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SHEILA HANCOCK: I would sell my damaged soul to hear John doing an impression of Boris

Yesterday, within the second extract of Sheila Hancock’s fascinating memoir, in The Mail on Sunday, the actress railed towards the category system in Britain. 

Right this moment, within the remaining extract, she reveals how the pandemic lockdown affected her life — and the way her sense of humour helped to get her via it. 

April 11, 2020

My biggest progress through the pandemic has been in my mastery of social media. After a number of unsatisfactory cellphone calls, my three daughters and eight grandchildren determined I needed to transfer into the twenty first century in order that we might see one another’s faces while I used to be in isolation.

We began massive, with them speaking me via the method of becoming a member of a household Zoom assembly. I did nearly handle it, however was bewildered by all of them shouting directions at me.

‘Unmute! Unmute!’

‘What the hell are you speaking about?’

‘Oh, Nana, for heaven’s sake.’

After insisting on one-to-one teaching, I’ve progressively mastered WhatsApp, Zoom, FaceTime, YouTube — in reality, I’ll have a go at something. I’ve a relationship with a captivating younger man known as Craig, who works for my service supplier, and comes into my display and kinds it out after I get actually hysterical.

‘Sheila, Sheila, simply take heed to me. Do what I inform you.’ I’ve by no means met him, and even seen him, however I really like his masterful method.

April 15, 2020

I’ve urged that Louis, my 12-year-old grandchild, ought to maintain a diary. Get nasty ideas out of his head and on to a little bit of paper, which he can then tear up or burn if he likes.

I confirmed him a battered pocket book wherein I saved a diary of my first go to to France. It catalogues my teenage angle to the conflict that had not lengthy ended, and, extra fascinating to Louis, an account of my first correct kiss.

Regardless of my advice, I’m quite nervous of diaries. At any time when I had a row with Kenneth Williams, which was typically, he would mutter darkly: ‘I’m going to place that in my diary.’ I by no means dared learn them once they had been revealed.

I’m meaning to destroy mine. However how? It’s not a simple process burning flame-resistant, cumbersome, page-a-day booklets — as I found in considered one of my rows with John after I packed my bag to go away him, and on the way in which out tried dramatically to destroy all proof of our life collectively, in preparation for the brand new begin I informed him I used to be making.

He sat chuckling in his armchair as I flung my diaries on to the log hearth, solely to see them curl and char barely as they put out the flames.

I’m appalled by the content material of my outdated diaries. Perhaps this vicious, moaning, frightened, lustful, verging-on-insane lady is the actual me, however whether it is, I don’t need my daughters to know.

Sheila Hancock is pictured along with her late husband John Thaw

Actress Sheila Hancock is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge during a investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. Picture date: Tuesday November 9, 2021

Actress Sheila Hancock is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge throughout a investiture ceremony at Windsor Citadel. Image date: Tuesday November 9, 2021

Might 14, 2020

I’m determined for firm of any kind. Two wooden pigeons (I seemed it up — they’ve white splodges on their necks) have taken to sitting on my balcony railings. They adore each other, billing and cooing and nuzzling their heads collectively. I’m very jealous.

I’m touched to see that immediately they’re perched with their bums over the river, after I informed them off yesterday for making a multitude. I’m barely much less pleasant now, as I learn that they carry a illness that could be very harmful to outdated folks. Everyone seems to be out to get us.

Might 16, 2020

Felt desperately lonely immediately. I like solitude, however not enforced. For an indefinite interval. Even in jail you may have a launch date. I want John had been right here.

I disapprove of attributing attainable opinions and behavior to useless folks, however I can’t assist considering John would have fairly preferred this example. Pushed, as we each had been, by the Protestant work ethic, he would have loved an excuse to not do 13 hours a day on a movie set.

Individually, I’d love to listen to his likely sardonic tackle all of the political shenanigans. I’d promote my broken soul to listen to his feedback on the each day briefings that we’re receiving on tv.

John’s impersonation of Boris would have been cherishable. He would have had much more enjoyable with the wretched Secretary of State for Well being, Matt Hancock — no relation, I hasten so as to add. To start with he was fairly perky as he learn out manipulated statistics, however progressively his eyes have glazed over.

In a new memoir, the West End and Broadway legend reflects on a world changed by Covid

In a brand new memoir, the West Finish and Broadway legend displays on a world modified by Covid

Hancock (left) is pictured with comedy legend Tommy Cooper (right) on ABC-TV in 1967

Hancock (left) is pictured with comedy legend Tommy Cooper (proper) on ABC-TV in 1967

Might 18, 2020

Right this moment I broke all the foundations, made a determined break for it and drove into the West Finish. A journey that in rush hour can take 45 minutes or extra took me ten.

As an alternative of sitting within the customary visitors jam, I solely handed about three different automobiles. I parked simply behind John Lewis and I walked to Oxford Circus, half anticipating to be arrested — however not solely had been there no police, there have been hardly any folks in any respect.

I wandered round, smiling and greeting the opposite few strollers. The pleasant environment was prefer it was after I was a younger lady lodging within the Theatre Women Membership hostel in Greek Road, aside from the absence of the ladies stationed alongside the pavement politely promoting their wares (who, as they bought to know me, gave me recommendation on make-up, so long as I didn’t stand round too lengthy on their pitch).

I’m in all probability romanticising the scene and their lives, however they weren’t the cowering, drugged-up, trafficked kids you see in shady hallways, nail bars and therapeutic massage parlours these days.

Might 23, 2020

All in all, though resenting the ‘weak’ label, I do now settle for that I’m outdated. But it surely nonetheless surprises me a bit when very outdated women inform me they had been in school with me.

I opened a wing of an outdated folks’s residence the place historical folks had been mumbling to themselves, shuffling round on Zimmers, and the matron informed me they had been enthusiastic about my go to as a result of ‘You’re their era, aren’t you?’.

One of many issues that depresses me most about getting outdated is all of the issues I can’t have time to be taught. And this bloody virus is losing what time I’ve left.

Might 25, 2020

A distressed cellphone name from Joanna. My youngest daughter has a rental residence in St Ives, Cornwall. After it was permitted to make a brief journey, she drove the three kids down from Devon to examine on the home.

She met nobody, and went nowhere aside from her home. The work on the home went on until late within the night, and the children had been drained, so she determined to remain the night time, however at 9pm a neighbour got here to the door and threatened to report her to the police if she did, as a result of in a single day stays weren’t allowed. For God is aware of what cause.

His belligerent go to felt a bit just like the Stasi in East Berlin. She was no menace by any means to anybody. However her neighbour was drunk with the facility of self-righteousness.

I’ve at all times had a reluctance to obey guidelines. It appears to me that, if you will obey them, it’s a must to double-check that they’re mandatory, and made by folks with good motives, who know what they’re doing.

The economic system goes to be wrecked by the shutdown. The NHS is compelled to delay all different life-saving therapy whereas it offers with the virus casualties. My career faces ruination.

It appears younger folks simply get a light model of the an infection. So is there not an argument for locking away and defending simply us weak ones, and letting the remainder of the inhabitants keep it up as regular, aside from just a few bouts of fluey sickness?

November 2020

‘I’m writing within the strictest confidence to tell you that you’ve got been beneficial to Her Majesty the Queen for the honour of DBE within the New Yr 2021 Honours Checklist. Earlier than the Prime Minister submits your identify to Her Majesty the Queen for approval, we’d be glad to know that this might be agreeable to you.’

No, no it wouldn’t. I don’t really feel in any respect agreeable. I really feel sick with inadequacy. What if the Queen disapproves and rejects me?

The Queen: ‘First Boris asks me to prorogue Parliament. Now this.’

Oh Lord, perhaps they’re giving me this as a result of I’m outdated and may cross a stage with out falling over and may deal with a canal boat. Ought to I cellphone and inform them that, as I method 90, this will not be true?

There’s a bit within the letter that claims: ‘There’s a clear expectation that these invited to obtain an honour are, and can proceed to be, function fashions.’ What!?

It is vitally good of all of them to have considered me, however ought to they be informed what I’m actually like earlier than they hassle the Queen?

Ms Hancock is pictured before her big West End break in April 1961

Ms Hancock is pictured earlier than her massive West Finish break in April 1961

January 2021

The response to the announcement of my damehood has been astonishing. All of the letters and emails from folks from my previous and current swept away my embarrassment with their apparent delight. It was like studying one’s personal obituary, however likely much more loving than the actual one will probably be.

April 9, 2021

Prince Philip died immediately, aged 99. He has been in poor health for some time so it’s no shock. What’s a shock is the person that emerges from all of the tributes.

I concern he has been unfairly handled. He was not simply the gaffe-making joker he was portrayed as, and never only a man who walked two steps behind his spouse.

I put a few of his extra dodgy remarks right down to being a member of the higher courses. They’re so ill-informed as to what’s unacceptable language.

Prince Andrew’s teeth-gritting interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein was a basic instance of upper-class twit discuss. The prince’s self-awareness, and his consciousness of atypical folks, was so awry that he couldn’t see how disastrous his pizza-in-Woking stuff was, on each stage.

I’m fairly certain he thought all these appalling folks he combined with had been quite jolly, and that the younger lady he cavorted with was there as a result of she preferred him. His ‘honour’ was to face by his buddy regardless that he was a convicted intercourse offender.

The higher courses are massive on loyalty to their very own. I’m touched by the story of Nicholas Elliott, who thought-about [the communist spy] Kim Philby a buddy, each being alumni of Trinity Faculty, Cambridge, and members of the old-boy community.

Elliott requested that he must be entrusted with a final personal assembly with Philby, the day earlier than his arrest as a spy, to get a full confession from him. Philby duly spilled out his guilt, however postponed signing the written confession until they subsequent met.

Trusting upper-class loyalty and honour, Elliott left. Philby defected to Russia the following day.

There’s a naivete in these old style values of honour and loyalty that may be harmful, however as embodied in our Queen they work.

I’m of a era that has a respect and affection for the Royal Household that’s tough to lose. I do know the organisation will in all probability turn into redundant. I can’t give a logical cause why, however that saddens me.

I’m glad it gained’t occur until after I’m useless and gone, for I’ve little confidence in among the concepts about what’s going to take its place.

Sheila Hancock is pictured preparing for her role as Cyrenne on the West End in March 1963

Sheila Hancock is pictured getting ready for her function as Cyrenne on the West Finish in March 1963

Might 2021

I treasure a print of a Van Gogh portray that hangs on the wall of my home in Provence. It’s a image of an outdated couple in a wooden.

On his final go to to France, John stared lengthy and exhausting on the Van Gogh. He used to jokingly say the couple was us. Now he mentioned very solemnly, ‘That positively is us. Misplaced within the woods however it’s nonetheless lovely, child.’ I responded with some joke.

Perhaps John recognized with the determine of the person standing among the many tangled undergrowth carrying a high hat and funereal black.

Which begs the query whether or not, regardless of his obvious denial that he was dying, the superhuman effort I made to protect him from the reality was a horrible mistake. Was he doing the identical for me? Did he hope I’d perceive his interpretation of the image?

He additionally stopped listening to his beloved classical music some months earlier than he died as a result of ‘I don’t wish to get weepy’.

Perhaps I ought to have talked extra about demise, a very powerful problem of all our lives.

Alternatively, maybe it was finest that he turned his again on demise as he had at all times performed with something that troubled him. And that I did the identical.

Collectively we discovered a method via the forest.

Might 2021

Actually glad to be again on a canal boat with Gyles [Brandreth]. With plenty of physio, I can get up kind of straight however should watch out after I bend ahead, which has been an ideal excuse on our newest canal journey to pressure Gyles to do all of the crouchy issues, grovelling round on the ground, whereas I stand trying noble on the tiller.

I hate having to say I can’t do issues or I really feel drained. The opposite day the boat was about 2 ft above the footpath and I needed to admit I couldn’t safely soar down.

There was some unkind consolation in the truth that Gyles, who’s over ten years youthful than I, did soar, fell flat on his face and bought a black eye. ‘Satisfaction cometh earlier than a fall,’ mentioned his spouse.

Sheila Hancock is pictured during an appearance on Loose Women in 2018

Hancock poses on a canal boat with Gyles Brandreth in September 2020

Sheila Hancock (left) is pictured throughout an look on Unfastened Ladies in 2018. And proper: Hancock poses on a canal boat with Gyles Brandreth in September 2020

June 2021

Who am I? What have I performed with my quite a few years’ value of dwelling? Materially, between us, John and I achieved greater than our mother and father might have imagined. However who cares?

Success, as outlined by the world, now means little to me. Cash, identify in lights, even — forgive my ungraciousness — damehood.

Paradoxically, nearing the tip as I’m, I discover that it’s fully irrelevant what I personally have, or haven’t, achieved for myself. The check is whether or not I’ve, deliberately or inadvertently, handed on one thing that may contribute to the long run.

I don’t bear in mind another time when we now have had the stark possibility of ominous catastrophe or, doubtlessly, superb change. We might find yourself as a useless star taking pictures around the sky, all its magnificent achievements worn out.

Or perhaps the seismic shock of this worldwide pandemic might be the blessing that may save us and propel us right into a interval of regeneration.

I can’t consider I’m saying this, however the disgraced Dominic Cummings is perhaps probably the most radical thinker we now have. It’s a disgrace that he’s so disagreeable as a result of we want an inspirational chief with new concepts.

In Chichester I a number of occasions visited the Arundel tomb talked about in Philip Larkin’s poem. What touched me most was that the earl has considered one of his gloves within the different hand.

One sees, with a pointy tender shock,

His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

He has taken it off earlier than placing out his naked hand to his spouse, which she has reached throughout her physique to carry.

By no means has there been extra want for each considered one of us to take off our gloves, and attain out to help one another, to ensure that ‘what’s going to survive of us is love’.

Love of all of the creatures, the brilliance, the sweetness, the overwhelming magnificence of this well-worth-saving planet on which I’ve been privileged to exist for 88 years.

  • Previous Rage by Sheila Hancock will probably be revealed by Bloomsbury on June 9 at £18.99. © 2022 Sheila Hancock. 
  • To order a duplicate for £17.09, go to or name 020 3176 2937. Free UK supply on orders over £20. Promotional value legitimate till June 4, 2022. 
  • Sheila will probably be showing stay in Ilkley (June 6), Richmond (June 7) and Chester (June 16). Tickets at

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