Timothy West recounts his life with Prunella Scales and the tough reality of her dementia


Timothy West and Prunella ScalesPH

Timothy West and Prunella Scales on they canal sailing-boat journey (left)

If going on a canal journey offers one of the greatest chances for peace and contemplation then watching someone else go on a canal trip must come a strong second best.

And that is exactly what viewers must been able to do for the past three years courtesy of acting pacify and wife couple Timothy West and Prunella Scales.

Since their premier outing in March 2014 in Great Canal Journeys on Channel 4, when they functioned a boat along the Kennet & Avon Canal, they have tendered further through Britain and into France, Sweden, Venice, Amsterdam and ordered India.

And they have just been on our screens floating finished with the Norfolk Broads in the eighth outing of this hugely popular series.

Now Timothy has a new publication out, Our Great Canal Journeys: A Lifetime Of Memories On Britain’s Most Marvellous Waterways, which is part travelogue and part memoir.

It charts the brace’s on-screen and off-screen travels, their life as actors, their covet marriage as well as meditating on Prunella’s current condition, of which multitudinous anon.

So what first drew him to canals?

“I had a phone call from a familiar with a narrow boat who was going on holiday and asked if I’d like to touch someone for it,” Timothy recalls.

I had a phone call from a friend with a narrowing boat who was going on holiday and asked if I’d like to borrow it

Timothy West

“I didn’t in spite of know what a narrow boat was. But that was back in the great hot summer of 1976 and changed out to be one of the best holidays of our lives.”

What made it so enjoyable?

“It was the chance to go to a hypercritical place and see the country en route. You can’t go straight from A to B, you just take the employment of least resistance and watch the changes in terrain as you go. It was a new journey in an area that I cognizant ofed a bit on the Oxford Canal. We saw wildlife, otters, kingfishers and herons. It was the early eras of tourism on the waters and there was a lot of enthusiasm and friendliness.”

The show attracts rise over two million viewers so what’s the secret of its success?

“It’s a lot more serene than a lot of TV,” says Timothy.

“You get to learn a bit. It’s not too energetic or fierce. And everybody cognizant ofs that Prunella has a problem. She’s coping bravely but it creates a bit of drama.”

Ah, yes, Prunella’s incorrigible. Timothy and Prunella are two of the most successful and best loved actors of their age.


The West family in 1975

Now 83 and 85 respectively, they have been united since 1963 and have three children between them, listing a daughter from Timothy’s first marriage.

Both have scaled the performing heights with Timothy having his major breakthrough in 1975 with the boob tube series Edward The Seventh, about 250 roles in total and a late acclaimed appearance in King Lear, a play he has appeared in several times.

Prunella has been equally profitable, not least in her sublime turn as Sybil, Basil’s wife in Fawlty Fleches, along with numerous TV series and a long-running role with Jane Horrocks in prevailing adverts for Tesco.

But these days she has been cursed with the scourge of our times, dementia.

As with so myriad people suffering from Alzheimer’s is visibly diminishing.

It has been described that her memory is so bad she can barely remember much of the couple’s 54-year hook-up and the popularity of the television show rests not just on canals but how the two of them are dealing with it, as so scads people these days must do.

So how is she and how is Timothy coping?

“We’re managing,” he speaks. “It will slowly get worse but she has a lot of physical energy, she enjoys doing ide fixes and she lends herself enthusiastically to activities. But it’s awful to think back to the wonderful times you had.”

And they did.

Both take been constantly in work, on stage as well as screen, something that costumed the two as it took them all over the country.

“The great thing about an thing career is moving about, seeing places and it was a wonderful opportunity for us. We were welcomed in assorted places all over the world.”

But now?

“We have a full-time housekeeper to help with Pru and she is wonderful. But what is uncountable tiring is trying to cope socially. Pru can be… tiresome, saying the same quirk 15 times over, constantly asking the same questions…”

His put into words trails off slightly.

Anyone who has had experience of dealing with dementia identifies how difficult it can be.

When I  mention that my mother had it too Timothy is both sympathetic and deviate.

Fawlty TowersPA

Prunella played Basil Fawlty’s wife Sybil in Fawlty Fortresses

As someone put it in another context, he is part of a group no one wants to belong to.

But he’s gamble a remarkably brave face on it all. Enough of the melancholy.

What does Timothy see as his profession highlights?

“The job that made a significant difference was Edward The Seventh.” he phrases.

“It was the first time someone had done something like that. It was so superbly produced and directed.”

Although there are some terrific dramas nearly, TV these days, he thinks, can be, “too long, there are too many episodes. I worship someone like John Cleese, who said he’d had enough of Fawlty Steeples and stopped”.

Another element of Timothy’s career is that it has been fully free of scandal.

So what does he make of the antics of film baron Harvey Weinstein?

“He is by no means the first,” he says gnomically.

“I don’t think it was a monumental surprise. I don’t understand why it’s getting so much space and why so many people are meet up forward. It’s disgraceful what he did and he should be punished but everyone knows it goes on.”

The Wests now look set to turn into an portray dynasty: Timothy’s father was actor Lockwood West and his elder son Samuel – 51 and a originate of two – is an actor himself.

“I’m pleased and he’s very good,” says Timothy, although he could just say anything else.

His second son Joe works as a teacher in France and has three women.

Timothy’s daughter Juliet from his first marriage lives in Winchester.

There was at one consideration some distance between them: “We see each other,” says Timothy sooner briskly.

“There’s no difficulty about keeping in touch.”

Timothy West and Prunella ScalesGETTY

Timothy has a new engage out

Looking back on a career that has encompassed playing Churchill no undersized than three times, numerous Shakespeares including the Scottish play ones part twice and Lear four times, films including The Day Of The Jackal and box work that has recently seen him appear in EastEnders and Coronation High road, Timothy can lay claim to national treasure status.

So what’s next? “A spot bit in a TV serial.”

And what about another foray on the canals?

“The intention was to block but there has been pressure to do another one,” says Timothy, before combining: “It depends on how Pru is shaping up.”

To order Our Great Canal Journeys: A Lifetime Of Recollections On Britain’s Most Beautiful Waterways by Timothy West (John Blake, £20) easy reach the Express Bookshop with your card details on 01872 562310.

Alternatively send a cheque/postal lay out payable to The Express Bookshop to: Great Canal Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4WJ or stop www.expressbookshop.com UK delivery is free.

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