BBC Breakfast viewers admitted they were left deeply moved by a heartwarming exchange between actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales this morning as the couple celebrated 60 years of marriage in a new interview.
Speaking to reporter Colin Paterson, the British actors sat down to discuss their lives together, with Prunella, most famous for her role as Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, leaning over to kiss her husband tenderly on the cheek when he asked her what life with him had been like through the decades.
The touching moment saw Prunella, 91, who has had symptoms of vascular dementia for more than 20 years, say to her husband, 89: ‘Thanks for sticking with me for so long.’
West responded: ‘Well, we’ve done all right’ before asking her ‘It hasn’t really been hard work, has it?’
She replied: ‘No! He’s a person I like, I love, I enjoy being with.’
Those watching described the moment as heartbreaking, with one person quipping ‘Who’s chopping onions in here?’.
The interview also saw broadcaster Paterson reveal that Prunella, who continues to live at her family home with care, had a more hilarious answer off camera.
In an article for BBC News, the journalist said: ‘Interview over, the cameraman goes over to Scales and asks if he can take the clip microphone off her.
‘”Oh good,” she goes, a twinkle appearing in her eye. “Now I can say…”‘
He added: ‘And out of her mouth comes a four-letter word completely unsuitable for broadcast on BBC Breakfast.’
West published a book recently, Pru and Me: The Amazing Marriage of Prunella Scales and Timothy West, discussing the couple’s decades of marriage and how they’ve coped with the progression of Prunella’s illness.
In September, West, who shares a home in Wandsworth with his wife, admitted he misses the ‘companionship’ of his ‘best friend’ as her dementia battle continues.
The 89-year-old admitted he longs for her ‘creative energy’ and the brilliant ideas she had and parties she would love to go to with people she had newly met.
West says he spends a lot of time reassuring her during periods of confusion: ‘She doesn’t have much awareness of time so when she joins me, her face lights up as if we’ve been apart for days. The look on her face makes me realise how much I love her.’
He added: ‘She seems to manage incredibly well with things, as I try to, but surely she must sometimes wonder whether she is going to be allowed to end her days in this house that has been so dear to us.
‘Not recognising me hasn’t been a problem but it will come, I’m sure.’
Timothy, who says he first noticed changes in his wife in 2001, says that the condition is now ‘part of their lives’ as they adapt to accommodate her needs.
Prunella ended her 67-year acting career in early 2020.
Their most recent success was Great Canal Journeys, which saw them lift the lid on their battle and let viewers in on their day-to-day lives. The last series of the Channel 4 TV show aired in January 2020.
Giving an insight into a typical day for the couple, Timothy revealed that Pru likes to sleep a lot and often retires to bed for a ‘snooze’ after having breakfast together.
However the actress is still every inch the entertainer and Timothy says she enjoyed a party for her birthday in the summer as well as attending three Proms.
The couple, who ‘fell in love over crosswords and packets of Polo mints’, first addressed Pru’s condition after she began struggling with her lines on stage in the early noughties.
Timothy explained that by 2003, Pru, who was performing in A Woman of No Importance, was relying on ‘idiot boards’ to get her through the show.
They did not receive a formal diagnosis until 10 years later and he explained that the progression of her illness has ‘taken a very long time’.
Prunella’s Fawlty Towers co-star Andrew Sachs died in 2016, just four years after he was diagnosed with dementia by doctors.
Pru and Me: The Amazing Marriage of Prunella Scales and Timothy West, published by Puffin, is out now.