In the midst of the Second World War, my grandmother, along with her sister and mother, emerged from an Aldgate fruit market. Actually, they were carried out — the first three floors had been blown up by German bombers.
Lottie emerged from the ruins to see the East End burning; she brushed off the dust, went to Brick Lane to check her home was still standing, then got back to her job in the munitions factory. She was just a teenager but was already displaying the toughness she showed her entire life.
Last week, she died at the age of 97. She left this world without a single day of bitterness, unkindness or despair. She had a rich and ultimately happy life. After the war, she married my grandfather (a Holocaust survivor) and went on to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My whole family has been remembering her, coming together for a week of mourning (known as “sitting shiva” in Judaism).
In each of our lives, she was a quiet presence of strength, humour and truth. For me, Lottie will always be associated with the spirit of the Blitz and with London itself. She was born and bred here and she had all the openness and resilience, humour and kindness of this complicated city. From now on, the streets around me will be a reminder of how lucky I was to have her in my life.
In other news...
Celebrities are capable of turning into monsters
For a few, celebrity can be like a deranged fairy godmother. One wave of her wand and a sweet-natured artist transmogrifies into a frothing super-diva — the sort who has a fit when their dressing room isn’t filled with the right kind of chihuahua.
I like to hope that — having arrived on TV after a long career in the nation’s grubbier courtrooms — I’m more or less immune to this sort of nonsense. I’ve also got a lot of straight-talking friends who wouldn’t hold back if I demanded fresh orchids in my limo and extra caviar on my Monster Munch. But for many people in the public eye, there are armies of PAs and agents keeping them in a glittery, airless bubble far from criticism.
It can lead to terrible behaviour. In fact, I recently heard (I won’t say where) an extremely well known celebrity bragging about how they didn’t have any friends who were “muggles” (the non-magical people from Harry Potter). What they meant was, they were actually proud they hadn’t got any mates who didn’t appear on TV or in the movies. I was shocked. It was a sign of a person truly out of touch — and destined to get worse. Celebrities certainly don’t inhabit some magical, fantasy realm, but they are, it seems, quite capable of turning into monsters.
Papoose inspired me to remember my panto lines
I myself am on a brief visit to sparkly Pantoland, appearing in Snow White in Bristol. Obviously I would have loved to do it in London (so I wasn’t separated from my darling Rocco) but bloody Clary nabbed the gig. Nevertheless, I’m having a wonderful time. There’s just one problem: I can’t seem to remember my lines. I’ve no idea why — I usually remember things pretty photographically but for some reason, a script filled with rhyming couplets and double entendres just isn’t sticking.
Happily, I’ve ended up motivated by the rapper Papoose, who I recently met on a chat show. His Alphabetical Slaughter has poetry so profound that it makes Sylvia Plath seem like Dr Seuss. Inspired by his linguistic brilliance, line by line, I may just be ready for curtain up.