Celia Imrie takes Saga Magazine's Grown-up Test

Caroline Rees / 25 March 2015

Actress Celia Imrie, 62, likes to wear fairy lights and old cardigans – though not at the same time.



Book or e-reader? 

Book. I don’t understand Kindles at all. I like to turn the pages. 

What did turning 60 mean to you?

I’ve never lied about my age.  I’d forget where I’d got to, then get in an enormous muddle.  But I didn’t like the sound of it at all.  However, when I meet people who are 70, they’re amazing. So I’m heading on in blinkers.  

Modern-day gripe? 

Seeing a family out for lunch and the children are on their phones playing games. I don’t see that it’s doing them as much good as joining in a conversation. Or people walking round with things in their ears so they crash into you. They’re not living in the moment. 

Last good deed for the planet? 

Coming back from America recently on a boat instead of an aeroplane. 

Biggest break?

I’m always hoping that there’s another one round the corner. I hesitate to look back. In an industry where youth is applauded, I’m lucky that I am now the right age to be in a film as wonderful as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  

 Want to be when you grew up? 

A prima ballerina. 

Decade you’re most nostalgic for?

I loved being 26 for some reason, in the 1970s and in my head I still am. Lots of opportunities came along.  

Coast or countryside?

Coast. I love the sea. It makes me feel both very courageous and unimportant at the same time.  

Silliest thing you did recently?

I was asked to a wedding on the Queen Mary, so I wore my tail suit from a cabaret I did and put my Christmas fairy lights round me as a necklace. I had doubts when the captain gave me a wry look but then he went down to his cabin and put his Christmas lights on. It was a silly but joyful moment.

Longest friendship?

With a great pal, Fidelis Morgan, who I met on a world tour of Hedda Gabler, about 35 years ago. She makes me laugh. Also, my dear friend Lally Percy. We were chorus girls together in Stop The World I Want To Get Off and I’m godmother to her son. They’re extremely precious friendships. 

Wear around the house?

Jumpers and cardigans that I’ve had for 20 years. I’m very Scottish about throwing things out. 

Music that gets you on a dance floor?

The Blue Danube. I was an embarrassment to my pals once when it struck up in the Planetarium and I started dancing up and down the aisle. 

Last stand naked in front of someone?

Never in my whole life. Ever. 

Gin or gym?

Neither. I loathe the smell of gin and I loathe gyms. But I love walking. It generally turns into a run because I’m always late. 

Medicine or alternative therapies?

Alternative therapies are my first stop. I had a sore throat recently, so I had masses of garlic, then hot whisky, honey and cloves. And it went. And I would rather go to my wonderful osteopath than take an aspirin. 

Last drink too much?

It might have been after The 24-Hour Musicals a couple of years ago, to raise money for the Old Vic. My son did say at the end of the evening, “That’s enough now, mum.” 

Favourite tipple?

Champagne. 

If your 16-year-old self could see you now, what would she say?

“So glad you’ve stuck at it”, because 16 is when I began. Our life as actors is an endurance test but it’s also a compulsion and you’re never satisfied, so you have to go on and on. Then more is expected of you and the more nerve-racking it is. 

When and where were you happiest? 

That sounds like I’ll never be happy again.  But I was very happy in Guildford, Surrey, aged two or three, feeding the chickens with my mother. 

Hidden talent? 

I am a green belt in taekwondo and I can Greek dance like Isadora Duncan. Taekwondo makes you quite aggressive but I haven’t done it for a while, so if I was in danger, I wonder how much I would remember. 

Do anything to conceal your age? 

Not really, except behave like an idiot sometimes. 

Teenage crush?

Richard Burton. And Adam Faith, who I then got to work with, which was thrilling. 

Prized possession?

My chandelier. I’ve had neighbours digging a basement so, for two years, it was kept in its box. Now it’s hung and is a thing of great beauty, both day and night. 

How do you relax?

I love to watch Coronation Street.

Bad habit?

Oh, untidiness.  Not having my papers in order.  

What did your parents teach you?

My mother taught me to ask people about themselves and not talk about myself all the time. And my father taught me a good work ethic. He was also a modest man, so I hope I’ve picked up a bit of that. 

Who or what inhabits your nightmares?

Sometimes it’s sharks.  Years ago, I was obsessed with Jaws. 

Your first kiss?

When I was about 14, with a boy called Richard.  Then he used to write to me with S.W.A.L.K on the back.  I invented boyfriends as well, I’m afraid. 

Two historical figures you’d like to sit next to at dinner?

Elizabeth I would be fascinating, but I’m not sure I’d know what to say to her. And Robert Kennedy. He was left with a lot to deal with and dealt with it bravely. I’m fascinated by the whole Kennedy thing. 

The best thing you’ve done?

Not leaving it too late to have my son, Angus, who’s 20. 

Read more about Celie Imrie here 

Last laugh out loud?

It was while watching Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory conveyer-belt scene from I Love Lucy in America recently. It was heaven. 

Prefer your youth back or what you have now?

It’s mad to say my youth back, so I’m happy with what I’ve got. Without being dramatic, I’ve got 20 years left if I’m lucky, so I want to keep laughing, be with the people that I love, be daring and cram in as much as I can. 

 Verdict

For living in the moment, you pass as a fun 48-year-old. 

 Celia Imrie’s debut novel is Not Quite Nice (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Visit Celia Imrie's official website here 

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