How We Met: Graham Seed & Mavis Cheek

Mavis Cheek, 62

An award-winning novelist, Cheek has written 14 books including 'Mrs Fytton's Country Life', 'Janice Gentle Gets Sexy' and 'Truth to Tell'. She lives in Wiltshire

I was a huge fan of [Radio 4 soap opera] The Archers, so I was rather starstruck by the prospect of meeting Graham [who played the character of stately-home owner Nigel Pargetter]. I met his wife Claire at a drinks party about 13 years ago; she said she loved my books and invited me to dinner, as we both lived locally.

Because I love the theatre and Graham is passionate about it too, we got on well. I didn't realise at the time, but things were coming to a head with their marriage. Once they separated, I could tell he was having a terrible time of it and he started confiding in me. I felt sorry for him, so I took him to a couple of parties and to see a few shows. I used to stay fairly sober while he would get really drunk and we laughed a lot. He got the wonderful idea that I knew everyone in the world, and I kept up this mythology.

I went to see him in a play called Translation, playing a stiff army officer imposing his will. He was wonderful in it and it cemented our friendship more. I'd always wanted to be an actor, and for me, watching Graham is the next best thing.

As a single man, he was hilariously awful. I took him once to a lecture at a Victorian graveyard in London, about the people buried there, but he couldn't stop looking at the girls, and going after them. He'd wander off saying, "I think I'm in love, what do I do?" During his darkest moments he'd come to stay in Wiltshire, where I'd moved to, and it was quite heavy going. There was 3am stuff and another bottle going down, and I'd just want to go to bed, but I'd stay and be his confidante.

He's very self-obsessed, but he admits that; when he asks you a question about yourself, you'd better get in quick before he moves on to himself. But he's a very kind man underneath it all, generous and quick to congratulate. Now he's got a nice woman, Denise, who has had a cheering and calming influence on his life.

When I heard about the death of his character in The Archers I was outraged, both for Graham, but also as a writer and listener: it was bonkers. Why get rid of one of the show's most beloved characters after 30 years? Even now, four months on, when we meet we still run through it all.

Graham Seed, 60

An actor, Seed is best known for playing the bumbling Nigel Pargetter in 'The Archers' – though the character was axed after 27 years in January. He lives in London

When it comes to actors, Mavis thinks they are more erudite than they are, but she's the one with this incredible brain and I'm the one burbling behind her.

We first met at a drinks reception in 1999. My wife at the time recognised her, as she loved Mavis's books, and was so frightfully impressed to know a novelist she invited her round for dinner. Mavis was slightly gobsmacked that a friend of mine, Alan Rickman, had also been invited, so she thought everybody I knew was a luvvie, when he's just an old friend.

She'd always loved The Archers, while I was so impressed by how cultured and glamorous she was, and a friendship developed. I confided in her that I was having problems with my wife and within six months my marriage had broken up. It was pretty traumatic to be suddenly single after 30 years, and Mavis was a good friend when I was feeling alone. She was good at drawing me out the house and embarking me on a series of whirlwind experiences as her chaperone. She liked it as she could arrive at parties and announce, "This is Graham Seed, better known as..." She probably thought, and still does, that I'm a bit like Nigel; there to be fun and tactless. I think I still play up to it a bit.

I often felt a bit of a phony, though, going to all these art events. She loves art, but I know nothing about it. I remember going to an open-air exhibition in Regent's Park a few years ago. We were in the VIP lounge and I was completely out of my depth discussing art with Tracey Emin; Mavis recognised I was in difficulty, swooped in and rescued me.

Though I'm an actor, I'm really a bit of a philistine. She says, "We must go see this" and I'll say, "Do we have to?" I'd rather watch a game of cricket, but we'll go to a show with some friends of mine such as Jim Broadbent, as I know how starstruck she gets meeting actors.

We were always friends and no more; it was uncomplicated. Her attitude towards me is of affectionate incomprehension. She's terribly neat and grown-up, while I'm an untidy mess, and she thinks I'm incredibly self-centred, but all actors are.

After my role in The Archers ended, she really rallied round me. It's not nice to have half your life taken away but Mavis just kept saying, "This will be the start of good things." Nigel is a delightful man, but I'm not nearly so and now I'm no longer Nigel Pargetter, I'm sure she's not quite so interested in me.

'The Lovers of Pound Hill' (Hutchinson, £12.99) by Mavis Cheek is out on Thursday

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: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin