Bodecia Book Club members review That’s Another Story: The Autobiography by Julie Walters
Julie Walters is a British treasure, an actress and comedian.
She has been delighting us on screen and on stage for more than 25 years and we have taken her to our hearts.
Now she tells us her own story, in her own words.
A very modest star, which you do not hear a lot about but whose life was fascinating and sometimes amusing to read about.
Julie grew up in Smethwick, her father was a chain-smoking painter and decorator, “his hair full of plaster dust”.
Sickly and thin to the point of emaciation, he died young in 1971.
Her mother packed chocolates for Cadbury’s and she describes her parents (who were often mistaken for twins) as “small, dark eyed and dark haired”.
The book goes through her life in great detail, from being born to an austere Catholic mother in 1950s Birmingham and how, to appease her mother, Julie first ventured into the life of nursing before she turned to acting.
She appeared in five plays by Alan Bennett and improvisations with Mike Leigh.
Later came the award-winning sketch shows with Victoria Wood, including Acorn Antiques, the sitcom Dinnerladies and of course her role in Mamma Mia!
She is good on atmosphere. The family house was crammed with musty maroon and grey furniture and warmed by a four-bar electric fire.
Baths were rationed as the immersion heater cost a bomb.
Walters’ mother made her own clothes at a Singer sewing machine which rested on “elaborate wrought-iron legs”.
Holidays meant taking the Vauxhall Victor to Blackpool, where the sea glittered with raw sewage.
She once gave a bed bath to a man whom she hadn’t realised was stone dead and she also fed soup to a corpse.
Deciding that the best thing to do would be to act as if nothing untoward had happened, she lifted the woman into an upright position, put a soup spoon between her fingers and went on dishing out lunch.
However, she hadn’t gone far when another patient called out in alarm, ‘Florrie’s fallen asleep!’
In fact, Florrie had toppled face-down into the soup. Worse was to follow.
Rigor mortis had set in and Florrie now had her right arm raised dramatically in the air while her fingers clasped the soup spoon in a vice-like grip.
She is able to make this story not just funny but touching. And, as swiftly becomes apparent, she is also extremely good at animating her characters.
Thus the Irish alcoholic father of one of her childhood friends has lips that are described as follows: ‘They flopped around clumsily, an impediment to the words that came pouring through them in unintelligible strings.’
She is married to a policeman (about whom we learn nothing), and if there is one thing she wants us to be clear about, it is that she is still human.
We are now reading Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin.
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