06 | Sep | 11

Richard Johnson

If You See This Woman On The M11, Let Her Past

Bad news. The lovely Fay Ripley (actress and author of the brilliant Fay’s Family Food) is going to drive to Harvest At Jimmy’s. I was very excited when she agreed to come and join the judges at the British Street Food Awards on Sunday — she’s a great cook. But driving? All the way from London? I’ve tried emailing her train timetables. I’ve even looked into helicopter landing pads. But she won’t have it. She’s driving. Despite The Accident…….

“I’ve always been quite a confident driver” Fay told me. “The day after I passed my test, I decided to drive straight to Edinburgh. Which was a little bit of a feat for a 17-year-old. Being a noncy drama student, I was off to tread the boards at the Festival. I seem to remember it was The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui – a Brecht piece, and very, very important. But I didn’t have a car at the time, so I borrowed my brother-in-law’s – a rickety old Hillman Imp.”

“On the way, I opened the door without looking. Which, as it happened, was onto a speeding vehicle. Door schmor. My fault, clearly. But I decided the show must go on, door or no door, and abandoned the Hillman Imp by the roadside. I rang up my brother-in-law, crying. I said ‘By the way, there’s no door on your car’ like I was blaming him for allowing me to drive it. I made him pay for the repairs too. What kind of sister-in-law was I?”

“I had another accident in my first year of driving, but this time it was more serious. It involved me writing off my Mini. I was going round a roundabout, putting my lippy on. I remember looking in the rear-view mirror, and singing quite loudly, when a gentleman drove straight into my driver’s side door. It was his first day in his new company car, and his foot was evidently a bit heavy on the accelerator. The Mini disintegrated completely.”

“It was quite terrifying. My seat lifted right up, and shunted over to the passenger side. It was like I was actually sitting in the passenger seat. The verdict of the insurance company was ‘knock for knock’, which I suppose was fair. But I don’t think I mentioned the fact that I was putting on lipstick at the time. The accident must have made an impression on me. I did own a Citroen 2CV later on, but I certainly didn’t buy another Mini.”

Maybe I should have a back-up judge on stand-by?