Affairs are far tougher today thanks to emails and mobile phones, says Dame Joan Bakewell
06:41 GMT, 9 April 2012
'Thinking man's crumpet': Dame Joan says people being easily contactable via email and mobile phone makes affairs almost impossible
She managed to conduct her affair with playwright Harold Pinter under a cloak of secrecy for seven years.
But Dame Joan Bakewell, otherwise known as the original ‘thinking man’s crumpet’, now claims the couple would never have been able to maintain their liaison under the spotlight of today’s technology.
She said: ‘Absolutely, you couldn’t do it today. People presumably still have affairs but I don’t know [how].
‘They have affairs but how do they manage it with [emails] and mobile phones and with spouses and partners asking, “Where are you” You know, it’s impossible. I don’t know how they manage it.’
In an interview for Sky Arts, Dame Joan said she felt ‘compelled’ to begin her relationship with the playwright as soon as they met in 1962.
At the time Pinter was married to the actress Vivien Merchant and she was married to TV producer Michael Bakewell.
She revealed the relationship to her then husband only when she discovered that he, too, was having an affair.
The outspoken presenter, now 78, admitted that she had never regretted the romance.
She said: ‘The affair itself [was a] huge, huge, hugely rewarding love affair, with someone of dazzling capacity for humour, enjoyment, generosity and so on. And that was quite wonderful.
'Friends for life': Harold Pinter and Dame Joan Bakewell remained close until the playwright's death in 2008
‘[It led to] a lifelong friendship.
We went on being very close for the rest of his life, and he always sent
me the first copy of his scripts and so on and invited me to the first
nights and we always stayed in touch.’
Their relationship became the basis for Pinter’s 1978 play Betrayal, which is widely regarded as one of his greatest.
When he sent Dame Joan a script before it was published, she was shocked by the exposure.
Feeling ‘judged and condemned’ by the play’s title, she asked Pinter to change it, but he refused.
Later it was turned into a Hollywood film starring Patricia Hodge. The lovers both went on to marry other people, and on Christmas Eve 2008, Pinter died aged 78 in the arms of his wife, historian Lady Antonia Fraser.
Dame Joan did not go to the funeral, saying: ‘I felt it was for Antonia and family, and I was outside that.
Affair: Playwright Harold Pinter was married to Vivien Marchant, the couple seen here after marrying at Kensington Register Office, when he embarked on an relationshop with Joan Bakewell
‘And, anyway, my own grief is private to me.’
During her interview for the In Confidence series, to be broadcast on Sky Arts later this month, Dame Joan said she had struggled with turning 70, but had come to realise the over-70s are better at being happy.
She said: ‘I think there are many reasons to be happy as you get older. One, life’s battles have been fought and either won or lost and it’s too late to regret.
‘So you’re not fighting old battles.
‘Jealousy’s inappropriate, ambition is over, it is too late. So there are lots of discards, there are lots of things you can do without. And that clears the ground for a lot of pleasures in life.’