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A Pocketful of Happiness

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But it’s also possible that he hopes to make the reader understand that it doesn’t matter how many glamorous friends a person has if their true love is dying. Darkness falls on us all eventually, even on those who know Elton John well enough to receive his condolences by phone.

Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP View image in fullscreen Richard E Grant: ‘his feelings for everyone and everything are so immediate, and always blasted out undiluted’. Grant were writing a review of this moving memoir, there would be many, many fond and admiring adjectives used to describe almost everyone who appears in the pages: witty, forthright, feisty, silky-soft, button-bright, hilarious, loving, generous, heartbreaking, warmhearted, inclusive, brilliant, sparky, amazing, charming, gilded, entertaining.All this is carefully described by Grant in his new memoir, A Pocketful of Happiness, which takes the form mostly of the diary he wrote in the last year of his wife’s life (Washington, a celebrated voice coach, died in September 2021, two months before their 35th wedding anniversary). It is she who, while dying, instructs him to seek a “pocketful of happiness” every day after she is gone. If the initial age verification is unsuccessful, we will contact you asking you to provide further information to prove that you are aged 18 or over. When Richard E Grant’s wife, Joan Washington, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just before Christmas 2020, she didn’t really want anyone to know. The most revealing moment in his book comes late on, when Grant spends a night alone in Salisbury, where he has been filming Persuasion with Dakota Johnson.

They felt they needed the support of their huge circle of friends: anything else would be too lonely. But this territory is also, I think, somewhat uncomfortable for the reader, particularly since Grant pads out his narrative with glitzy memories of 2019, when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me ? I think he wrote his book too soon, but I also see that he needed to do something, the gap in his life being so unimaginably huge, so very hard to bear. he then quotes various journalists and publicists about the charm and disarming candor of his enthusiasm. Funny, moving and perceptive, A Pocketful of Happiness is an insight into the life of a much loved British actor.His new memoir, written in diary form, is about his terrific 35-year marriage-of-opposites to Joan Washington (he the eternal adolescent, star-struck optimist and gifted actor, she a sharp-tongued, no-nonsense and equally gifted dialect coach) and her painful death from cancer. But he is too thrilled with all this to hold any of it against him, even as the Hollywood sections take away from the intensity of the book. I was not happy to read the details of Joan’s diagnosis and dying, but those sections of the book are genuine and compelling.

Nevertheless, those things that he is able to describe – the sight of her tapestry kit by their bed, the way he still talks to her even though she is no longer in the world – have a universality about them, an ordinariness that resonates. To have someone always beside you – or even just on the end of the phone – who understands these dizzying shifts and all their attendant lonelinesses, and who loves you wherever in the world you are, is a precious thing indeed. Since then, he has gone on to star in a wide variety of films, including his Oscar nominated performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?Even as I admired Grant for his obvious devotion to, and care for, his wife at the end, I was uneasy: suspicious, you might say. Sometimes, this took the form of cheering visits: our now King Charles, for instance, arrived at their cottage bearing a bag of mangoes and flowers from Highgrove. But in the end, Washington allowed her family to break the news and the three of them found themselves in the embrace of a highly sustaining – and sustained – outpouring of love and affection.

When he’s seated next to Camilla, the then Duchess of Cornwall, at dinner, they’re “instant friends”; when he has psychotherapy, his problems are fixed, seemingly within minutes. Grant moved to the UK to pursue his acting career, and has been a fixture on our screens since his breakout role in Withnail and I in 1987. When his beloved wife Joan died in 2021 after almost forty years together, she set him a challenge: to find a pocketful of happiness in every day. He is so… untrammelled, his feelings for everyone and everything so immediate, so absolute and always blasted out undiluted.Sometimes, it took the form of practical help: on Sundays, Nigella Lawson would send supper over in a taxi. Convinced of his own persuasiveness, he once tried, he tells us, to get a part exchange, not on a car, but on a loo seat. One is Joan Washington, whom we get to know as passionate and commanding, a great teacher, a wonderful mother, a smartass and a woman who understood and loved her husband, deeply.

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