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WOMAN'S REALM, 13 April 1985


Vivacious actress Wendy Richard, one of our favourite EastEnders, tells Joy Nelson about her quiet Sunday

Sunday Best

I'm not a religious maniac or anything, but I do like to go to church on Sunday morning, maybe every third week.  I go to Marylebone church, round the corner from my flat; the choir there is absolutely terrific -- it's a joy to listen to them.

I often invite close friends round for Sunday lunch, so I prepare the vegetables on Saturday night -- that is, I peel the potatoes and put them in water!

I do enjoy cooking, but I don't specialise in any style.  When in doubt, I throw in wine -- all my gravy is about 90 per cent proof!  I remember one Sunday when I took the meat out of the oven -- it smelled dreadful and I realised it was off.  I had two people for lunch that day, so I rushed to the delicatessen over the road and said, "Give me eight slices of your roast beef, and don't make them too thin", and I had to come back and put all the gravy and wine and veg with it . . .  Cost me a fortune but it was a real life saver!

When the lunch is on, I do the week's washing -- all my friends take the mickey out of me because I have this mania for it.  I don't wash by hand, I hasten to add, but I'm pretty good at doing net curtains -- even my friend across the road gives me hers to wash!

When the washing's on I have a strong cup of tea and walk round what I call the "estate" -- my 56 houseplants -- and I talk to all of them.  I've got this thing about one in particular.  Some time ago it hadn't been doing well, and I said to it, "If you're going to give up the ghost then I will, too -- but if you flourish, so shall I."  It grew new shoots and I got the part of Pauline Fowler in EastEnders!

Mind you, it would have been a bit worrying if that plant had gone the other way!  I'd have phoned Russell Grant immediately -- I believe in all that.  I met Russell the year before last and he said to me, "You're going to be restricted till September", and he was right, because I put a disc out in my back and was in agony.  When I got the role in EastEnders, Russell rang and I was out he left a message with the cleaner:  "Tell Wendy her stars are in the forefront and she's nothing to worry about," he said, which I thought was really nice of him -- out of the blue.

I don't mix with a lot of people in the entertainment  business.  I see Mike Berry who played Mr. Spooner in Are You Being Served? and his wife, Sue -- and John Inman only lives just up the road, but then, because he's always working, he's away for most of the time.

My best friends are Sandy Archer and his wife Mireille, who are artists' and illustrators' agents.  We're all the same age and I'm sort of like adopted family to them -- all of my own family are dead.

So, on Sunday, after I've done the plants and rearranged the dust, I go to the pub to meet them for a drink.  My parents were in the licensing trade -- they used to run a pub in Mayfair's Shepherd's Market.

The Governor of my local here -- PJ up at the Gloucester -- has Come Outside on his jukebox and ever he wants to annoy me, he puts it on and then I leave in a huff.  I made that record with Mike Sarne when I was at drama school, in the early Sixties, and writing off to agents hoping they'd take me on for commercial or voice-overs.  Billie Davies did the follow-up -- Will I What? -- but I was the original, and I think it was probably the only Number One Mike Sarne ever had.

EastEnders isn't my first soap opera for the BBC.  I was in The Newcomers back in the Sixties.  In fact, I was in a taxi just the other day and the driver said, "Oh, I remember rushing home from school to watch you in that!"  What doing my new series EastEnders would be like hadn't really sunk in until a journalist said to me, "In six months' time your whole life is going to change."  And I thought, "well, yes, I suppose you're right."

EastEnders is made at Elstree and, as I don't drive, I get a taxi over to Television Centre every morning and catch what they call the Elstree Shuttle.  It's a great big charabanc -- it makes you wonder where the crates of brown ale and crisps are!

It does mean a lot of very hard work and early nights for me, but, fortunately, just lately, I don't feel much like going out anyway.  Perhaps it's because I'm getting past it!

I usually go out on a Friday night with Sandy and Mireille for a few drinks, supper, and a few more drinks -- but I haven't even done that recently.  And especially since I got this part I'd rather stay at home indoors.

On Sunday evenings I'll go to bed at about seven o-clock and put the telly on or sit up in bed with a good book or write letters.  I like writing letters -- I think it stems from when I was at boarding school and used to have lots of pen pals scattered all over the world.  I still correspond with some of them.

I went to an old girls' reunion at my school last year.  When I walked into the room, there was my old French mistress, Miss Vicarage, and straight away my knees went, because this woman used to put the fear of God into me.  But when she saw me, her face lit up.

"Wendy," she said, "I've seen you on the television and the pleasure that you've given to people, and it matters not a jot if you still can't speak French!"

If there's nothing special on television and I'm not reading or doing my tapestry (I started it five years ago and it's still not finished), I go off to sleep.  Sounds terribly dull, but I enjoy my Sunday -- even if they're not the rave-up you'd expect from me.  Mind you, when I do go out, I really make a night of it!

Wendy Richard / Joy Nelson


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