‘Time spent with people is the best gift’
Liza Tarbuck talks to Prima about loving her time of life, making her comedian dad Jimmy laugh and being distracted by everything
Actress Liza Tarbuck counts her lucky Christmas stars
Radio and TV personality Liza, 52, lives in north London. Her book, I An
Distracted By Everything (Michael Joseph, £16.99), is out now.
I’m a visual person, so when I started my book, it was very important that it looked good. I was a History of Art student, my taste is very broad and while I always wanted to go to art school to experiment with everything, my sister went to Chelsea, so I thought I’d best do something else! I paint and draw all the time. The book has allowed me to come clean! I An Distracted By Everything
is essentially the book I wanted to have – but which didn’t exist. It’s a sort of annual for adults, for want of a better description. It’s been completely absorbing putting it together. I want it to be a good companion, something to amuse that you can keep coming back to.
One of my great pleasures in life is to come up with ways of getting stories out of my dad. I’ll describe a scenario, tell him what car he is driving, for example – he loves cars – and suggest who we bump into and he has to take it from there – and he’s off, telling a story. We’ve had some laughs remembering things, but actually, there’s a new story almost every day with my family. We’re a chatty gang.
We’re close as a family and always have been. I’m not sure if it’s because of having to share our dad because of his job, but we do treasure getting together. I go home a lot. Dad would love all of us to be there all of the time – Mum, too, but with caveats, ha ha! Dad’ll get us all there and then go and watch sport, just sitting there earwigging us all, and chipping in.
I love watching Mum and Dad with each other. Mum laughing at something Dad has just said, or raising a knowing eyebrow. The routine at home is deeply comforting. She and I love Facetime, even if it’s just to do the crossword together. As a family, we moved into the house when I was four and I’m very lucky that I’ve still got that, that they’re still in the home we all grew up in. There’s a lot of succour to be gained from that; it makes you feel very tethered. I’m the middle child.
It’s quite a defining characteristic, and when I look at my arsenal of charms, I realise I’ve learned quite a lot from being in that position! Middle children take a natural role of being the bridge, and an occasional mediator. It’s a useful quality for life.
A few years ago, I went off to India for Christmas with my ‘husbands’. They’re two of my oldest and best friends who are married to each other – and I’m their best man! They are basically another part of my family.
I confess that I absolutely loved spending Christmas sitting in a hammock looking at the Bay of Bengal! I thoroughly enjoyed being away. We were there for five weeks and it was an amazing trip. We travelled round a lot. We were fools in love with India. It warranted missing a family Christmas.
Usually, Christmas is at Tarby Towers. We have open-house drinks in the morning, with friends and neighbours. My sister and brother have five kids between them, ranging from five to mid-twenties. There are 13 of us when we sit down, plus any strays who get invited in.
When it comes to presents, giving is the best bit. It’s hard buying for people who already have most of the stuff that they want. As single woman, I try to
go in for tickets for something, or a membership. Buying rubbish annoys me. It’s time spent with people that’s most important. The best thing anyone can ever give me is a book.
I’m quite a good auntie and godmother – firm but fair, with a bit of nonsense every so often, and I’m good for
the odd tenner. My eldest nephew knows how to charm me and will barter his skills. He comes and cleans my windows or saves me from dull jobs for a bit of remuneration!
Love & loss
My rescue dog Wilf died
last year. He was 16 and had the life of Riley. If I went away, I checked him into the Paw Seasons doggy hotel, or Mum and Dad had him with them. He was a very special dog and I felt his loss keenly. I really miss our walks and the clarity that walking him brought me.
I love books. I love Robin Hobb at the moment. She’s slightly fantastical, but she has a great way with words. One of her trilogies is so intertwined with animals that it became my companion when Wilf died. I found a lot of solace in her books.
Love and loss are bedfellows, and understanding that contrast is
an important part of our lives. My approach is to dwell on the positives, enjoy as much as you can, and consider the things that you don’t. At the very least, it gives you the focus to change.
My age and stage
Fifty is just another number really. I can never remember my exact age because the seasons have a tendency to whip by, but I love being me now. I know who I am. One of the best things is the long-awaited recognition of what women bring to the party.
I’m at a good place in my life.
I’m not married and I don’t have
a partner. When you’ve lived on your own for a long time, you get used to having a pleasant routine. It doesn’t mean I don’t want that broken. I enjoy male company. I’ve got some cracking guys who look after me and I thrive on that, but it would be gorgeous to have one fabulous fella to go out of my way to delight.
There are lots of good things about
the menopause. Beyond the nuttiness that happens initially when your hormones are letting off like fireworks and surprising you with their colours, you have to take a much greater interest in your health, which is a very good thing. You start to re-evaluate everything from your point of view, become much more honest with yourself and slough off things that bring unnecessary drama.
Pass over the other side of that mountain and it’s lush, filled with fabulous
new things. I have never felt so right in my life. Although I’m much less likely to mince my words.
I’m not trying to be rude, merely moving the action on to get to the next good bit. When it comes to work, I’ve always done the things that I want to do. I know myself, I have an acute boredom threshold, so I need to fully invest in any job I do or I won’t enjoy it. That was an active choice back in my twenties: make hay when the sun shines, earn a few quid, and then when things come up that you’re not convinced by, you can say no… I say no a lot.
I love doing my radio show. I want to be the best company I can be, find that pool where we all feel part of the same tribe, with no anxieties or overt judgements. Music is an important part of that for me, and I spend hours working out the playlists. I couldn't live without it.
My hobbies include travelling and art, being quiet because I talk too much, making things, music assembly, saying thank you, being curious and visiting mates. Nothing is as fantastic as a day trip with a mate bundled in the car. Wonderful things get said when you’re one to one.
‘Nothing is as fantastic as a day trip with a mate bundled in the car’