Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gregory Peck - a chance encounter

When I think of Atticus Finch, I see Gregory Peck - which for my money is as it should be, because who else could have played him? Peck was a perfect fit for the character: a gentleman and a rock, wise, perhaps a little world-weary without being cynical, always in command.

Just the name makes me smile, and here's why. It was one of the crueller effects of my mother's stroke six years ago that it left her, in a literal sense at least, close to speechless. So often, when something sparks a train of thought, or a memory, she simply wants to talk about it; and I can't imagine how she puts up with the frustration. Still, there are a thousand ways to communicate, and when I saw that today was the ninety-fifth anniversary of Gregory Peck's birth, we had a laugh because I couldn't resist pulling her leg and saying, 'What about you and Gregory?'.

In, I think, 1949, my mother accompanied the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Basil Brooke, on an official visit to the United States - indeed, as his personal assistant, she had organised it (very well, apparently, because we came upon a letter from Brooke the other day which was full of praise for his twenty-four-year-old PA). While in New York, the PM and his party were put up in the Waldorf, and my mother was in her room one evening when the door opened, and in walked Gregory Peck. He had thought it was his own room, and apparently he was mortally embarrassed; mum always said he was charm itself, and apologised profusely before backing out and closing the door behind him. That was it - but the incident passed into family lore and, as I say, I can't hear the man's name without smiling.
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