The Good Life Carries on for TV Favourite; BOOK REVIEWS

Article excerpt

IN 1965 Geoffrey Kendal wrote to his daughter Felicity: "I take you all round the world to the most glamorous of places and you end up in Solihull!"

But it wasn't quite as bizarre as it sounded because Elmhurst, in Olton, was the nearest thing to a family home that Felicity knew.

It was there, in her grandmother's house, that she was born and it was there, 18 years later, that she returned in a bid to make a career on the stage.

In between times she had been a part of the extraordinary Kendal family troupe, with her father, her mother Laura and sister Jennifer. They travelled around India performing plays in an exotic, eccentric life immortalised in the film Shakespeare Wallah.

But then Felicity decided it was time to strike out on her own and, as she reveals in her biography White Cargo (Michael Joseph, pounds 16.99) Solihull was to play a major role.

She returned to her childhood memories of "the big white house, steps up to the door with the stained-glass windows and the smell of lavender wood polish".

She also remembered how the doctor had to be called to make her vomit after she had eaten poisonous pods from the laburnum tree in the garden.

But now there was a warm welcome home to "a week of festive pub-going, shopping, the girls' night out in Solihull and helping with the washing up."

It was from the draughty platform of Olton station that the young Felicity set out for a series of auditions that all seemed to end in failure.

And it was back to Olton that she came for the comfort of her Aunt Beula's sausage and mash and apple pie.

Britain might have been swinging in 1965 but Felicity Kendal says she was a rather Victorian girl not knowing what to do when a date asked her for a goodnight kiss. Things on the job front became so desperate that she began looking for a job as a barmaid . But the Solihull licensing trade's loss was the theatre's gain because, as everyone knows, Felicity Kendal went on to become one of the best-loved actresses in Britain.

Felicity Kendal started writing this book as she sat with her father as he lay dying after three massive strokes and it is the maddening, domineering, loving, inspirational, eccentric, unique Geoffrey who haunts every page in this book.

Felicity Kendal is still best known for her role as Barbara in The Good Life and it is nice to know that the show, with Richard Briers, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith was as happy ofcreen as on it. …