It’s the island life for actress Celia Imrie, who likes to escape from London with her son
After a long stint of hard work, I feel that I deserve a treat. I enjoy living in London but I love the sea and islands, so I go to the Isle of Wight; it makes the perfect contrast. I bought a house there several years ago so the journey doesn’t need to be planned. It follows a familiar pattern.
I pack a small picnic (boys are always hungry), with perhaps a glass of Champagne for me for the journey, and meet my 12-year-old son Angus [Celia’s child by actor Benjamin Whitrow] off the school bus. We make our way toWaterloo station and board the train to Southampton. Unfortunately it’s usually crammed with other people with the same idea. On arrival we take the little bus to the terminal and hop on to the hydrofoil.
There’s something about being on a boat drawing away from the shore that makes your whole heart feel light and gladdens the spirit. It’s heaven to know that in 20 minutes we will be in Cowes. In fact, the whole journey takes only two hours. Another bonus is that we don’t need a car: we can walk up the High Street to the house and we know where to buy an Indian takeaway en route.
When we walk through the door I could dance for joy and if there is suitable music on the radio I do. I love dancing and as a child I was desperate to be a ballerina. Recently, I embarrassed my friends on a visit to the Planetarium by dancing in the aisles when The Blue Danube drifted out.
On Saturday morning I wake up early and draw the curtains hoping to see a pink dawn and a calm sea, but even if it’s a bit grey it doesn’t matter because it usually brightens up later.
We get out our bikes and go straight down to the beach while it’s still deserted. I love swimming in the sea, but it’s always so much colder than you expect. The reward is that tingling feeling when you come out. Then we cycle along the beach road to theWatersedge Restaurant at Gurnard for tea and toast.
We never make plans, but just make decisions as we go. If it’s wet, we enjoy 10-pin bowling. It’s a real thrill to make a good strike, though Angus invariably wins. Having Angus as a companion means that I can indulge myself at the amusement arcades and the dodgems. For a special treat we might hire a couple of horses and ride up the country lanes or, better still, gallop along the beach. I imagine myself on a film set. Someone once said: “What is the point of galloping along a beach with your hair floating behind you unless there is some one there to film you?”
Actors are always keen to say that they can ride in order to get a part. However, I would describe myself as just adequate. I learnt to ride side-saddle for my part in Gormenghast — it made me feel terribly elegant and was easier than I expected.
When we are hungry, we might stop forfish and chips or, if we are near Shooters Hill, we pop into Tonino’s, the Italian restaurant. I’m not interested in cooking and I haven’t eaten meat for 25 years. I can do pasta, but I’d much rather be out of doors making the most of the open spaces or tidying my little front garden. Angus usually has homework to do, so we have a quiet evening or, if his friends call round, we get out the cards and play Pit, which means lots of screaming. The downside of being an early riser is that I soon conk out. On Sunday we like to walk on Tennyson Down. To walk up a hill is exhilarating and it’s nice to concentrate on the beauty around you. The views of the open sea give a wonderful feeling of peace. And there’s also the reward of a Minghella ice cream when we reach the top — ice cream is my great weakness. If we haven’t taken a picnic, we have lunch at the Island Sailing Club. I don’t sail, but I’m doing a couple of courses. The weekend goes by in a flash, but it’s nice to know that we can do it all again soon. Interview by Sylvia
Roger Celia Imrie stars in Kingdom, a six-part series that starts at 9pm on ITV1
on April 22.