It saddens me to look back at the 1980s and to remember some of the great actors and actresses who were with us then but are no longer. One such is the comedy actress Pat Coombs, who began the 1980s in the role of the wonderfully loopy Cissie Lupin of the Paradise Lodge Home For Retired Gentlefolk in the Pam Ashton and Michael Valentine penned TV series You're Only Young Twice. The show had begun in September 1977, and ended in August 1981. Playing opposite the wonderful Peggy Mount as the fiercesome Flora Petty, Pat, as Cissie, was a TV must-watch for me (as was Peggy as Flora!). Happy memories.
In the 1981 series, Paradise Lodge residents continued to experience hilarious traumas - often brought about by Flora's desire to dominate and Cissie's endearing - or at least enduring- dottiness. There was the awful time when Flora and Cissie spent the night in Peabody's Department Store and had to pretend to be mannequins; the unspeakable occasion when Flora sent everybody into a tizz after getting the idea that Cissie was dying of an incurable illness; the dark day when Flora was cursed by a gypsy (played by Gretchen Franklin, pre-EastEnders); and the horrible time when Flora lost her memory. The memory of that was surely enough to get Mildred Fanshaw ferociously inhaling the smelling salts and Dolly Love swigging large amounts straight from the gin bottle for at least the rest of the decade.
With You're Only Young Twice finishing, Pat went on to star as the dressmaker in the young children's series Ragdolly Anna. (remember the theme song "Ragdolly Anna's fine and brown, standing up or sitting down..."?)
The 1980s also saw Pat starring in the Channel 4 sitcom The Lady Is A Tramp with another now sadly departed actress, Patricia Hayes, plus the Alf Garnett saga continuation In Sickness And In Health, Mr Majeika, and a 1985 BBC TV adaptation of Charles Dickens's Bleak House.
In 1989, Pat was reportedly thrilled to be offered the new EastEnders role of down-trodden Marge Green, Walford Brownies' Brown Owl. The character was introduced to bring some comedy to EastEnders, which was reportedly Pat's favourite telly show at the time, so she ended the decade on a very happy note. Unfortunately, 1990 saw Pat and the character of Marge Green being dispatched as the new producer of the time saw no place in the show for a character whose "prime function was to be comic relief". Says it all for EastEnders really.
1989 - Pat as Marge Green in EastEnders.
Anyway, I wanted to share the contents of an April 1981 magazine article about Pat which I found this morning (pictured at top of post). It provides an interesting snapshot of how Pat was at that time:
Pat plays a good Samaritan
Actress Pat Coombs has been playing a most demanding role... as a Good Samaritan. The 53-year old star of ITV's You're Only Young Twice has been working for the Samaritans, helping people in distress.
In addition, she's helped her own sister, whose marriage broke up.
Actress Peggy Mount, another star of You're Only Young Twice, is in no doubt about Pat's heart of gold.
"She really has been a Good Samaritan," says Peggy. "But I'm sure she would be the last to admit it."
Pat's sister, who had been living in Canada, returned to England with her four children... to be taken in by Pat, who has a small one-bedroom flat in Harrow, Middlesex.
Modestly, Pat takes up the story: "It was difficult fir everybody - getting six people into my flat.
"But eventually we were able to sort it all out. Now they live near by, and not actually with me any more."
Pat, who is unmarried, also does charity work for the Samaritans, answering phone calls from people in distress.
"I joined the Samaritans because I had time on my hands, not having a family of my own," said Pat. And since she has "enlisted", she has discovered just how lonely people can be.
"Some of the people you come across are the last people you would expect," said Pat. "Some are in our business."
But Pat's work with the Samaritans is confidential, and she won't discuss incidents or the advice she gives.
Formerly a kindergarten teacher before entering acting, Pat would have loved to have had a family of her own.
"I nearly married," said Pat. "But I suppose it wasn't to be."
Pat, star of other TV series such as Don't Drink The Water, Beggar My Neighbour and Lollipop Loves Mr Mole, loves cooking, reading and motoring.
When she's not helping other people.
They don't make 'em like Pat any more!