29 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 47


by Sir Trevor Nunn

My wife !mown gave birth to our first child in 1991. Ellie arrived over many hours during the night of 61h April 1991, I telephoned as many family and friends as I could, but a celebration was something that had to be postponed.

I had a problem. Months before this delirious moment, I had happily agreed to make a speech in tribute to the great actress and my dear friend Peggy Ashcroft, at a huge star-studded gathering to be televised from the National Theatre.

tmogen was deeply asleep and our baby was being washed and weighed, when I slipped away from the hospital to make my contribution at the South Bank. I was in a state of joyous sleep deprivation, light-headed with happiness.

Finding myself in a throng of colleagues drinking champagne felt altogether hallucinatory after the quiet disciplined tension of the previous hours. I knew I must stick to mineral water if I was not to fall asleep on my feet or appear squiffy before the viewing public.

The out-of-body experience continued as I stepped on stage, wanting to shout 'we've just had a baby daughter. which is why I am wildly incoherent'. But I channeled this fervour into a deeply felt hymn to one of the greatest artists and human beings I have ever known.

My first task was to bring Peggy forward to the microphone and the standing ovation which greeted her appearance. During this deafening roar, she whispered "What's the news from the hospital?' "It's a girl — born two hours ago!" Peggy gave me a tremendous hug, and turned to her rapturous nationwide audience.

I excused myself and raced back to Imogen's bedside. When I arrived, it was to discover Imogen, holding a contented sleeping Ellie, surrounded by our closest friends and her brother, heady with the thrill of being an uncle. Playing on the television was the Peggy Ashcroft tribute. with — bizarrely — me talking in close up as I came into the room. Everybody told me to be quiet and sit down. On the table, was a giftwrapped bottle of champagne, bearing the one syllable name, Krug. As the others watched what I had so recently gone through, I poured the champagne for everybody and as the programme finished we drank to Irnogen and Ellie and the future — and somebody said "and here's to Dame Peg too".

My celebration had finally arrived. So had my first taste of Krug. Unforgettable.