Joanna Lumley, OBE, FRGS is one of the UK’s well loved and respected actresses. She is famous for her superb acting as Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous, a BBC television sitcom (situation comedy) that was broadcast from 1992 to 2012 in 39 episodes.
However, what is not generally known is that she also narrated several audiobooks such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and her own autobiography: No Room for Secrets.
So it must have come as a surprise when it was announced she would read The Cheat, one of Enid Blyton’s little known short school story, on the radio.

That was in March, 2011, when BBC Radio 4 presented a special radio show called Good Show Clarissa to feature three classic girls' school stories, namely, The Cheat by Enid Blyton (1947), read by Joanna Lumley; A Midnight Revel by Angela Brazil (1925), read by Dame Helen Mirren and Jemima Gets Them Guessing by Hilda Richards (1939), read by Lisa Dillon.

The reading began on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 15:30 in a venue that has not been disclosed. With her sweet voice Joanna read the story of Susan, a boarding schoolgirl, who was so desperate to win a scholarship that she cheated on examination papers she had stumbled upon in the form room. The way she did it was to copy the questions and look up the answers overnight to prepare for the exam the next day.

Before long she was describing Susan’s inner turmoil when she realised she had cheated and the moral dilemma she found herself in. Then she went on to narrate the actions Susan had thought about taking to find a way out of the dilemma: she could confess and face expulsion; go on with the cheating and win the scholarship or answer the questions wrongly and lose the scholarship.

Susan decided to answer the questions wrongly, but her dilemma was resolved almost miraculously when, on the day of the examination, she discovered she had made a mistake. She had cheated on the wrong examination papers. The correct papers were kept under lock and key and when they were handed out she knew all the answers. She was no longer a cheat for she was going to win the scholarship fairly.
Joanna then brought the reading to a close in the fifteen minutes allocated to her.

This surprising resolution of Susan’s moral dilemma elicited the following response from Joanna:
“Blyton had a very clear sense of right and wrong, and this short story is rather wonderful in the way the dilemma of being a cheat is resolved. I was at boarding school and I recognise the quietness of a dormitory when all the other girls are asleep…" a response that was carried in The Independent, Thursday 10 February 2011, under the caption: Mirren and Lumley to Read Girls' Tales, one month before her actual reading of the story.

Incidentally, Enid’s ability to wrap up moral lessons for children in some of her stories, such as those found in The Cheat, is discussed in my book in Chapter V under the caption: Enid The Universal Teacher.

Where to find the story of The Cheat
The Cheat is one of 17 short stories in Enid Blyton’s Treasury, a book of short stories that was published by Evans Brothers in 1947. As this particular edition is out of print, anyone who would like to read the full story can still do so by ordering online a second hand copy from Amazon.co.uk
 For more information about the book please click this link: www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk  and search the site.

Joanna has something wonderful in common with Enid Blyton, but what is it? it's a photographic memory. In a passage on page 42 of her autobiography Absolutely: A Memoir (published by Orion in 2011), we find the following passage: '...Because I had always relied on my photographic memory and animal cunning, I had always found school work simple...'.
This is the actor's secret. For a photographic memory is an advantage in that it helps him/her to learn lines effortlessly and give splendid performances. It's therefore no wonder she performed so brilliantly in Absolutely Fabulous and went on to win many Awards for best performances, including two BAFTAs.
You can read all about Enid Blyton's photographic memory in Chapter VII, Enid The Professional Storyteller in my book: Enid Blyton - The Untold Story.


Joanna Lumley's Memoir
If this is the first time you’re hearing about Joanna Lumley, you can discover her wonderful life by buying a copy of her memoir: Absolutely: A Memoir at amazon.co.uk
Published by Orion Publishing in November 2011, it is a well written book of 272 pages and richly illustrated with her beautiful pictures you’ll love to see over and over again.
This article is not in my book. It's given here to feature people who are associated with Enid Blyton in one way or the other.
Permission to reproduce the image of Joanne Lumley shown in this article is still pending.