It is barely possible that I’m getting old. Or at least, older. I recently saw a movie called “Tea with the Dames.” It’s a British documentary in which four of the leading ladies of English theater were interviewed while they spent a weekend together in a country home. As it turned out, each of the four had been proclaimed a “dame” by a British monarch at some point during their careers.
It was a delightful movie and it was even subtitled. This was because (as the manager explained to me), so many of us Americans struggle to understand the British accent. I love to watch British series (“Downton Abbey,” “Doc Martin,” “Sherlock,” etc.) on television and I confess I often hear myself saying, “What did she say?” or “Can you turn it up?” If ever you wonder how American English differs from British English, you just have to watch one of these series for a few minutes.
But I digress. The movie features interviews with Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright. I have enjoyed these women in many films over the years. My favorite Maggie Smith character, above her roles as a professor in the Harry Potter series and in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” is the stern mother superior in “Sister Act.” Judi Dench was fabulous in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Philomena,” though she may be more famous for roles in James Bond movies. I discovered Eileen Atkins late in her career in a movie called “What a Girl Wants.” Since then, I’ve enjoyed her in many BBC series on television. Joan Plowright (who married Sir Lawrence Olivier) captured my heart in the movie “Bringing Down the House.”
I discovered from “Tea with the Dames” that each of these amazing women has had fabulous careers in not only on film, but also on stage in professional theater. Their works encompass far more than I had any idea, and yet each seemed like someone with whom you could sit down over a cup of tea and chat.
One of the themes in the movie interview was how they felt about getting old. The women talked about hearing and eyesight problems, as well as mobility issues. I felt quite at home with this conversation! Joan Plowright recounted a story in which she was being taken to the hospital and the paramedics asked “what’s her name” to her friends, as if they were caregivers, when she was right there. She made the point that getting older doesn’t mean you’re losing your abilities.
I notice that things that used to not bother me, kind of drive me crazy now. Like, why is it that you can only buy peppermint stick ice cream in December before Christmas? I realize that candy canes are a December thing, but seriously, peppermint ice cream is way better than some of the stuff they sell all year long. I may be getting cranky in my old age, but I’m not a “dame.”
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.