The Lady In The Van


Today, Jackie drove me to and from New Milton for me to travel to London for lunch with Norman. There was not one available seat on the train until I had a stroke of luck. In search of any possibility I walked through to the third packed carriage of the five that comprised this morning’s transport vehicle. Other hopeful travellers walked towards, and past, me in their own fruitless hunt. Suddenly a young man rose to his feet and retrieved a violin case from the luggage rack. He didn’t sit down again. In response to my enquiry he replied that he was leaving the train at the next stop. As I relaxed into position I reflected that, had he been my maternal grandfather, he would probably have uttered the rhetorical question: “would you be in my grave as quick?”.

Five more carriages were added at Southampton Central where we learned the reason for the crush. It was, of course, Wimbledon week. This also necessitated an additional stop for the tennis.

Preston Road

From Waterloo, I travelled by Jubilee and Metropolitan underground lines to Preston Road, and walked down that street to

The Preston

The Preston, where Norman was waiting, and we each enjoyed the same acceptable lunch of gammon steaks followed by Eton messes. We shared an excellent bottle of Fico Grande Sangiovese, followed by lukewarm double espresso coffees. The one and a half staff on the bar did their pleasant very best.

Alan Bennett

On my outward journey I finished reading Alan Bennett’s ‘Keeping on Keeping on’.

This massive tome written in Bennett’s idiosyncratic style includes diaries from 2005 to 2015; short essays and newspaper articles; two playlets; and his experience of filming The Lady in the Van.

The diaries are fascinating for the author’s take on years still in my own memory. Of the plays I preferred ‘Denmark Hill’ ‘a darkly comic radio play set in suburban South London’ which has particular appeal for one who grew up in Wimbledon.

This is Wikipedia’s opening section on The Lady in the Van:

‘The Lady in the Van is a 2015 British[2] comedy-drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner, written by Alan Bennett, and starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings. It tells the true story of Mary Shepherd, an elderly woman who lived in a dilapidated van on Bennett’s driveway in London for 15 years.[5] Smith previously portrayed Shepherd twice: in the original 1999 theatrical production, which earned her a Best Actress nomination at the 2000 Olivier Awards[6] and in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation.[7]

Hytner directed the original stage production at the Queen’s Theatre in London, while Bennett adapted the screenplay from his 1999 West End play of the same name, which was nominated at the 2000 Olivier Awards for Play of the Year. The film was shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival[8] and received largely positive reviews from critics.’

Having seen and enjoyed this delightful film I was pleased to find the book closing with Bennett’s filming diary of the production.

The Lady In The Van

The successful and versatile artist David Gentleman was a neighbour of Bennett’s when the author lived in Camden Town’s Gloucester Terrace. He has produced some charming vignettes for this section of the book.

My reading on the return journey was Spirit of Love by Ramanlal Morarjee. I am enjoying this novel and will comment further when I have finished it.