Grumpy old woman, not in real-life says Suzie Blake
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Grumpy Old Women actress Susie Blake isn’t a natural grump, although she enjoys being one in new show Fifty Shades of Beige. So what’s her secret for a calm life? Entertainment writer Wayne Savage found out.
Time tells, says Susie Blake, laughing that it’s no good pretending she is 30 any more. She is enjoying a new lease on life though, thanks to her new allotment.
Having to abandon the plot she shared with her mother years ago when she got the role of Bev Unwin in Coronation Street, friends persuaded Blake to get on the waiting list for another. Eight years later...
“It’s very exciting. I had forgotten all about it... I went to have a look and thought dear heavens above, nobody had been working it for three years; this’ll kill me. People probably thought this is going to take her all year (to clear).
“But I enjoyed going out every day... My hands stiffened up a bit from holding the spade and the fork but my back is great, my knees are great - all the bits I thought would suffer. I’ve got an olive tree for heaven’s sake. I can sit there just gazing at the world going by, with my thermos. It’s fantastic. I can’t wait for the warmer weather to come so I can plant my carrots,” she laughs.
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Blake, starring alongside Jenny Eclair and Kate Robbins in Grumpy Old Women Fifty Shades of Beige, at the Ipswich Regent April 6, has big plans for the two-week old plot.
She’s already got loads of fruit, which takes care of itself. Next are some green manures, fast-growing plants sown to cover bare soil that smother weeds, prevent soil erosion, return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve its structure.
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“All I’ll get in this year are things like spinach, potatoes, onions and carrots. Once I’ve got the soil activated and working well I’ll get on to some more exotic things. When I had an allotment before I grew aubergines and they’re like nothing you’ve ever tasted before and they’re so beautiful to look at,” says Blake, who is no stranger to Ipswich stages and used to holiday at Pin Mill as a child.
An advocate of eating fresh fruits and greens, she lives in a flat so relishes the chance to have her own “little bit of outdoors”.
“Being able to grow your own vegetable is the best thing for you. I can take the grandchildren there and teach them all about plants and gardening too. You can put a blanket down and lie there, I love drawing and painting so I shall probably take my easel down as well.”
With the birds flying overhead her only company as she laid waste to the prunings and brambles, Blake’s looking forward to meeting her fellow plot holders. She’s even got her eye on entering a few competitions.
“Of course. It won’t be the biggest of anything but I’ll certainly take along three of a kind of my raspberries.”
What she doesn’t know is what she’s going to do with all the fruit.
“I haven’t got that far yet,” she laughs. “I’ll eat as much of it as I possibly can... That’s the great thing about an allotment, there’s a big table by the gate and you can put things there you can’t use and people can help themselves. So many people are willing to help, it’s fantastic.”
Perhaps Eclair and Robbins can help make lists of people to post produce to, label jars...
“I hadn’t thought of that. That’s what I’ll do, oh my God beware next Christmas a lot of fermenting fruit is going to arrive,” laughs Blake.
Unlike her, they’re very technical and are often plugged into their iPads, phones or “nosepods” while she’s sitting with her little book on trees and admiring nature as it zips by. She jokes this run has been dubbed “Suzie’s Ooh Aah Tour” because she’s always pointing out beautiful buildings and trees.
“Jenny and Kate (can put) checkered bits of cloth over the top (in the back of the car). I think this is a terribly good idea, that’s next Christmas sorted thank you. I do think all the fruit should be put into alcohol to preserve it don’t you? Then put on top of ice-cream with grated chocolate.”
I’m thinking Blake’s allotment plot is the place to be this summer.
Poured into a car, driven to a venue, poured out, poured back in again and whisked off to the next; the hugely excited Blake says being part of Grumpy Old Women Fifty Shades of Beige is a bit like “being a pop star”.
Back to knock more sense into the nation, it’s two-hours of no nonsense comedy - with a comfort break naturally - focusing on the joy of large pants, the art of grumpy grooming, complementary anger management workshop, the rules to middle-aged drinking, how to customise an unwanted pole dancing kit, a mercifully brief Zumba demonstration and more.
I can’t imagine Blake getting grumpy about anything.
“Jenny (Eclair, who’s written the show with Judith Holder, the best-selling author of the first Grumpy Old Women book and producer of the hit TV series) reckons she’s the grumpiest of the three of us,” she says.
“I’m not in real life. I’m a Buddhist, if I’ve got a problem I’ll take it, chant about it and mash it over and over until I sort it out. I take responsibility where I can because I think if you feel a victim of circumstance that makes you very grumpy doesn’t it?
“There are things you can’t do anything about. I get very grumpy about the aeroplanes going over my house but there’s nothing I can do about it so I just have to put up and shut up and put my radio on,” she laughs.
“The show’s beautifully written and you don’t want to damage it, but I’m going to talk to Jenny about putting something in about orchids. I think I’ve got 10 which have been in leaf now for more than six months, sometimes they come back but maybe I’m looking after them too much. Oh, I wish people would give me chocolate and not orchids.”
Blake, clearly still thinking about her allotment, believes if you can make three people happy every day, it comes back in shovel loads.
“If you have that attitude to life rather than feeling you’re a victim of circumstance all the time, because we’re not, we can make our little area of life a happy place - and that’s the thing to aim for isn’t?”
Blake describes the show as like enjoying a good old gossip, moan and laugh about everything with your best mate in your kitchen.
“It gives you permission to rant and rave about the injustices and things that happen to you as you get older... Jenny and Judith are amazing women, their writing’s incredibly funny and there are a couple of tiny moving bits. It’s funny because we recognise bits (of it) in ourselves. Men enjoy it as well but the women absolutely feel at home and just let their hair down for the evening.
“There’s a master class in nagging, where you learn how to nag when you want to get your own way; There’s a sketch about hobbies, what you can do to occupy yourself. We come in like a whirlwind and it’s two hours of laughter.”
And the inspiration for the show’s title?
“We do talk about 50 Shades of Grey obviously and of course that’s even more popular now what with the film coming out. I won’t be watching that, I think those days have passed by for me,” Blake laughs.
Read Suzanne Hawkes review of the show’s Ipswich run here.