Cherry blossom on line dating romance

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I just hope the people getting their 15 minutes now are putting their money in the building society.'When I ask if fame is hollow, she shakes her head. Her father, Louis Rigg, was a railway engineer who worked for the Maharaja of Bikaner, Ganga Singh.

'I'm not the best person to ask because, whatever form it has taken for me, it has always been attached to my career. People who don't make that distinction are dooooomed.' (This is a trait of hers: she stretches her vowels elastically but not camply; her voice is far too deep and smoky and unhurried for that.) 'There is still that small centre of me that has never been touched by fame, never photographed, written about or discussed. When Rigg was shipped back to gloomy Yorkshire and boarding school in 1945, she felt like a fish out of water.

Portrait by James Deavin There is a low-boughed tree in the Chelsea Physic Garden that bears strange blossom: a tall, broad-shouldered woman with a straight spine and a thick bob of dyed blonde hair.

It is Dame Diana Rigg, and she is standing under the tree, with her head in the branches, because our photographer has asked her to.

I've always tried to avoid any vestige of it touching my private life. So when I sit next to a stranger at a dinner party and they feel they know something about me, I know they don't.'In retrospect, she wishes she had allowed herself to enjoy fame more than she did. Still, Yorkshire, she believes, played a much greater part in shaping her character than India did. 'I don't and I wish I did because the past is pretty unknown to me.

It was a tradition in her household, for example, that you always had to have a slice of bread and butter without jam before you could have one with. I have so lived for the present that I can't remember the details.

When she emerges picking petals from her hair, she looks to the overcast sky and says, 'This flat light is very good for a woman of my age.'Since she mentions it, she turns 70 this month. She had the wrinkles around her eyes removed when she was 44, but that was it.)She lights a cigarette, getting one in before lunch.

And although she looks her age in a way that, say, Julie Christie, her fellow 1960s sex symbol, does not, her strong features - retroussé nose and high cheekbones, down-turned eyes and mouth - are still softly handsome. The last time we met, a decade ago, when she was in Ted Hughes's adaptation of Racine's Phèdre, people were still allowed to smoke in restaurants, and boy did she make the most of that.

When the waitress goes, Rigg explains her shortness with people. I tell her I found clips of her on You Tube from her various appearances on Parkinson - on one of which she said that her greatest pleasure in life came from biting her baby's bottom - to scenes from The Avengers, the television series as synonymous with the 1960s as are the Mini and the Beatles. It all sounds like rubbish the stuff they have of me. There is always one thing that turns you into an icon, an iconic image, in my case a catsuit.

She opts for the latter because they mix a good bloody Mary there.

As we walk, we talk about Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.

She is intolerant of queue-jumpers, litter-droppers and bad-mannered people generally.

When driving, she will roll down her window and yell, 'Thank you! I get a taste of this sharpness now, or rather the waitress does, when she appears and says, 'I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'd like to talk you through the specials on the menu.''I think we can read,' Rigg says. All these old images of me floating across the screen, the terrible chasm of what you were and what you are.

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