Pam, you won television’s Opportunity Knocks in 1975. Will you be celebrating this 40th anniversary?
No! I don’t feel the need to, although I’m incredibly grateful for it all. It’s difficult to know when my career started really. I won Opportunity Knocks in 1975, but I’d worked for Radio Oxford before that. My latest book was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller. That felt like a celebration.
You’re making a welcome return to the Grassington Festival after 10 years. What can we expect from your show?
Yes, I was last in Grassington in June 2005. It’ll be a mixture of old and new. Mostly funny, a little bit sad with some extracts from my autobiography. The show is two hours long and I do my best to learn it all so I don’t need to refer to books or use a lecturn or my reading glasses. I feel more connected with the audience that way and I can chat to them.
You’re a renowned writer, broadcaster and performer and have toured the world with your one-woman shows. You paint, knit, keep bees and cattle and have rescue hedgehogs in your garden! Which aspect of your life brings you the greatest satisfaction?
I love every aspect and just adore living in the countryside. I’m not a city person so I feel like a childhood dream has come true. We have 20 acres and I do what I can to improve the lives of other creatures. I have an arrangement with the local hedgehog hospital whereby they get released into my garden once they’re well enough.
Your latest book “You Made Me Late Again” contains a mixture of poems, anecdotes and sketches. What inspires you?
I find humour in all sorts of situations and try to take an idea that nobody else has had. I suppose I see it as a challenge to make something seem funny or entertaining. I like using words to make people smile. It’s exciting, pleasurable and doesn’t feel like work.
Your poem “The Make-up Lady,” is about being made to feel invisible by a glacial, flawless, young sales assistant. You’ve been very much visible for forty years. What’s the secret to your longevity?
One of my rules is never to repeat the same stuff. I keep a record of what I say from every performance and write new material for when I play at that venue next time. My shows are pleasant. There’s nothing offensive and I see no need to shock or use four letter words. I write about things that people can identify with and I say what people think. For example, my poem “They Should Have Asked My Husband”, is about a know-all who has an opinion on everything. I’m sure we all know somebody like that!
You became a grandmother to Arthur last year, and there are two more grandchildren on the way. Has becoming a grandparent changed you?
I’m astounded by the overwhelming love I have for him. He’s adorable. That’s the wonderful thing about love, it keeps extending. I’ve observed that grandparents like to attribute the good qualities of their grandchildren to themselves and to their side of the family!
What’s next for Pam Ayres?
I’d like to do more drawing and painting. My pictures are daft and reflect my sense of humour. I did one recently, a man in a canoe, drinking from a flask with his mum who’s asleep. Behind the canoe, unknown to them, is a great white shark. Life’s full of surprises.
This is how the interview appeared in the June issue.
The Make-Up Lady by Pam Ayres
In went to buy a lipstick and I hoped for some advice,
On choosing an attractive shade to make my face look nice.
I stepped up to the counter in my trainers and my mack,
But the sales assistant saw me and she vanished out the back.
She was absolutely flawless and an advertiser's dream,
She was icy as a glacier and chic in the extreme,
I was clearly not the customer that she desired to meet,
I could have been a reptile that had crawled in off the street.
And I thought I'd find the manager and have a little word,
In favour of an altogether craggier bird.
Some game old gal who's been round the block a time or three,
Who is fending of the years and has a waist as thick as me.
An understanding confidante with whom you could relax,
Who knows the way that lipstick settles in the cracks,
A saviour for those of us who know our youth is past,
To show us all the tricks and keep us fighting to the last.
Love Liz x