This week was a very sad week as I attended the funeral of a dear friend, Gracie. She had a great life and passed away at the age of 89 but had the mind of a young 40-year-old. We go back a long way and I have such wonderful memories to hold onto forever.
We first met when I was 18 years of age and in a summer show at the Westcliffe Theatre in Clacton-On-Sea. I was working for a producer called Francis Golightly (of all the shows I have done in my career as a dancer/singer, my two seasons here were by far the best with great memories and, oh, my fabulous costumes!) and Gracie was Francis' best friend.
I was in digs in Colchester and they were not great (that’s an understatement) so dear Francis came to the rescue as he cared so much about his dancers. I took a room in Gracie's house and we just bonded. I remember rolling up with a huge suitcase (no change there then!) and Francis carrying it up the stairs for me to a little room that became my home for four months.
It was so cosy with such a comfortable bed that made it feel like home. She was a lady of incredible character, humour and passion for life. Trust me, she said it as it was. Good "digs", as they called it in those days, were not always great and at 18 you are a little naive and your landlord was always a little strange. Boy, I could tell some fabulous stories on theatre landlords, but I will save those for another blog.
Let me tell you Gracie was no ordinary "landlord" but a wonderful woman who encouraged me to live life to the full, be strong, and say it as it is but keep the "amazing nature and character I had and being kind with it." These were her words not mine.
She also helped me through a few tough times. To this day, the advice she gave me is invaluable. Every night after the show she would wait up for me and we would have a cup of tea in bed and I would tell her all the fun things that went on during the show. She wanted every detail and we would laugh so loud we would ache and have tears rolling down our faces. Sometimes we would still be up at 2am…maybe that’s why I am definitely a night owl.
She would come and see the show often and give me the funniest feedback and see things in the show that you would never imagine existed. She had an amazing life and, being a war child, education wasn’t important but work to her was. She worked so hard throughout her life then started a clothes shop with Francis and the rest is history.
She loved antiques and, for many years, worked at an antique centre. I would call her often and listen to her stories for hours. Trust me, she was a great story-teller and should have been on the stage. I always used to think she would have been a great narrator.
She adored Larry, my husband, and used to call him her toyboy. Gosh, I have tears down my cheeks as I write this blog. For those in her life that had this incredible ability to see past Gracie's very normal appearance as a mum, wife, landlord, grandmother and friend, were very lucky to experience and share the life of a truly unique individual that is very rare to come across.
My amazing Grace was one of those. I will miss her dearly and my love goes out to her wonderful family who will also hold fond memories in their hearts.