A Right Frank Blether with Janey Godley
04 Mar 2021
By Loretta Mulholland
It was a fine Friday evening for a natter between Janey Godley and Jenny Niven for Paisley Book Festival’s Frank Get the Door, as Janey sat in a restful setting, the backdrop of her bay window overlooked by a mature tree letting in hazy sunshine from a Glasgow West End street.
The blether began with a discussion of quiet Friday nights at home since lockdown. ‘It’s like being in a library for three hours’ Janey said, as daughter Ashley Storrie transmits her BBC Radio Scotland programme, The Music Match and Janey and her husband lie low. Her husband and daughter are both on the Autistic Spectrum and routines have become essential as they adjust to more time spent together. Janey is normally on tour on Fridays and revealed that this is probably the most time in 25 years that she’s spent completely in her husband’s company. She admired the way he had coped, though she did ponder that he might be frightened that she would ‘pillow him’ if he had a blow out! When Jenny suggested she ought to get an award for the work she’s done supporting governmental Covid recommendations, she hit the idea on the head with a veritable Glasgow sledgehammer.
‘No way - I’m just an idiot with a phone - a clown … ‘
She is emphatic that those that work in supermarkets, care homes and the NHS are the ones that deserve awards and that she does ‘nothing’. But though her career has been ‘turbo charged’ this year, Janey was adamant that her support is for the Covid message and not politically motivated.
Janey’s life as owner/barmaid at The Weavers’ Inn from 1980-94 provided her with rich material for her ‘observational’ comedy. Even Frank came from the pub – the quiet customer who read cowboy books and helped stoatin’ drunk customers to ‘leave the premises’, after they tried to open the door outwards instead of inwards.
A reading from 20th April 2020, from Frank Get the Door, had Jenny and the rest of us in stitches, and Janey’s parting shot, when ‘Nicola’ confessed she knew eff all about the Bay City Rollers, was classic:
‘Frank, get the door. Ah’ve got a wee tuna salad on the go!’
Janey confessed that she is very shy in reality and tends to avoid people generally. This revelation, along with powerful memories about Janey’s past life, disclosed in the discussion about her autobiography Handstands in the Dark was an awakening to viewers like myself who were unaware of the woman behind the voiceovers. Humour has been her salvation. As she said of her life:
‘I’ve had a difficult upbringing, I’ve lived in poverty, suffered from drug and alcohol misuse, been abused, my mother was murdered, I had a brother with HIV and married into a violent, patriarchal family.’
She survived by succeeding - every time she was told to shut up, she spoke out louder. How did it make her feel to have written the book and have this knowledge out there in the public domain? ‘I came out okay! I’m here!’
Janey has suffered from horrendous on-line abuse, particularly from men, but she meets this head on and some have lost jobs as a result. Her strongest reaction comes from a team effort by her and her Assistant, who ‘weeps’ as she reads emails from former abusers who feel they’re the ones being victimised. ‘It’s piss funny,’ she says, ‘I laugh at them every day!’
Here is a woman who cares passionately about supporting others, writing about injustice and raising thousands for children and carers through charities such as the STV Children’s Appeal and the Carers’ Trust. Empathy is a strong motivator for her comedy and her National Theatre series, Alone which tells the story of a woman trapped at home during lockdown with her loving dog and coercive husband, has been hugely popular. Janey also loves animals and was so influenced by the Johnny Morris voiceovers in Animal Magic when growing up, that she has transferred this inspiration to her fabulously funny animal antics videos, but if she had to live outside Scotland, she would live in New Zealand she mused, because it had the ‘same climate as Maryhill.’
When asked what her Radical New Future would look like, Janey answered that what lockdown has taught her is compassion, as she has become more involved in her transient west-end community. Her message was simple, ‘Look after your neighbours; become a community.’