My Father has been rather in love with Dillie Keane since first Fascinating Aïda encouraged him to Sew on a Sequin. She is, he is wont to say, admiringly, "all woman". He is rarely wrong, my father.
Dillie Keane is the quintessence of all that is good about education, oestrogen and England. Despite a bloodline which has a pint of Guinness in one hand and the lyrics to Danny Boy in the other, she feels, she says in her pearls’n’pinkie-ringed vowels, very English. Though given an Irish passport at birth she turned down the chance, some years ago, to nominate Ireland as her tax domicile and lower her tax liability logarithmically because, she says, "it’s here I borrow the books".
Some women fade into middle age. Like a photograph, they leach their colour out into the passing years. Keane is 50 next year, she announces with a grin, and her colours are glowing brighter than ever. She chuckles as she points out that in ten years she will be a bus-pass-carrying OAP.
Very few people have a genuine chuckle. Dillie Keane is one of them. It is like port gurgling out of a newly opened bottle.
She has loved being fortysomething, and reasons, self-deprecatingly (and wrongly) that she has nothing to fear from ageing because she has never had looks to fade. "I have always been," she states, dressed in a tiny white top and Marilyn Monroe print jeans, "robustly me... comfortable in my own skin."
Her first boyfriend told her that he hoped they would still be together when they were in their forties because he thought she would be magnificent at being fortysomething. He wasn’t wrong.
"I was," she says, brow furrowed, fists clenched "very driven in my twenties."
Friends, she tells me, think she has changed - and, of course, being Dillie Keane-type friends, they tell her that she is nicer to be with, easier to work with now she is older.
"You get better," she muses, "at treating people well."
One of the reasons she gave up her newspaper column was an increasing discomfort with polemicising on the lives of the famous by way of entertainment for the masses. And, because she was frequently in the "casting first stone" role, she felt that her own life had to be "without sin". To which end she didn’t have an affair or a partner for two years.
She had, in fact, been single since splitting with Sam (Dr Sam Hutt, aka Hank Wangford). Dillie was very good at being single, although "I missed Sam terribly," she says, then twinkles, "but I wouldn’t settle for just anyone."
She dated a couple of times, and had one affair "because I needed the practice". She chuckles again. "I can be terribly blunt… but I did, I just needed to practise with a man again."
Now she’s just about perfect.
Dillie says when she wrote a song called One Last Campaign she knew she was ready to fall in love again. Two years ago she met John, who is Irish, mumbles and makes her very happy.
Even now, she says suddenly, she is acutely aware that despair is only ever a heartbeat away and many of the songs that make up this, her most grown-up and, in her opinion, best ever, show are songs of grown-up, remembered sadness. You should check her out. I think you’ll agree with my father.
Dillie Keane, Pleasance Dome (venue 23), until 27 August