John Gibson: My taste for Nanette’s carrot cake

Nanette Newman and husband Bryan Forbes
Nanette Newman and husband Bryan Forbes
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My introduction to carrot cake couldn’t have been tastier. We were in the lounge of their Chelsea home mid-morning when the gentlemanly Bryan Forbes made the offer I couldn’t refuse. “You must try Nanette’s carrot cake. She made it herself.”

In sashayed Nanette Newman. The same hands that did dishes in the TV Fairy Liquid commercials.

The first of my encounters with actor, writer, producer, director Forbes. Think Whistle Down the Wind and The League of Gentlemen. Bryan has passed away, reason enough for me to consult the Gibpress File for words he had in my ear. I’d caught him on an Edinburgh-Glasgow train on a barnstorming publicity tour for three of his company’s latest films. “I’m variously described as a whizzkid, a great white hope. I’m a middle-aged grey hope.

“I’m only responsible for film production, not for the type of films that centres like this one in Edinburgh decide to show. I do want to make films that will attract the whole family back to the cinema and The Railway Children is one of them.

“Violence is encroaching on society. Do you not feel it? When you see old age pensioners beaten up for 30 bob, Liverpool supporters spraying other teams with tear gas and a housewife out shopping stabbed 55 times in a car park, you have to wonder. And worry.

“I’m a grafter. I’m prepared to work. I’m a Cockney, like you’re a Scot, like Michael Caine’s a Cockney. We never felt the world owed us a living. Many of the problems we have in Britain today stem from that philosophy.

“I’ve been an actor for years and if you become an actor you don’t see your job stretching to the gold watch and the testimonial dinner.”

Nanette, still with us, was his second wife. They were married 58 years.