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DAME MAUREEN LIPMAN: How I kept the biggest secret of my life for two painful months

Honestly, I’m just so relieved that it’s over and that I can come out of the closet with my motherhood up.

I’ve been cherishing the secret for a few months under pain of disqualification, and my discretion hasn’t been the best of my 53 years on the board.

My agent, Michelle, first told me the news. I shared the news by letter to my two children, with the headings changed to Dame.

It was halfway through the lockdown and Adam’s letter arrived, but his sister Amy’s went missing – causing panic in me and rivalry between her siblings.

Honestly, I'm just so relieved it's out and I can come out with my lady up, writes Dame Maureen Lipman (photo)

Honestly, I’m just so relieved it’s out and I can come out with my lady up, writes Dame Maureen Lipman (photo)

It took two weeks for her letter to travel the few miles from Paddington to Hampstead, in northwest London. I might as well have glued it to the dog.

Then I kept my lips together during several weeks of filming of Coronation Street, letting the news slip just once, to my yoga teacher, Bay, and her BBC clarinetist husband, over an open-air Wagamama on the Media City Square in Salford.

Only because the night was mild and I’d had a few.

I shouted. They screamed. We all screamed. I swore their secrecy under penalty of four broken wrists.

The next day I sent a nervous text to designer Tomasz Starzewski, who had me beautifully dressed in gray and white linen for my last visit to Buckingham Palace some 20 years ago:

My late mother Zelma was with me that day, I mused sadly, in pied-de-poule check and a hat that shone every second.

She did, however, object to the exit of the palace, as she had to carefully search a few steps down the courtyard.

I've been cherishing the secret for a few months under pain of disqualification and my discretion is not the best of my 53 years on the board

I've been cherishing the secret for a few months under pain of disqualification and my discretion is not the best of my 53 years on the board

I’ve been cherishing the secret for a few months under pain of disqualification and my discretion is not the best of my 53 years on the board

And for the rest of the evening I could hear her calling (pronounced ‘ferning’ in our hometown in Hull) from my Muswell Hill kitchen to future friends back home.

Hello, Helen. Yes, we went to the palace. Sweet. Yes, she looked fantastic… only we never got a cup of tea! You can’t believe it, can you? ‘

Hello, Minnie. You never guessed it, no banister came down the stairs … no, and we never got a cup of tea! ‘

Hello, Ruby. Can you believe it, you had to hold on to the wall because there was no banister down the stairs…? ‘

I said to Tomasz, ‘Mommy is the word, but … um … I might need something again – um … similar … ish for … um another … um … similar … ‘thing …’ I told him the reason. He was discreetly delighted. “So please again,” I whispered. ‘No mutton. No lamb. ‘

After that, I spent many midnight hours on my iPad, bringing coal to Newcastle, ie designing suitable suits for myself.

They all looked as if multiple Oscar-winning dress designer Edith Head had just learned that Joan Crawford had reincarnated and was back at Twentieth Century Fox and needed help.

Then I noticed that I really only need a top because it must be a Zoom inauguration, right?

Her Majesty calls me Lady of Windsor after an almost invisible photograph of me, retrieving a double brandy from the Rovers Return’s studio.

Under the table I would love to wear crumpled training pants and a pair of crumpled Uggs!

Boris Johnson’s Covid warnings had made me too nervous to schedule a hair appointment, so my assistant Nats again put me on a stool and cut me a top-notch bob for the price of a cup of PG tips and a slice of malt bread in instead of a hundred pounds and a tip. Sorted.

Sleep went wrong. I put Nytol in a way that wasn’t exactly recommended on the side of the box.

An online page on insomnia suggested putting a bar of soap in my bed. As if I didn’t have enough soap in my life… YES, of course I tried… No, it didn’t work.

Meanwhile, I listened to numerous podcasts at night, which made me overly familiar with the crazy moon phases of American politics and the werewolf who is their president of Law and Ordure.

My late mother Zelma was with me that day, I reflected sadly, in pied-de-poule check and a hat, beaming through every second (pictured together)

My late mother Zelma was with me that day, I reflected sadly, in pied-de-poule check and a hat, beaming through every second (pictured together)

My late mother Zelma was with me that day, I reflected sadly, in pied-de-poule check and a hat, beaming through every second (pictured together)

At 4am, I wrote a sardonic email to The Times letters page, suggesting that Trump was making up his Covid diagnosis to distract the circus from its absurdly small £ 750 tax bill.

The next morning, I got a cryptic text from veteran showbiz agent Barry Burnett asking ‘Is it true?’, And I knew the black cat was out of the designer bag.

Social media had triumphed over social distancing, and my fellow new lady, Mary Berry, and I were boisterous – she for cake and I for some … Coronation chicken?

If I seem lighthearted, it’s because I’m overly excited. I don’t want to be pompous about what this honor means to me, but my father’s father came from Kovna in Lithuania, Russia at the beginning of the last century.

I don’t know if he was on the run from a pogrom or an economic migrant, or if he thought he arrived in New York and was in Hull, because I never knew him and no one ever asked.

Nor did I know my glamourous great-grandfather, who arrived half a century earlier and made shoes on Hull’s Hessle Road.

All I do know is that a generation later their granddaughter had been given a full scholarship from Hull City Council to study drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and today, 53 years later, Her Majesty thinks I have enough contributed to this country to be a Lady of the British Empire.

Then I kept my lips together during several weeks of filming of Coronation Street (pictured), letting the news slip just once, to my yoga teacher Bay and her BBC clarinetist husband

Then I kept my lips together during several weeks of filming of Coronation Street (pictured), letting the news slip just once, to my yoga teacher Bay and her BBC clarinetist husband

Then I kept my lips together during several weeks of filming of Coronation Street (pictured), letting the news slip just once, to my yoga teacher Bay and her BBC clarinetist husband

I am English from crown to toe nails, but I think this is an immigrant story and I am optimistic enough to believe that immigrants should be welcomed kindly as bringers of the good.

It is my sincere hope that I can use this award to bring some light to illuminate the goals I am defending and keep my light entertainment antennas alert for any help needed during Love In A Time Of Covid.

Meanwhile, my phone beeps like an elevator in a 26-story tower, in tribute to the good news from Aix to Ghent and Paddington.

School friends reminded me that I made them fail biology because they laughed so much; a principal of a school I had never been to was proud of me; knights and ladies – McKellen (Sir Ian), Nunn (Sir Trevor) and Plowright (Dame Joan) – patted my virtual back; and a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived at 8:30 pm accompanied by a young man shouting; “Flowers for Mother Maureen Lipton.”

Driving back to London yesterday in a deluge on the M1, I remembered the Daily Mirror’s painful aunt, the late Marje Proops, who invited me to lunch in London’s Soho in the 1980s.

I myself played a painful aunt in the London Weekend comedy Agony and she wanted to profile me.

I remember her remarking in the piece that “when Miss Lipman got out of a cab, I noticed she has a small head, but a fairly wide radius.”

I may think that while lockdown did nothing to help my beam, my Birthday Honor may have done something to brighten my head.

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