete and utter opposite of my mother.
What are your hopes for any daughters or young women you know?
That they will continue their very successful careers.
Do you bring your son up the same way as your daughter? Do you think boys and girls should be brought up differently?
I brought them up exactly the same – although some know-alls disapproved.
If you don’t have children, what have you been able to do that having children would have prevented you doing? What has your focus been?
Expectations and Dreams:
Who are your heroines and why?
I have no heroines, or heroes either. I respect people who do what they want to in spite of the difficulties that are put in their way, for instance, Stephen Hawking – they told him he was going to die and he said ‘no’. The first women writers who had to publish under male names, someone said ‘you can’t do that’ and said ‘yes I can.’
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
What drives you?
My enjoyment of acting, and writing.
What are your values?
To do the best that I can, and to be honest and truthful. However, I learned that is not always politic to tell the whole truth – never lie, but you are not obliged to tell the whole truth. For instance: I started acting and acting classes at the age of 7. I took my Guildhall Grade Exams, then I studied for the LAMDA exams, gaining not only my Gold Medal at 21, but also winning the Elsie Foggarty Award, because in those days you didn’t just turn up at a Uni and say; “I want to be be an actor, don’t I”. You had to prove that you could act, and you did that by practicing, studying, taking exams and entering drama festivals – also, a degree in drama was considered second-rate compared to studying at drama school. Then they changed the goal posts, and every time I applied, I put all my qualifications down on the application form and was turned down – one person told me I had ‘more qualifications than some of the staff’ – another person, very rudely, told me they didn’t want ‘trained actresses’, and I realised that I did, actually have more qualifications and experience than some of those teachers, and they were also afraid that I would simply dominate the class. Then one day I saw a course and applied and, when I talked to guy in charge, I simply said that I was interested. Not a lie, as if I hadn’t been interested at the age of 7, I wouldn’t have taken all the qualifications, and, lo and behold, I was accepted. As it happened, the course was absolutely rubbish, the guy running it had as much talent for teaching as I do for playing the trombone !!! but I did network and gain knowledge from the other people on the course which has helped me get where I am today.
What is your biggest achievement?
Getting where I am today, in spite of everyone telling me I couldn’t.
How old are you?
65 today although I look ten years younger.
What has been your favourite age to be and why?
35. It is the best age to be, the prime age for a woman, and the age that I remain mentally.
Do you think it’s better to be young now than when you were young? (Or better now than when your parents were young?)
This is a difficult one. My generation had pushed the boundaries – especially women – as we refused to be put down and we wanted things to be better for us and for our children, however, the last Labour Government completely messed up everything they could possibly mess up. We now have vast numbers of unemployed young people, all with degrees, (useless degrees) owing vast amounts of money in student loans, most of which well never be repaid.
You cannot keep up with the qualifications employers want. I had proper secretarial qualifications, however, in the later years of my job hunting career, I was asked ‘what’s an RSA?’ I saw an advertisement for an experienced legal secretary and I spoke to a girl who sounded like someone on The Goon Show. I did wonder if it wasn’t a resting actor taking the Michael. She asked me if I had a degree, I said that I did not, as women of my age who had read for a degree did not work as secretaries. She then told me that I wasn’t eligible for the job as I hadn’t been to Uni. “But,” I remonstrated, “I have been a top-flight legal PA for nearly 20 years.” “But he says he won’t have nobody who han’t been to Uni,” was the reply. (To be honest I am not sure whether that word is spelt h’ant or ‘ant.) Now, I have run several legal practices, as well as managing the offices of other companies, and I cannot imagine ever employing an agency who used a girl who sounded as if she was taking the mick out of one of the characters from the Goon Show.
It is true that when I was young too few people read for a degree, however, now almost everyone goes ‘to Uni’ and the qualifications are frequently debased. Will we soon need a degree in Waste Disposal before you can get a job as a dustman?
What are the pros and cons of being a woman?
Whatever pros there were have been overtaken and, to a great extent, negated by the cons. This is down to male-dominated religions. When you consider the utter stupidity of the biblical story of Adam and Eve, that because Eve was tempted to eat of the tree of knowledge (by a serpent!) resulting in man (the species, not the sex) being expelled from the Garden of Eden, you realise just how much crap has been laid at the door of women.
What have been the biggest challenges in your life?
Dealing with the idiot men I have had to work for – not all the men, there were three, and only three, who I found were good bosses – the rest were simply rubbish. Three said they had degrees and didn’t – and those are the ones that I knew of. I have worked for men who were so stupid, that the old secretaries’ joke of so dumb that you have to take them to the john, was just about true. One of them would probably just about have made it as a retard, and another man was possibly committable
Self-image – Body or Looks:
Why do you dress the way that you do?
Because I like it.
What would be your musical soundtrack?
Classic Rock and Roll – I do my housework to The Stones and I usually drive with Springsteen, although Chuck Berry is lying in the car somewhere – along with Tina Turner.
Do you have a life’s motto?
No, that’s too much of a man thing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think I’ve probably said enough.