When they realized they’d have to shelter in place, they decided the only way to do it was to pick one of their homes and ride it out together with plenty of wine and Netflix.
They were so pleased with their plan that Burns sent an email to her favorite television news personality with their isolation workaround, never expecting to become the toast of the town.
News personality Jayne McCubbin interviewed the women for “BBC Breakfast,” and within days, people were comparing them to the “The Golden Girls,” the popular 1980s sitcom starring Betty White, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. The show, which has gained a cult following since its debut more than 30 years ago, centers on the lives of four women living together as housemates in Miami.
A hilarious BBC video of the three grandmothers has racked up thousands of views, with people around the world delighted by their shelter-in-place plan.
“We’ll have a supply of wine in,” Robinson told McCubbin in the Skype interview, as the women all reached for bottles and said “cheers.”
The three spend so much time together, they admit they aren’t afraid to get grumpy, or “tetchy,” with each other, like family.
“I have got a front room [to escape to], in case we get tetchy with each other,” Burns said. “That might be handy. And I’ve got Netflix, so we could watch ‘The Crown’ together.”
“I might fall asleep,” interjected Spark, who wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of watching 30 episodes detailing Queen Elizabeth’s life.
But then their plans fell apart.
As the three were deciding last month in whose home to set up camp to ride out the pandemic, Spark learned that she wouldn’t be able to participate in their 24/7 “pajama party” because of a recent case of pneumonia. Robinson and Burns could continue as planned, but Spark felt crushed to be left out and alone.
“When I realized I would have to isolate alone, I cried each morning for three days,” said Spark, who lives near her two longtime pals in the city of Salford, England, in the Greater Manchester area.
“But then I gave myself a talking to and said, ‘Stop crying and get on with it,’ ” she said.
If she had to spend the next few months away from her longtime chums, then she would email and Skype with them daily while they were at Robinson’s home. The three came up with an elaborate travel fantasy to keep themselves entertained. After all, they’ve taken plenty of vacations together.
They decided that for the next two months, they would pretend they were on holiday and 25 years old again — exploring the Mediterranean and enjoying fine dining and late-night dancing aboard a luxury cruise.
“Carol has a keen sense of the ridiculous — we dined [virtually] last night with Robert Redford, and then the race was on for the first dance,” Burns said from Robinson’s home, where she is holed up for the next month or two.
“Then Roger Moore turned up,” said Burns, “and Dotty promptly melted. We sail for Greece tonight, so lots of laughter awaits, even though we’re apart” from Spark.
Through the years, the girlfriends say, they have learned the art of sharing and sacrifice.
“Never being alone is what this friendship means,” Robinson said. “I love having friends to share my joys and sorrows with.”
The “Golden Girls” have known one another for more than 40 years, beginning when they sent their children to the same grade school in Salford, Burns said.
“We realized we had a lot in common — a love of books, theater and not talking about our children in competition as the other mums seemed to do,” she said. “We’ve shared all of life’s dramas — the birth of children and grandchildren, the losing of parents and partners and cancer scares, and there were early years when money was in short supply. But what we had, we always shared.”
Before the United Kingdom went into lockdown in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the women often had lunch and dinner together and enjoyed a trip to the movies at least once a week, Burns added.
“As we’ve grown older, we have traveled together and had many fun times — even mimicking the queen’s garden parties and inviting neighbors along with much hilarity,” she said. “Our doors are always open for each other, and there has been more laughter than tears.”
Burns was widowed 12 years ago, while Robinson and Spark have been divorced and on their own for 34 years.
“We are as close as family,” Spark said. “After so many years, we know each other as well as it’s possible to know each other and still be friends.”
Robinson and Burns regularly email Spark lavish photos of their pretend “ports of call” in Greece and Italy.
“Yes, it’s a little silly,” Burns said. “But it keeps us smiling.”
The fun-loving trio say they hope others will also find ways to smile from time to time as they wait out the pandemic.
“We have noticed right now that people seem to be kinder and have an ‘all in it together’ feeling,” Burns said. “Manners have made a return, and there is nowhere to rush to. We truly hope that stays.”