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MY WEEKLY, 4 April 1992

The EastEnder Who Went West!

Wendy Richard tells Roz D'Ombraine Hewitt about her role as Albert Square's Pauline Fowler -- and about the time she went West as the glamorous Miss Brahms . . .

In her recent TV series Grace and Favour, Wendy Richard gratefully swapped Pauline Fowler's comfy cardigans and woolly hats for more glamorous glad rags.  "It was nice to wear expensive clothes for a change," Wendy admitted, "even if walking through farmyard manure in high heels rather took the shine off things!"

Wendy returned in the series as Miss Brahms, the saucy sales assistant from Grace Brothers.  "Getting most of the cast back together again was lovely," Wendy says.  "It had been almost six years since we were all together, but we chatted away as if we'd seen each other the day before.  Mollie Sugden still makes delicious jam -- I'm hopeless at it, but do brilliant pickled onions!"

Cooking is one of Wendy's favourite hobbies.  "I love hunting round shops for old cook books, particularly the ones they gave away with new cookers in the forties and fifties.  They have all the basic recipes so I just add a touch of wine or garlic for that continental flavour!"

Wendy confesses another passion is solving crossword puzzles.  "I only started them recently and now I'm addicted!  But they're very good for keeping the brain cells working.  At weekends, a group of us at our local do the competition crossword which is extra hard, but we're still hoping to win!"

Wendy's husband, Paul Glorney, a carpet fitter, is more likely to be found at the dart board.  "He's team captain of the Travelling Scalliwags which raises money for charity.  Recently they gave 200 worth of toys to a children's cancer ward," she says proudly.

Wendy's a Westender at heart, and after eighteen months of marriage, the couple moved from her London flat into a beautiful house -- just five hundred yards down the road.  They decided to do the removal [moving] themselves as it was so near, but their efforts almost got them arrested!

"Coming out of our old flat one evening, I was carrying bedspreads and Paul the big marble clock I'd bought for his birthday, when we bumped into two policemen.  "They gave us a funny look and Paul said jokingly, 'Don't worry -- we're only burglars.  Luckily, they didn't believe him."

Wendy and Paul were together for four years before tying the knot last year, on the anniversary of the day they met.

Wendy admits that being married has made a huge difference.  "It's given me an inner peace," she says happily.

Sadly, Miss Brahms' love life has been less successful, Wendy tells me.  "After her failed love affair with an amusement arcade owner from Newport Pagnell, Miss Brahms was pleased to be away from the bright lights and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the countryside for a while."

Not so Wendy.  After months of filming the series in Gloustershire [sic], she decided she prefers the countryside in small doses.  "As a typical Cancerian, I'd rather be by the sea.  There are too many insects in the country and I'm terrified of creepy crawlies!  We were shooting a scene while sitting on a haycart when a spider fell down the front of my blouse!  I screamed so loudly the sound bloke said I nearly burst his eardrums."

Wendy could easily have given the Grace and Favour team tips on hotel management.  "My parents were publicans and after my dad died I helped Mum run a bed and breakfast hotel in St. Pancras.  Between going to drama school I did the bookings, accounts, waited on tables, cooked the breakfasts and changed the beds.  Now I'm allergic to housework."  Wendy laughs.  She now has a very good lady to help with cleaning.  "I'm not nearly as domesticated as Pauline."

Even after seven years, Wendy's not the least bit fed up playing Pauline Fowler, the downtrodden housewife.

"I have a great affection for her -- and she's been very good to me.  I certainly wouldn't want to change her.  Pauline still has some of her original clothes and often seems to wear the same old things, but who hasn't something in their wardrobe they've had for donkey's years [seemingly forever]?"

And although the role is never short of drama, Wendy admits that playing Pauline, the harassed housewife and mum has a downside.  "Because you identify and sympathise with the characters, it's easy to be affected by their problems.  When Arthur had his breakdown it really affected Bill Treacher who plays him so well -- and me.

"You try not to take your work home, but it's obviously difficult at times to step outside those feelings when the camera stops rolling."

That's one reason why Wendy welcomed her return to comedy.  The other is her scamp of a puppy, Shirley Brahms, born on the first day of filming Grace and Favour and now a much loved member of Wendy's household.

"She's torn my new slippers to pieces, but she's so lovable I wouldn't be without her," Wendy says.

I'm sure Pauline would understand just how she feels.

Roz D'Ombraine Hewitt

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