Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Liz Smith's Summer Cruise

Nanna in the Royle Family, Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley and if you want to go back a bit further through a long list, Mrs Brandon in I Didn’t Know You Cared. That is naming just a few of the programmes she’s been in.

Look her up on the IMDB and she is the first in a list of Liz Smiths. And I’m very glad they’ve put our national treasure at the top.

I caught the end of Liz Smith’s Summer Cruise on telly last night and I watched the beginning of it later on BBC iPlayer.

I don’t mind telling you I was in tears – but don’t get me wrong, she is not a sad lady at all. On the contrary. There is something about her that reminds me of my mum. She was born a year before my mum, so same generation I suppose.

It’s her dogged determination and her cheerfulness that got to me – that and watching her climb steps.

I read her autobiography Our Betty a while ago and found it (and her drawings) completely charming, just like Liz herself. She’s had it tough but there is not an ounce of self pity in her.

It’s sad that she had a stroke earlier this year and has announced her retirement. I would imagine during her time in hospital she was a perfect patient, unwilling to put anyone to any trouble and probably apologising for being a bother.

I’m now going to treat myself to Jottings: Flights of Fancy from Our Betty which is a book of her short stories.


  1. Oh I agree, she is one very talented lady and such an icon. I love her and would walk over hot coals to see any production that has her in it - the same for Julie Walters. Didn't know she had done an autobiography - that's one for the birthday!

  2. I watched this too, Teresa and was completely charmed. Also I caught her interview afterwards. Unlike you though I didn't find her cheerful, particularly. What came over for me was her deep conviction, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that she is unworthy of people's love and also her mistrust of men, based on her own experience. I love that she is such a complex character. I also loved the clothes she wore on her cruise - though I have some reservations about her hat or seeing her in her underwear!

  3. I remember seeing her in Lifes and Loves of a She-Devil, with Julie Wallace and Dennis Waterman. Loved that drama in fact I'd like to watch it again sometime. One of my faves along with Abigail's Party - remember that one? I've watched that endless times!

  4. I love Julie Walters too, MOB.

    Argh, Geri - I didn't realise there was an interview after! I think all things considered that she came across as very cheerful and optimistic - particularly compared to some of the older people I know who have everything to be happy about but moan constantly!
    I loved her hat - but agree with you about the underwear.

    I remember seeing Lifes and Loves of a She Devil too, Sue - and Abigail's Party. I've watched the latter more than once too - brilliant stuff.

  5. Teresa, I think the interview with Dominic Lawson on BBC4 threw up another side of her. I agree she is cheerful compared to some, but then she has money, which always helps when you're old, I guess. I only know one old person and that's my mum who is always cheerful!

    Sue - you can get Mike Leigh's "Abigai's Party" on DVD along with his other work. In her interview she talks about how she started working for him - he gave her the break when she was working at Hambley's and he wanted an actress in her fifties who could improvise, something she'd had a great deal of (unpaid) experience. And I loved that Fay Weldon adaptation too. Have you read the book, Sue?

    Teresa, you can probably catch that interview on I-player.
    I should be writing!! Love you and leave you!

  6. Thanks, Geri, I'll take a look!

  7. She's just gorgeous isn't she!

  8. Hi Geraldine, Yes I had Abigail's Party but no idea where it went to - prob loaned it out. And no I never did read She-Devil. Might look it out now.

  9. I also adore Liz Smith. Didn't realise there was an autobiography or a book of short stories, though. Am off to add them to my Amazon wishlist.


  10. I found her autobiography very moving, Suzanne. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.