TX: 05.01.10 2040-2100
PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL
Kitty, you've got gravel.
I have got gravel.
I've always wanted one of these kind of entrances, makes me feel I'm living in a radio
Well it is quite a nice sound and it does tell me when people are arriving but actually
mine's a little bit deep Peter, so you sort of sink into it a little bit.
It is a bit isn't it, it's sort of shag pile gravel.
It absolutely is.
Shall we go in?
Yes we can. This is the bay window, I feel around the bay window of the house and
then I get to the side wall and I know when - so I feel there - and then I'm actually on
a path here, so you'll feel - you're off the gravel now Peter, put my hand on the gate,
that's the - now it's a really big step Peter, so you know it's like mountaineering - ahhh
that's me up.
Do you want a hoist?
Follow the rail round.
That is about two foot up isn't it.
It is absolutely, yeah, I've got good leg muscles. And then two steps up and we're in.
Well we're back in the warm, it's quite a chilly day out there. And I'm with Kitty
McGeever because this is the time of year when we tend to invade people's houses
and when Kitty was on In Touch, when she was just going to start out on Emmerdale
we kind of invited ourselves - and you rather foolishly agreed - to let us come in. So
we've come to the house of Kitty McGeever, comedienne, actress and now a regular
member of the soap team on Emmerdale. And we've only just got here in time
because you're moving?
I am, I'm actually in between houses at the moment. I'm leaving my house that we're
in and I'm moving to another house which is about a mile and a half up the road. This
year's been really quite eventful for me and during the summer my best friend became
very ill and we nursed her through the summer and she died in September and she has
bequeathed me her gorgeous daughter Charlotte. So I now am legal guardian for her
daughter. So I've moved in to their house, just to keep the disruption at a minimum
for Charlotte. So I'm in the process of moving from here and moving my stuff to
Some people were very, very sceptical about that and said: "She's asked you to take
her daughter but you're blind?" I went: "Yeah absolutely." But I take on the
responsibility as much as any sighted person, you know, and I look after her I think
But people are startled that ...
People are very startled by that and I go it's just my eyes that don't work....
Not me brain.
Everything else works perfectly. And it's been very, very difficult - the complexities
of probate, of the house - signing the house over to me - and suddenly taking
responsibility for a 16 year old girl and grieving as well for my friend.
And having started on a completely new job with one of Britain's foremost soaps.
Yeah, in some ways I think that's been great because I'd never had a chance to get
flustered by the job. Everyone - sighted actors - say that when they start the job it's
relentless. Shirley Stelfox, who's in Emmerdale, said to me: "If you can do this job
darling, you can do any job" because it is very, very hard and relentless, work wise
the workload is phenomenal. But I never had a chance to really let that get to me
because I had other very pressing things at home - taking Janet for chemotherapy and
radiotherapy all summer and things - so in that way sometimes God sends these things
- they're a blessing really because I just had to take it in my stride.
What about the raised profile because people seeing you on Emmerdale - has that
made a difference to your life?
Yeah, it's gorgeous ...
You like all that do you?
I love it, people are so lovely to you. And it depends on your character, so I know
some of the younger characters get attention from younger people and that can be a
little bit more intimidating but I get attention from older people who are just divine
and gorgeous and love my character because she's really naughty. So they shout
things out in the street to me about things that my character's done - she's a bit of a
thief, bit of a petty thief - so they shout things like, you know - Watch your bag! -
Here's Lizzie Lakely - and things like that and usually it's really lovely and positive.
What struck me about it though is that as blind people you need to be quite protective
of your space, you know, not all the time but we're always in a situation where you
know we have to grab someone's arm to get help, people want to talk to you on the
train and ask what you're - if you're reading Braille, like I do, they say what's that ...
you know, so you're everybody's - so you would get all that plus the attention from
It's true, is that, but to be honest the thing I found the hardest when I went blind was
the isolation of that. I'm a real chatty person and I love to talk to people and I found
that really hard when I went blind because I wasn't getting eye contact with anyone,
so I couldn't smile at them, you know, it's like I come in peace, that kind of sign that
you make to other people that then invites them to have a conversation with you and I
didn't have that. And suddenly I remember a little incident: My husband and I went
on a coach trip and my husband knew people on the coach and I didn't speak to
anyone on the coach and he said to me: "Kitty, that's so hard because in actual fact
before this you would have known everyone's life story on this coach, you would have
known everyone." And people did not feel that they could come and speak to me
because I was so obviously blind, they were a little bit intimidated by that, they didn't
quite know whether they could speak and I used to feel very lonely with that. So in
some ways that's changed for me - the Emmerdale thing has brought that back into my
life, so I do like that.
Do you now live alone here?
Yes, in this house I lived on my own, my husband and I are separated and I live in this
house on my own, obviously the new house is with Charlotte.
I mean how difficult was it for you, as a - because we should say you've only been
blind for about five years ...
Seven now ...
Seven - is it seven?
Yeah, yeah yeah.
Seems like only five.
Yeah yeah time flies when you're enjoying yourself.
Yeah, but how difficult was it to make that decision - I don't even know that it was a
decision - but how difficult was it to live alone and learn all those things that you have
It was a very good thing that happened to me, it didn't feel like that at the time, I
remember my friends and my family were horrified that I would be living alone here.
And you know I think my husband was very concerned about it. But it was the best
thing that could have happened to me. That's when I started to learn about being blind
and how to live alone and be in a non-sighted world. And actually there's very, very
little I can't do, people find that amazing that I started to cook for myself again, I
couldn't rely on him to do things. But funny things happened as well, it's like there
was a power cut in the house and my neighbours came along to tell me there was a
power cut and I'd not been aware of it in the slightest - it was when I was in
Emmerdale actually and I was learning lines - and I was sitting in the dark and the
neighbours were really, really worried because they thought that - ooh she's blind,
she'll really not manage in a power cut, poor Kitty. And I was sitting and I just
wanted to laugh and say welcome to my world ...
Yeah, let me tell you when my wife and I were first married - I mean we're going
back to '72 when they had the three day week and loads of ...
Oh they did I remember them.
... power cuts and it was wonderfully empowering for me because ....
... the lights kept going out and Jo was trying to steer herself around with candles and
making a complete mess of it and suddenly it almost changed the balance of the
I would have loved that, I would have loved that, I love it if ever there's no power and
it's dark or people come into the house and it's dark - oh I love it.
Did you embrace gadgets?
I did embrace gadgets, very, very much so. And, yes, started to just gather these
things around me because I couldn't ask anyone anymore. So, music plays a massive
part in my life and I love to play my CDs and I've got a vast CD collection and
suddenly I couldn't find a CD, so I've got racks and racks of them, couldn't find which
ones I wanted to play - oh that was a nightmare. So trying to find something - because
I can Braille but I'm not very good. What I got - and it was bought for me by a friend
of mine who's blind and it's brilliant - so it's a book and it stores 20 CDs but what's
brilliant about it is that it actually - as I open the book and I turn a page [Top - the best
of Elvis Costello; bottom - Blood and Chocolate]. So at the top it says the Best of
Elvis Costello, so I know that in the top of the page the CD is the Best of Elvis
Costello and then my nephew Harry, as you could hear, he recorded it because they
love the gadgets, so they come and they record what the one at the bottom is and then
I change it every so often. Then my little tiniest nephew, who was four when he
recorded this, we tried to get him to say the Best of the Smiths and this is what it came
out as: [Inaudible recording] and we laughed but I kept it in because I loved it, I loved
it. And then sometimes he'll just shout one: [Prince], so that's Prince, he tells me it's
Prince. So it's wonderful and I love the book. The only problem with the book is that
you can only store 20 CDs and I've got a massive CD collection but that's been solved
because I've now got, waiting to come, is a pen friend, which I think you've shown on
We have used it on the programme, yeah, we've done...
I love them. You get a tiny little disc sticky label and you put it on the CD and you
record what that one is and when you put the pen across it it reads it back to you.
We always go into people's kitchens, so we're not going to do that because it's a bit of
a cli ... it's a bit of a cliché ...
You've heard about my cooking.
... I haven't heard a bad thing, I just wondered if you've got one - because you do cook
don't you ...
I do cook yeah.
... have you got one favourite culinary gadget have you?
I don't use an awful lot of gadgetry in the kitchen because I find that cooking - I use
my hands an awful lot and I'm a very old fashioned sort of Yorkshire cook, so I use
tablespoons to measure ...
You're in up to your elbows.
I'm in up to my elbows and that's the way I like it. But the one thing I do love -
because I've burnt myself quite a few times on the oven - I got some wonderful oven
gloves which are completely heat resistant and they're proper gloves, so your fingers
and thumbs go in them and they go right up to your elbows. So I can put things in
and out of the oven without fear of even touching the side of the oven and I love that.
I suppose we'd better talk a bit about Emmerdale, as some of your - press officer here
- they'll expect us to do. I tell you what all the time I've been broadcasting I've never
been on a soap set, what's it like?
They're not the easiest place when you're blind to be because there are cables all over
the floor and cameras all over, sound guys all over, lighting all over. It's a very busy
place. And then the sets themselves in actual fact, the rooms that you actually see, are
tiny. We've had the most amazing response to me being on Emmerdale but the
response has been - She's not blind, the woman is not blind, I refuse to believe it, she
looks at people when she speaks. And I want to go - yeah I look towards the voice,
that's all I do, I look towards the voice and I focus in on the voice.
Do you need to get help around the set?
I've got two fantastic assistants: Anne, who I call my mistress, who's here with me
today. What they do is if I've got movement to do on set because I know that by the
time - Lizzie's lived there quite a while now, sort of a good six to eight months, and
she would know the inside of the Woolpack like the back of her hand, she's always
there having a drink, so she would know the way to the ladies' loo, she would know
exactly, so what we do is before we do a take I orientate myself with the space
because the Woolpack as much as it looks the same on the screen it changes shape
everyday, so the walls are moved in and out, it's made smaller, it's made bigger. So
we do that and then once I've got the trajectory right of where the loo is today,
because it changes, then I do my lines and do an exit and off I go with my stick and
What about costume - how much do you get to choose stuff, given that you can't see
now but you know what you would have liked?
It was a real big thing for me, I really wanted to make sure that the character had a
certain way of dressing because that was a very, very big thing to me when I went
blind - I always had my own style of clothes. Today I have on like big Doc Martin
boots, I have leggings on with pink zips up the sides, I have a leather mini skirt, like a
biker skirt, and I have a jacket with pixie shoulders. I've got a certain cookie style of
So never knowingly ignored then.
Without a doubt, you see you've got to stand out in somewhere and I've got bright red
hair. And people - they find that really quite strange when you're blind that how do
you choose your clothes, how do you ...
Or why do you care?
Or why do you care but I really do care, I really care. So I wanted the character to
really care about that. So they took that on board and she is a very, very bright and
colourful person because I use like a - I use a colour checker to check for colour to
make sure that the colours match, I buy different styles of garments so that just by
feeling them in the wardrobe I know exactly what they are.
Well shall we go up and see how this actually works?
Are you inviting yourself upstairs Peter?
Well you know I've always wanted to go burying in a ladies' wardrobe. Are you
going to take me upstairs?
Yeah I'll take you upstairs Peter.
Okay, alright, it is New Year after all.
Oh absolutely, in for a penny in for a pound. Right, so it's really, really complex up
here. As I said ...
Well that doesn't surprise me having come through your gravel and up your steps.
No. I know, so the wall is here to the side, if you feel along this wall and then feel to
your right and there's a banister.
Should I keep my head down?
Yeah keep your head down because it's very, very low Peter, please don't bang your
head. So there's a banister and the steps are wooden - Turner steps - so they're like a
spiral staircase but in solid wood.
It could have been designed to be inappropriate really.
Well exactly, if you were going to do a do and don't for blind people this would be the
This would be it.
Definitely. The banister will take you all the way round, then feel for the other wall
on the right so that will help you up two steps and then straight forward into my
Okay. So just show me how you use ...
I will show you in my wardrobes. They're not very big, so mind there's a beam that
runs right across the top of them. On the first shelf above are handbags - want to feel
one of those? That's like a little ...
Oh that's a nice one with a little [inaudible word] with a little zip.
Absolutely. Hangars run all along the bottom rail. And I know that right at one end
are like small vest tops and you'll feel how very different it is, so that I know exactly
what it is.
Steady Kitty, you'd better be careful what you show me.
I know yeah exactly, it's a bit of a racy number this Peter, it's a bit lacy. I've got it
caught now, this is the thing, hangars are a nightmare. So this, if you feel...
Oh that's very nice.
It's got like a little frilly - yeah - it's got little frilly straps and it's like a sort of
camisoley top, so I know exactly what that is like and what will go with that just by
the feel of those sleeves, so I might have another camisole top and it might be in a
completely different colour but I know that it's this one with the frilly sleeves and I
know what that one.
But if you do need to know the colour?
But if I do need to know the colour - now let's find the colour checker. Now that
might be a nightmare because I've had it out. So it might not be quite where it should
be. And it's not there.
You've got your head...
There's rubble in the bottom of the wardrobe - I'm in a load of shoes Peter down here.
Oh it's here. I'm going to give you a demo and I'm going to tell you why this is so
important to me because when I first went blind I found it hard with clothes and
colour because I'm a really colourful dresser so I went to the social worker and I said
oh I find it really difficult to find clothes, he said: "We'll get someone for you to
speak to you about that." So they brought a girl who was like my age and I said:
"Oh love," I said, "I really struggle in my wardrobe to find things that coordinate and
colours." And she said to me: "Well," she said, "Mmm it is hard, I tend to just wear
beige." Ohh I wanted to come home and - oh well I don't know what I wanted to do
but I couldn't contemplate a life in beige - a life in beige - it's not me! And then I
found a colour checker which is phenomenal and my sister bought if for me. So you
get a top and you think mmm I'm not altogether sure what colour this cardigan is
because I have lots of little cardigans actually that are the same, little cropped
But not beige.
But not - uhh nothing - there is nothing beige in my wardrobe.
So then you make sure the lens is completely covered by the fabric [very dark olive
green] - very dark olive green. There you see - what a wonderful, wonderful thing. So
I know then that with very dark olive green I can put things - I know what cardigan
we're talking about, I know what things I can put with it and what will look great with
it, so that's been a wonderful, wonderful thing for me. I have a vast array of 1950s
Oh my goodness.
Now look at those.
A mass of petticoats.
A mass, yeah...
I can't tell you the last time I saw petticoats like this.
Exactly and I've got loads and they're all different colours.
Because I love to wear dresses and I love to wear dresses with a very full skirt and
they can turn just an ordinary kind of cotton dress with a full skirt into something
that's quite wow. I mean these are as big as something like a flamenco dancer would
They are, they're very flouncy aren't they - I think that's the word isn't it.
Yeah flouncy, they are, but they look great.
I think I'd better go downstairs before we get too excited.
Oh yeah you have a cup of tea and calm down Peter.
Yeah calm down.
Well we're back downstairs again in the comfort of the armchairs.
Safety of the armchairs.
Kitty McGeever you had a pretty eventful 2009, what do you think the future holds
for Kitty McGeever - are you going to do a William Roche and be on Emmerdale for
50 years or something or have you got other things in your sights?
I do think about that you know because the thing is I've just had to call up Emmerdale
to find out if I can have my hair cut because with continuity you have to have
permission to have your hair cut and coloured and so I've been told I have one day
that I can actually have my hair cut and coloured and if I can't do it in that day then I
have to wait about another six to eight weeks. So ...
Because of catch up scenes.
Because of catch up scenes, picking up scenes you see. So I was just thinking about
Bill Roche the other day and thinking fancy having to ask for permission to have your
hair cut for 50 years, I think that would be the thing that broke me - having to ask
permission for my hair cutting. Yes, so I don't think I'll be in it for 50 years. I do do
stand up comedy and that is what I love, I do love to do that and I've got a few sort of
irons in the fire with that at the moment, various venues that want me to go and do my
stand up show there which is wonderful and lovely but it's the time - Emmerdale is so
all consuming - the hours and the workload is phenomenal. But you know I love it,
it's a joy, it's such a cliché and I really want to be able to come on and go no, it's
horrible, everyone's horrible on it but it is not like that, it is absolutely a joy everyday
to go into work. I love it, I really do and that would be the hardest thing to leave
would be the other people, that would be so hard.
Well Kitty McGeever, there's always work for you on In Touch, we've got loads of
things you could do - Blindness for Beginners, for example, our audio book reviews -
but thank you very much, it's been a - a rather heart racing 20 minutes, thank you.
I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself and I have too, thank you very much.
Thanks Kitty. Goodbye everyone.