In Gemma Bovery she draws on the difficulties of being a step-parent.
Both are tragedies – based on Madame Bovary and Far from the Madding Crowd respectively, they cover infidelity, sadness, death – but what you remember is the unselfconsciousness of the English in French markets ('STOP SHOUTING, Allegra! '), Ugg boots on a pair of skinny legs, the lasting effects of something as seemingly trivial as a nose-job.
Simmonds appears a mild, rather reserved woman – hard to pair with the bawdiness of some of her jokes (a pivotal scene in Tamara Drewe takes place with one character on the lavatory).
'So for a time I was the youngest and rather spoilt.
Then my sister and my younger brother arrived, and my elder brothers went away to school, so in a way I became the eldest. It was a good training – you became aware of your place in the world.'Having male siblings, she says, may well have influenced her sense of humour. My grandmother had a way of changing the subject whenever the talk got a bit salty.
Today a man in white overalls is spread-eagled across some scaffolding, painting the woodwork. That DS is the kind of car I should have.'It is this sort of detail – not just cars, but also houses, kitchens, clothes, shoes, handbags ('handbags are particularly good'), along with her characters' facial expressions and habits of speech – that makes a Posy Simmonds strip or story so funny and insightful, and, for those of us who might see ourselves reflected back, so damning.
Two cars are parked in the road outside: a Volvo four-by-four and a low-slung, gunmetal-grey 1970s Citroën DS.'Cars are terribly useful pigeon-holers,' Simmonds says, coming back into her drawing-room with two glasses of water. In the weekly newspaper strip called 'Posy', which ran from 1977 to 1987 and which chronicled the lives and times of the left-wing Webers, Wendy's huge round glasses and her dinner parties ('Is the goat's cheese very goaty?She is 62 but looks younger, with a neat oval face, arched eyebrows and dark fringed hair that cups her countenance.She talks softly, with a considered air, and when early on she cries 'Good God' it comes as a shock.It doesn't mean you can't say, "I think you should do this." It's about seating arrangements.' Her observations about ex-wives are acute enough to be based on personal experience. Buy them a coat: "I can't afford to buy a coat like that'.Don't buy them a coat: "You're so mean." Name-tags, shoe-buying, incredibly petty things.It rises up, she says, 'like sludge coming to the surface. She points to a picture of a supermarket queue – a wonderful raggle-taggle bunch of characters – which was 'treading water', because she couldn't think where to go with the plot. How will the story stack up against the greatest films about business?