How We Met: Peter Till & Tamsin Greig

'She's very tactile, it makes you feel stupid to not be as well'
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The Independent Online

Tamsin Greig, 39, studied drama at the University of Birmingham. She is best known for her roles in two Channel 4 comedy series, Black Books and Green Wing. She also plays the part of Debbie Aldridge in The Archers. Greig is now starring in an RSC production of Much Ado About Nothing. She lives in London with her husband Rick and three children.

I first met Peter on a beach in Grenada in 2003. I noticed him because he just used to sit there, in his own quiet way, sketching. My two sons, who were three and four at the time, were mesmerised by him. They would stand - very brazenly in the way that children do - really close, breathing on him and staring. It was through them that we started talking.

Unlike most people you meet on holiday, we see Peter and his girlfriend Juliet all the time now. They have an allotment that they take the boys to, and it is like a whole new paradise for them. They help plant stuff and dig things up and then take it to the house and cook it. They still can't quite believe this can happen - that things can grow and then be eaten. It's the same with Peter's drawings - the boys are blown away by the fact that they appear as they do on his page. I love the immediacy of it all. My own response to him is as naïve and delighted as my boys'.

Peter is a brilliant pianist. He can also pick up a guitar and do a whole Beatles set. He sings too and is also a great tennis player. All this, yet he never blows his own trumpet. You just find things out about him, very casually, the more you get to know him. We meet down in Arundel every August bank holiday and have done ever since we met. We usually watch him run a 10K race in less than an hour (yes, he can do that too).

He's always very interested in what I do. Some of my stuff he sees on TV, I think he thinks it's me just pissing around. But it was a little different when he came to see me doing Shakespeare. He didn't think I was pissing around quite so much then. He's not one for bullshit. Sometimes you'll do something and he won't even say anything. And, if I say, "What did you think of that?" he'll say, "I think I might have missed something," or "It didn't quite grab me." I think too many compliments can be a bit of a cul-de-sac. There's something very healthy about getting into a conversation with someone who disagrees with you.

Peter's not just my friend; he's my entire family's friend. He met all four of us and when our daughter was born he received her as though she had always been there. He's a fine role model for all my children. He's dependable, articulate, tactile and really makes them laugh. He can pull the most ridiculous faces and throw great shapes with his body to music. I think his relationship with us is a little like his art. He's committed to it and meticulous about it. He gets really involved with the relationships he has created.

Peter Till was born in Manchester in 1945. He became an illustrator after studying English at Cambridge. His work regularly appears in British newspapers as well as the New Yorker. Last year he won the V&A Museum award for illustration. He lives in London with his partner Juliet.

I first noticed Tam on the beach. She was the only woman there and looked young and very beautiful. She was teaching her boys to swim. She seemed to have such an attractive rapport with them both - encouraging them with a very devoted, steady presence. The boys were obviously having a ball and so was she. We got talking and then she invited me and my girlfriend to a party in their hut that overlooked the beach.

From the start, we all got on really well. Tam is terrifically bright and has a slight satirical edge to her humour. I had got a little piece of coral embedded in my finger and was going round like a wounded hero, she just made fun of me, with mock-heroic lampoonery and immediately put it in perspective.

There was no way we weren't going to keep in touch when the holiday was over. She had told us she was an actress and when we got back to England she seemed to be everywhere - on chat shows, The Archers and in Black Books. She invited us to watch her filming The Lenny Henry Show, which she had a part in. What struck me was how on top of her game she was. There were the inevitable missed cues and retakes but never from Tam.

Recently I went to Stratford to see her play Constance in King John one night and then Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing the next. These are both really major parts and I couldn't understand how she could not only learn both, but be able to separate them and not become schizophrenic. I've seen her do comedy before and I know she's terrific at it, but I'd never seen her do mad. She did mad in King John and did it brilliantly as well.

Interestingly, Tam is quite religious, which I am most definitely not. But she never talks about it or tries to convert you. She just acts out her Christianity. It's very rare. If all religious people behaved in that way there would be a lot less animosity in the world. She's also very tactile - something I am not naturally. Though with her I am. She's so abundantly easy with it, it makes you feel stupid to not be as well.

They're such a strong family unit, I think the boys do her and Rick enormous credit. They are so sweet and loving, and are always interested in everything you're doing. She can make her boys laugh at will. She does a voice or pulls a face and they're totally transported by her. She makes me laugh as well. I'm really so pleased that I met this family, I feel enriched by every single one of them.

'Much Ado Nothing' is at the Novello Theatre until 7 January. For tickets, tel: 0870 950 0940 or visit www.rsc.org.uk/london

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