Maureen Lipman takes Saga Magazine's Grown-up Test

Caroline Rees / 23 December 2014

We challenge actress Maureen Lipman to see the funny side of life.

Twitter. Yes or no?

No because I would respond to all the maniacs who use it and I would get killed. 

Silliest thing you’ve done recently?

Buying a large rabbit hutch on tour and travelling back by train.

Favourite recent read?

Grayson Perry’s Playing To the Gallery.  It’s provocative, funny and makes you think about your own art. 

What did turning 65 mean for you?
I got a Freedom Pass, which is an incredible gift, though I feel I deserve it for working all my life. I didn’t retire or climb Kilimanjaro for sick dolphins in the Negev Desert. I just had a normal year. This year, I let my hair go grey and that felt like more of a milestone.

Train or car?
Car if I’m driving, though I love a train journey, particularly in a foreign country.

Last public protest you made?
I went with Shami Chakrabarti to see Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, about prisons vetoing how many books prisoners have. We pushed a trolley of books into his office, which was great fun.

What do you wear around the house?
If I’ve got nowhere to go, trousers, T-shirt and cardigan.

Decade you’re most nostalgic for?
The Sixties.  I have read that I had a really great time!

Longest friendship?
It’s with Lizzy, the friend I made at breathing classes, during our pregnancies. Our babies were born on the same day and I see her all the time.

Last forget what you went upstairs for?
Just now and I don’t even have an upstairs. I take turmeric in my morning drink to prevent becoming forgetful and I’m trying to convince myself that my memory’s getting better. 

Music that always gets you on a dance floor?
I haven’t been on the dance floor since the old king died, dear. But I did recently go to tango classes and Piazzolla, the tango composer, will do it every time. 

If your 16-year-old self could see you now, what would she say?
I told you that you could do it.

Your plan B?
According to my school exercise book, I was going to be a dress designer, an air hostess or an actress – in that order. As I can’t sew a button on and I’m frightened of flying, I opted for plan C.

When and where were you happiest?
At the Old Vic in 1970, newly in love, in a company of 50, watching, learning, occasionally being plucked out of the chorus and cycling from my home in Hampstead to the theatre in Waterloo with my crochet in my basket.

What makes you really grumpy?
Almost everything. What makes me livid is that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is judged on different standards from anywhere else in the world.

Who did you have a teenage crush on?
A school actress called Pauline, Cliff Richard and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Bad habit you can’t break?
Looking at myself despairingly in mirrors.

Historical figure you’d like to have been?
George Eliot perhaps or Aphra Behn – but then up comes the idea of life without toilet tissue, central heating and Vegemite, and I’m just glad to be me.

School prefect or school terror? 
Terror. I was never given any responsibility, though I was once made charity collector and I badgered everybody so insistently that I drove them nuts but made a fortune.

Exercise, good diet or both?
I do yoga and stretches, and I walk the dog.  It’s probably not enough.  I’m not fit but I’m very flexible. I’m a terrible grazer with food. I finish everything on my plate, then continue until all the crisps have gone.

When did you last stand naked in front of someone?
I try not to. 

Drink too much?
I don’t drink spirits but by the end of the second glass of wine, I’m distressingly the life and soul of the party.

Latent talent?
I’ve just had my first trumpet lesson and was told I had a good lip.  Who knew?  I had a terrible headache for three days afterwards but it was fun. I draw and paint a bit but I’m never going to be Rembrandt. 

Who would you like to say sorry to?
Jack [her late husband Jack Rosenthal] because I was sometimes cross and mean and not there when I should have been. My mother for using her as the butt of too many jokes and my father for impatience, which he passed on to me in the first place.

What did your parents teach you?
My mother taught me to accessorise and my father taught me to question.

Glass half full or half empty?
A bit empty. I don’t like being that way but I might as well admit it.

Latest fashions or time-honoured classics?
I like funky clothes that are within my age range. I’m never going to dress in Vivienne Westwood but I like things that have re-interpreted the latest fashions. And I’m wearing a lot of black since I went grey.

Things you can’t throw away?
My mother’s fur jackets, clothes from the Sixties that I’ll never get into again, my costumes from Re:Joyce and Jack’s chair. I’m a bit of a hoarder.

Last time you laughed till you cried?
Last Christmas, when my partner Guido tried on his present of an elephant onesie. 

Your verve for your art and passion for justice put you at a fabulous 55.

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