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Monica SIMS (Read 665 times)
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Monica SIMS
Nov 21st, 2018, 1:25pm
The death of Monica Sims at 93 in a care home in Painswick, Gloucestershire, near relatives, has opened for me a whole ragbag of reminiscence.
While (of course) I recognised the diminutive woman, with the proportionate handbag, heading along the Third Floor LBH, towards the Annex, as our CR4, and heard regularly hostile stories about her from Radio News colleagues, it wasn’t until both of us had retired from daily employment that I came to know, and be known - and to love - Monica.  
In 2000 I became an assisting priest at a London Paddington church; I looked down from the pulpit - still used occasionally in those days - and to my surprise and alarm saw Ms Sims sitting about halfway down the nave on the pulpit side. Alarm because I knew of the many senior editorial posts she had held in radio and television; surprise because I knew nothing of her religious affections; she had initially been attracted to St James’ by the quality of its choral Evensong.
The subsequent encounter was on safe secular ground - our shared BBC.
In her Radio 4 years she had engaged with many Current Affairs editors, and senior Radio News staff. The latter having tried to bounce her, and the channel, into a 24-hour news stream. She swam against the flow and won; in retirement she always had Radio 4 alive in the background, even in the care home.
Rather like her LBH office, Monica’s flat was consumed with papers, newspapers and books; only the reels of tape were missing. She recalled being interviewed by DG Sir Hugh Greene; ‘throughout the interview he couldn’t take his eyes off my legs’. (I like to think this was for the post of Editor, Women’s Hour.)
On leaving the BBC she took employment with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) as a Censor, but their escalating burden of violent and overtly sexual films, videos and DVDs wearied her and she resigned.
Though she occasionally wore them, she was not a bluestocking in the derogatory sense. But she had a fine intelligence which winnowed the wheat from the chaff - both in argument and the assessment of others. Not even clergy could avoid her winnowing.
Sexuality was never an issue; integrity was.
The way she spoke to me about James Mossman, the BBC journalist, film-maker, and sometime MI6 agent, who committed suicide in 1971, left me feeling that among those whom she had loved, was also this gay man.
Monica lived in a ground floor and basement flat near the church; many a Sunday would find a few of us - having negotiated the perilous outside staircase - sharing a bottle of wine in the carefully tended small rear garden.
When she could no longer care for her beloved plants, nor herself, she moved to where she would have excellent care and the friendship and support of relatives.
Left behind in Gloucester Terrace, Paddington, was her whole graphic history, for she had not thrown anything away since childhood. Some of that lifetime’s material has gone to BBC Archives; I glanced at, for example - but did not read, her notes of an interview with another woman who rose to a very senior position in News Division.
Once I preached on Death as a Terminus. The terminus to which we all go, and asked the question: May it also be a terminus from which we will travel? And I had used the Latin: ad quem, a quo. Monica said it didn’t work. Perhaps she knows the answer now.
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