Sheila Hancock: a glass show stopper at any age

Monday 22 December 2014

I walked into the foyer of a central London hotel this week and immediately noticed a tall, elegant woman talking to a small retinue of admirers.

She had her back to me so I didn’t recognise her but still I couldn’t take my eyes off that straight, imposing spine, long narrow grey coat and shining head of beautifully cut hair –also grey, glossy and shot through with a patina of silver.

A few minutes later Sheila Hancock entered the room where Richard and I were waiting to interview the authors whose books we’d chosen for the spring list of our book club with WHSmith.

Sheila’s first novel, Miss Carter’s War, is one of them and she was our first interviewee. The book is terrific and shining through it is the spirit of Sheila herself: brave, indomitable and full of a desire to change the world for the better.

Her late husband, the Morse actor John Thaw, used to tease her about her “Messiah complex” and Hancock’s tale of Marguerite Carter, one of the first women to receive a university degree from Cambridge in 1948 (until then universities graciously allowed women to study alongside male students, but wouldn’t give them anything to show for it) echoes her own devotion to fairness and equality.

At the age of 81 Sheila is simply astonishing. Stunningly elegant and more arrestingly beautiful now that even in her prime, she is a total role model for all us women heading into our later years.

Forget Joan Collins and her impossible glamour; Sheila is down-to-earth, warm, extremely bright and modest to a fault.

John Thaw’s death hit her hard and she wrote about it beautifully in The Two Of Us, her memoir about their very happy but sometimes difficult marriage.

I don’t think she would ever claim to be “over it” but she’s a supreme example of how to carry on with the greatest dignity and intelligence.

Talking about her novel, she says she wanted to write about “good people”. Goodness, veracity and warmth radiate from Sheila (who happens to be a Quaker).

Oh, and she also has the most beautiful skin, soft and almost lineless. No “work” has been done on that strong face. She doesn’t wear any foundation, she says, just face cream and a little powder.

Sorry if I sound besotted. I am.

Read Richard and Judy's Daily Express column in full here.
Add a Comment

There are as yet no comments

Be the first to make a comment.