Last week the death of the actress Dame Diana Rigg was announced on the news. I have always followed Diana's career with interest. We went to the same school, a small Moravian establishment in the West Riding of Yorkshire. It's strap line was that it was a school for 'young ladies' which always made my father snort derisively because he was accustomed to seeing me at the weekends clambering about up trees or wading in the stream wearing my brother's hand-me-down boy scout shorts, a very comfortable item of clothing in soft, beige corduroy.
Diana and I both had speech and drama lessons with Mrs Greenwood, an inspirational teacher who gave me my life-long love of poetry. I attended her classes because of my inability to pronounce the letter r. Calling myself, ' Losemaly' at age three or four might be considered cute, but it was a source of embarrassment by the time I got to seven and Mrs Greenwood and her tongue rolling exercises soon sorted me out. For the rest of my schooling I continued with speech and drama which involved parts in the school productions, Wharfedale festival competitions and theatre visits.
Diana was a natural, as this entry in an old school magazine of 1951 demonstrates.
At the end of each academic year the school assembled in the hall and the headmistress would comment on what had been achieved throughout that year. If your name was called out you had to stand up and have the eyes of the entire school upon you. In due course Diana had to stand while the headmistress announced that it would be good if her academic standard would only match her acting ability. Then Diana sat back down. How insulting. I was furious!
When she had left school and started her season at the Royal Shakespeare Company Mrs Greenwood organised a coach and we went to Stratford to see Diana playing the role of Helena in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', the same role that I played at school.
When she was made a dame I was delighted, she had given pleasure to thousands. I hoped that our old headmistress was still alive to eat her words!