us two

Char­lotte Yates, left, and Emma Robin­son are civil union part­ners liv­ing in Welling­ton. Yates, 54, a singer-song­writer, has re­cently re­leased her sev­enth stu­dio al­bum, Then the Stars Start Singing. Robin­son, 51, is an ac­tor, pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and pho­togr

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ Ross Gi­b­lin can be pur­chased from se­lected book­shops and from

EMMA/ I knew of her be­fore I ac­tu­ally met her. I was liv­ing in Lon­don in 1991 and friends of mine sent me a mix­tape – in the days when you did – and that in­cluded her song Red Let­ter, which I played a lot on my lit­tle Walk­man wan­der­ing around Lon­don.

In 1992, I helped or­gan­ise a ben­e­fit con­cert which Char­lotte per­formed at. We were prop­erly in­tro­duced in 2000.

In 2003, she asked me to direct a mu­sic video for a song called Ru­ins of Love. We had a great time work­ing on that – she was re­ally happy to go with my ideas, which in­cluded her hav­ing to take some danc­ing lessons so she could do a duet. She only had two cri­te­ria: one was I wasn’t al­lowed to pre­tend she was straight and I can’t re­mem­ber what the other one was – I think she wanted some shot of her play­ing.

She pro­posed to me. She had talked to a friend and said that she wanted to ask me if I would be­come civilly united with her. She was plan­ning to wait and save it up for a spe­cial mo­ment but once she’d made the de­ci­sion she said she just had to blurt it out. I was ac­tu­ally asleep. She woke me up and asked me.

The first time I asked Char­lotte to read some­thing I’d writ­ten I was com­pletely ter­ri­fied be­cause I wanted her to like it so much. I re­spect her opin­ion and she reads a lot, so that was quite stress­ful.

When the kids were younger and both liv­ing at home, if I had to go away for work, I knew Char­lotte would pick up the slack. She’s a very sup­port­ive step-par­ent. She’ll go to par­ent-teacher meet­ings when I’m sick.

Char­lotte’s been a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian and, apart from early on, that’s all she’s ever done. She’s com­pletely con­fi­dent in who she is, and that’s very at­trac­tive about her. She’s en­cour­aged me to be more con­fi­dent about my­self as an artist, def­i­nitely.

She’s an avid re­cy­cler. She’ll pick up a screw off the ground and take it home ’cos it might be use­ful for some­thing. She’s liv­ing the green life as much as she can – it goes back to that thing of we both re­ally en­joy na­ture. She trained as a vet, ini­tially.

When I’d first see her per­form when we were part­ners, I’d feel that sort of “ner­vous on be­half of” feel­ing. But now I can just en­joy the show. Of­ten I’ll be video­ing the con­cert or tak­ing pho­tos. At her al­bum launch a cou­ple of weeks ago, she said: “Just be there as my girl­friend, don’t bring the cam­era.”

She tried to do this chal­lenge a few months ago where you had to have 24 hours where you didn’t swear or say any­thing neg­a­tive. It took her three days to get through it. It had me quite fre­quently in hys­ter­ics be­cause she wouldn’t even re­alise she’d gone: “What a f...wit!” and the clock would re­set. CHAR­LOTTE/ Right at the end of the mu­sic video shoot, she told me she ac­tu­ally had one func­tional eye. She’s tech­ni­cally monoc­u­lar, but you’d never know. I went: “What, you tell me this now!”

We got on re­ally well. It felt like she’d been there all the time. Things changed within about 18 months of that.

We’d moved in to­gether; she’s got two lovely girls. I thought: “Let’s so­lid­ify this, game on.” I liked the kids very much and we all got on. Both kids were mu­si­cal. I kind of got them set up with mu­sic lessons. Sud­denly there was a real pi­ano at home and I hadn’t had that since I lived with my par­ents. So I started play­ing more. Vita, the older girl, re­ally wanted to learn the flute, so she did. I wound up ac­com­pa­ny­ing her to her ex­ams.

Em’s kindly – and feisty, on oc­ca­sion. She’s also a re­ally thought­ful mother. I couldn’t have been with her if I didn’t think she was a good mother, just from a pure an­i­mal hus­bandry point of view. She takes good care of small crea­tures, even when the small crea­tures are large, and ob­streper­ous.

There’s cer­tain things she’s to­tally neat about which is slightly at odds with a bit of a scat­ter­gram ap­proach to life. I’m not like that. Mak­ing the bed, I’m like, whack the sheets on – she’ll be right – pil­low­case, away we go. But no. We’ve got hospi­tal cor­ners if Em’s on to it. It’s like, how can you do that when there’s socks strewn from here to Africa?

Emma says I’m an “un­stop­pable force”, and she’s an “im­mov­able ob­ject”. So there’s lot of talk­ing, we talk things out re­lent­lessly till they’re done. That can be quite heated, but that’s how we do it. We fig­ure it out.

She’s very pretty. It’s par­tic­u­larly shal­low of me, but I ap­pre­ci­ate it. A friend said to me, when she met Emma: “Ph­woar, how’d you score that?!” Quote un­quote.

If peo­ple don’t like my stuff, that’s their choice and it doesn’t bother me too much. A lot of Em’s work has been quite be­hind the scenes even though she trained as an ac­tor. Now she’s do­ing more writ­ing – re­leas­ing short sto­ries and stuff – that’s put her out front in a re­ally dif­fer­ent way, to a re­ally dif­fer­ent au­di­ence. It has been in­trigu­ing see­ing re­sponses to that.

Emma made me some py­ja­mas once. She got only got a me­tre of fab­ric. She made the py­jama bot­toms that kind of went to my knees. I was like: “OK, I was think­ing maybe I could have the whole leg.” So she cut the hems off and at­tached some. The ma­te­rial doesn’t match. Fresh Ink

“She’s com­pletely con­fi­dent in who she is, and that’s very at­trac­tive. She’s en­cour­aged me to be more con­fi­dent.”

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