Alan Bennett reveals that his lover, 'Café Anne', is dead

Playwright talks about housekeeper who was his clandestine 'crazy mate'

He is notoriously secretive about his love life and for decades kept the world guessing over even his sexuality. So it is perhaps unsurprising that news of the death of Alan Bennett's only female lover has not reached the wider public until now, almost 10 months after she died.

Their on-off relationship, which the playwright went to lengths to keep out of the public eye, ended in January when Anne Davies, his former housekeeper, lost her fight against lung cancer aged 57, Bennett revealed last week. She was first diagnosed in August 2007 and managed to defy the initial prognosis that she had only three months to live. The affair had earlier confounded popular belief that Bennett was gay when he let slip details of their relationship to a US magazine in 1993.

The 75-year-old writer last week said the media used his unintentional revelation to "somehow out me as not being homosexual". He added: "It was just absurd that you weren't allowed to be something that they didn't expect you to be."

The unlikely pairing began when Bennett employed Davies – then married – as a cleaner in his London home. He later said he fell in love within a fortnight of the meeting. They ended up living next door to each other in the village of Clapham, Bennett's Yorkshire Dales bolt-hole. The unconventional relationship lasted for many years with Davies's live-in, long-term partner, Rob Watson, reportedly moving out of the cottage during Bennett's monthly visits. The rest of the time Bennett lived with the magazine editor Rupert Thomas, 42, in north London.

Davies quickly became a Clapham institution and was known locally as "Café Anne" because she turned her front room into a tearoom. Her daughter-in-law Laura Davies, who is married to her son Ben, told a local newspaper that Davies was "very protective" of Bennett, adding: "She enjoyed looking after him, but occasionally she did drop him in it. Alan is a really nice bloke and Anne was his crazy mate."

After the media furore over Bennett's reverse outing died down in the mid-1990s, portraits of the playwright and photographs of him posing with the painter David Hockney on the walls of Davies's tearoom were the only public clues to the pair's long-term relationship. Bennett, meanwhile, kept outsiders in the dark about his sexual preferences. When asked once by the actor Sir Ian McKellen at an Aids benefit whether he was heterosexual or homosexual, Bennett replied: "That's a bit like asking a man crawling across the Sahara whether he would prefer Perrier or Malvern water."

The playwright, who packs his works with autobiographical references, told Radio 4's Front Row programme last week: "If there was any sex going, you'd go for it, but it didn't really matter which side it was on. There'd been something of both in my life, but not enough of either."

Davies once said: "He was always gay, but he thought men didn't like him. It's like not being picked for the team at school. I was the only woman he'd ever been close to. I was like an earthquake, turning his life upside-down, with my kids and lovers and mess."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before