How We Met; Edward Enfield and Lorraine Chase

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The Independent Culture
Writer and broadcaster Edward Enfield, 68, was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He worked in the Far East and in local government until retirement, when he began writing; one of his four children, the comedian Harry Enfield, sent some of his work to Richard Ingrams, who immediately gave him a regular column in the 'Oldie' magazine. He now co-presents 'Watchdog' and 'Oldie TV', and lives with his wife in Sussex. The actress Lorraine Chase, 46, was born in Camberwell, south London, and worked as a model before being catapulted to fame by Campari's famous 'Luton airport' advert in the Seventies. Chase recently published her first book, 'Money and How to Make More of It', and lives alone in London

EDWARD ENFIELD: When I first met Lorraine, in 1993, I thought it would be a disaster. But before I actually met her, I had made a trip to London to see her in a production of Pygmalion, in which she was starring as Eliza Dolittle. Most actresses have ladylike voices, and they put on what they believe to be a close approximation to a cockney voice. But I knew from having seen Lorraine on the television that she was going to do it for real, because she is a proper Londoner, and it was going to be the real thing. It was perfectly superb - the most magnificant theatrical performance I had ever seen. So I wrote about just how superb it was in the Oldie. By great good fortune the lady who had produced this production of Pygmalion - Denise Coffey - was a reader of the Oldie, so she wrote in and said: "I'm glad you liked it - do you want to meet Lorraine?" So we all arranged to meet in this restaurant in Dover Street.

Lorraine arrived a bit late - as she generally does - and it was awful because she and Denise knew each other and they were talking theatre talk and I know no theatre talk. I don't think Lorraine had the faintest idea what I was doing there. I thought: "I wish I'd never asked for this meeting. I want to go home." But instead I told Lorraine to stop talking for a minute, which is a technique you have to use with her, and she looked slightly surprised. Then I asked her about the time she was on Blankety Blank and Terry Wogan said to her: "The archaeologist looked into Tutankhamun's tomb and found he had a ... blank"; to which Lorraine replied: "I can't think what an archaeologist was doing on Tooting Common." I think that's such a funny joke. We warmed to each other then, but I didn't think we'd meet again, I thought it was a one-off.

I did try to contact her a little while after that, because she had told me this very good story, about Mr Major and Mr Lamont, and I wrote to her to ask if I could use it. But she never answered, which was her way of saying no, I think. So I thought that was the end of that.

Then, about 18 months after the lunch, I was doing a pilot radio show with Miles Kington, and the producers asked who I'd like to have as a guest. I asked for Lorraine, so that we could talk about Pygmalion - it is extremely interesting, because not only does she get the accent right, but she makes the very interesting point that Shaw put the right sort of words into Eliza Dolittle's mouth but he probably didn't understand cockney mannerisms - and so Lorraine can do a beautiful representation of "I think it was the gin which done him in" with a sort of nudge, nudge. It's brilliant, it really is. So we did that and it was a great success. After that we exchanged Christmas cards; now when I come up to London I'll call her up and see if she's free, and we have lunch and go to art galleries. She's very keen on pictures, much more knowledgeable than I am.

I think the reason we get on is because we began our lives at totally different points. She started life in a council flat, with free school meals, whereas my father was a civil servant and achieved a knighthood. But we agree on a great many things, about the state of England and all the things that are going on. And the fact that we've started from such different places and arrived at similar conclusions - well, I think that's why we keep in touch like this. I wish we could do some television together - the Lorraine and Edward show. Chat shows are a bit obvious, but a two-person chat show between the two of us would be good!

Lorraine is so popular: if you walk around the streets of London with her all the cabbies are going "toot-toot, hello Lorraine", and little old ladies get scraps of paper from somewhere and come up to beg her autograph and all that, she's terribly popular. And she's very good-looking and witty, she keeps me amused and she can tell me a lot about things that I don't know about, like fashion. And of course she can tell me about starting life in a council flat in Camberwell, which I don't know about. One of her good points is that she talks a great deal and she doesn't mind if I say: "Just stop for a minute." Sometimes we head out with the intention of going to an art gallery but never get there because we get so engrossed talking over lunch.

LORRAINE CHASE: The first time I met Edward was at a lunch with Denise, who I was doing Pygamalion with. I remember Denise saying to me that she wanted me to meet a friend of hers and I remember thinking Edward was a very sweet little chap who said he'd written a piece about me performing in Pygmalion, and he thought I was very good in it - which I was very glad of, because it was one of the first very serious parts I'd played. So I was really impresssed that someone who seemed highly intelligent to me thought I was good in it. We had a very nice lunch and I told him about my meeting with John Major; later Edward wrote to me and asked me if he could use the story for something, and I wasn't sure what to say so I didn't reply. Then we did a radio pilot together and that was great, very enjoyable. We got on so well and it became a thing after that that we would meet up and do something, like go to an art gallery and have a laugh.

We're so different, so opposite, but we instantly got on. What probably pulled us together was doing the radio show, because we got put into a situation where both of us were sitting chatting and we got on so well. It was so easy, both of us said afterwards that we should think of a show we could do together, because we're from totally different stratas of life, from totally opposite class structures. And from that radio show, we just seem to have evolved. We don't get to meet up that often, Edward will ring up and say he's coming to London tomorrow and we meet up on a whim. But I wouldn't think twice about ringing him to ask his advice if I thought he could help me with something.

I don't read his column in the Oldie, although I've appeared in it. I still haven't read the one about me - I might have to hit him, if he said something awful. But I sometimes catch him on TV.

Edward's had an education that I've never had. He'll correct me if I use a word wrongly, and I quite like that. I find his company very stimulating; and he probably brings out the best in me, because I come out with things he didn't know about before. He's refreshing for me because of where he comes from, and I think he finds the same in me. It's a nice mixture.

! 'Money ...' by Lorraine Chase and Adam Shaw (Orion Business, pounds 14.99), publ. 16 Feb.