March 19 – Old Times

Quiet birthday (72) on Tuesday. Lunch with dear RSC chums, Anthea and Rosie.

But next day Anthea alerted me to Guardian obit. Gillian Diamond. Casting Director at RSC and then with Peter Hall.

Gillian and I worked next door to each other at the Aldwych for a couple of years She shared an office with Jeremy Brooks (literary manager) and the lovely Clifford Williams who floated in a lot.

I was such a greenhorn. Gillian seemed very knowledgeable to me, intimidating but not unfriendly. We used to do playreadings back at her home in north London with Tony – her husband? Nice man. Me acting as stage manager…

I remember the drawl of her voice, the sly self mockery and seductive charm with one eye cocked. She saw the humour of life which didn’t mean it wasn’t taken seriously. It was. This was the early 1960s. Everything seemed very intense, as it does when you’re 17, a provincial girl like me for all my year in London at secretarial college and six months in Switzerland.

Reading Vera Brittain last week and her description – scathing – of provincial life in Buxton before the First World War – it rang a lot of bells growing up in Nottingham in the 1950s. Very similar. Except my parents – armchair philosophers – looked out beyond the chintz and my mother’s prized white rug. And my father, Polish Jewish one-time (and quietly) communist (born a cockney, very proud of that, `within the sound of bow bells’ he used to say, often) carried a natural sense of the wider world.

Gillian’s background too came from a similar Jewish intellectual background. Perhaps that’s why we did get on; we shared something, not always spoken. But then the RSC was festooned with Jewish intellectuals. What postwar British artistic institution hasn’t been. And these were heady days. What a place to land up in.

And Gillian very much part of that for me.

Underneath Gillian’s obit (by Michael Coveney), another. Pam Brighton.

Another time. The 1980s, City Limits, Northern Ireland and a wonderful women’s group, Charabanc. Playing often at the Drill Hall in Chenies Street, parties in my flat in Stukeley Street. Ah.

One of the drawbacks of getting to a certain age. Bits of your own history get chipped away in the death of others.

RIP Gillian and Pam.