You know Rebecca Front as star of The Thick of It. She has been in just about everything, from Jessica Hynes’ Up the Women, to The Wrong Mans, to playing Simon Amstell’s mother in Grandma’s House, to starring in Nighty Night, all the way back to Knowing Me Knowing You and Fist of Fun. And of course, she plays Lady Yates in Doctor Who‘s “The Zygon Invasion.” I listened to Rebecca Front’s memoir Curious: True Stories and Loose Connections on audio.
The first story is about an American man, a stranger, who came to live with them once when Rebecca was young. He was a conman, a moocher. He used confidence and transparent excuses to get private access to the living room and stay for weeks, eating every few hours and sleeping much of the time. This story perfectly illustrates the sort of British politeness that skews into absurdity that you see so often in British comedies. Even Front’s character in Nighty Night, for example, suffers from over politeness when dealing with a psycho hairdresser who lets herself into her home and into her husband’s pants. She just can’t find it in herself to be rude to her, and while one might find it ridiculous Cathy didn’t kick the psycho out or that Rebecca’s parents didn’t kick the moocher out after the first couple nights, Front does explain it is because they are so English that they can’t do this. The book is on sale from Powells or in audio from Audible.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Rebecca Front
Rebecca Front started a barbershop quartet
…when she was ten years old. It was 1970s Essex. Loving to sing, she tried to start her own barbershop quartet, but realized that if she recorded her voice, played it back, sang along, recorded that, and so on until she had a four part harmony, she didn’t need to rely on anyone else to show up for rehearsal. Front is actually quite a singer and later was part of the Bobo Girls, a live show of sketch and music in which Front wrote all of the songs.
Her father’s Beatles artwork sold for $15K+
Front’s father, Charles Front, was an illustrator. He designed the iconic “psychedelic” lettering on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. He left it forgotten in an attic until 2008 when he sold it for $15,039 at Bonhams. Incidentally, Mr. Front used to be in an upscale crooner band and is said to have done a very good Danny Kaye impression.
She didn’t learn to swim because her dad almost drowned
Speaking of her father, the reason Rebecca Front never learned to swim is because when she was eleven and went to the lake with her family, she witnessed the almost drowning of her father. He was, thankfully, pulled out of the water and revived, but this gave Front a paranoia about the water and a disinterest in learning to swim. She did make sure her kids learned as soon as they could take lessons, though.
Rebecca Front used to throw her shoes out the window
While her family was away on the infamous lake trip, Front’s grandfather died. At only eleven years old, the conclusion she came to was that they had stolen her father’s soul back from Death, and so it came for her grandfather instead. She understood that this meant it would come after her mother next, causing terrible anxiety about leaving her parents alone, such as to go to school. Can you remember when you first learned that your parents are not invincible and they can be stolen from you even on your watch? It was so traumatic, she began chucking her shoes out the bedroom window each morning to avoid going to school. This led to having to start a new school and the school allowing her mother, who wrote children’s books, to work in the school library so that young Rebecca didn’t have so many panic attacks. The TV series Little Cracker depicts this part of Front’s life. She even gets to play Miss Dyson, the teacher who arranged for Rebecca’s mom to work in the school, rescuing Rebecca from being home-schooled.
A man lived in her shed
Of all the anecdotes in Rebecca Front’s book Curious, this is the best because it sounds like a gag in a sitcom, but in fact, it happened to Front when she was away at college. The first time living on their own, Rebecca Front and her roommates didn’t know what to do when every night an odd man would ring the doorbell, demanding to see Harvey. After telling him night after night that he had the wrong house or that Harvey doesn’t live here anymore, they let him in to see for himself. He walked through the house and into the garden to meet Harvey…who had been living in their shed the whole time.
She didn’t get her ears pierced until age 45
As some sort of protest to peer pressure or something (I realize that this is a retroactive, accurate explanation as to why I still don’t have my ears pierced), Rebecca Front never bothered to get her ears pierced. When her daughter went in to get hers done, Front cut a 45-year protest short and got hers pierced, too.
Nicola Murray is afraid of lifts so that Rebecca didn’t have to go in one
In The Thick of It, Rebecca Front’s character Nicola Murray spends all her time crossing floors via stairwells, as she claims she is afraid of elevators. Rebecca Front is actually afraid of elevators in real life, even (and perhaps especially) ones used just for filming, so they wrote it into the script. She is also afraid of trains, which makes scenes in trains especially difficult, even when her character is supposed to be afraid of trains.
She took hypnotherapy to get over her fear of flying
Elevators and trains aren’t the only things she’s afraid of. She’s also a hypochondriac and fears her family will die or that she will die in a plane crash. She actually took hypnotherapy to get over her fear of flying so that she could take an acting job abroad, a section in Curious so interesting and complex you’ll have to read it for yourself. The short of it is that hypnotherapy didn’t really work for her in the long run, but she is able to fly in planes sometimes.
Don’t ask her to cat-sit for you
Another scene that sounds like it’s out of a sitcom: Rebecca Front was cat-sitting for a neighbor and the cat escaped and got run over by a car. This is not funny. However, what was funny was the sitcom-esque situation of what do you do with a dead cat that doesn’t belong to you. Do you leave it for your neighbor to come find days later? Do you put it on ice? Can you keep it in your house? Stash it in hers? Do you dispose of it even though it’s not your property? Luckily, she did the right thing and phoned up to tell the neighbor about the incident, to which the neighbor just responded that the cat always escaped and that this wasn’t surprising.
She will never be a shoplifter (at least not on purpose)
Rebecca Front’s moral anxieties will prevent her from ever ripping you off. There is a somewhat tedious part of Curious where she agonizes about having accidentally taken a clove of garlic from the grocery store without paying for it, and winds up constructing a much too complicated situation in which to pay the store back for what she’d taken. She writes it with a sort of “This happens to you, right?” and I feel the obvious answer here is, “No! The store won’t even notice it’s gone and it was their mistake for not noticing it at the bottom of the bag.” This is supported by the baffled store employees when she tries to explain what happened. And yet, this scene perfectly illustrates what this book is all about. This mundane story isn’t meant to be a “ya know when” routine. The book is much more akin to Jon Richardson’s book It’s Not Me, It’s You! which puts you in the mindset of the author for a short period of time with no other goals than to get you a realistic feel for what it’s like to be them, whether it’s Richardson’s OCD or Front’s crippling anxieties. It really makes you appreciate that we’re all human, and everybody’s got something.
You can not only get the book on Audible.com, but if you buy the hard copy from Powells, then Anglonerd.com will receive some of the profit. Thank you for supporting us!
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.
Originally published Nov. 2, 2015