Pot­ter­ing among the flower beds

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

My per­fect week­end now would have looked very dif­fer­ent at other stages in my life. It might be in­ter­est­ing to com­pare them and see just what an old codger I’ve be­come. In years gone by I wouldn’t have no­ticed week­ends much at all be­cause I’d al­ways be in mati­nees or evening shows at the theatre, or film­ing, which re­ally messes your week around.

But now things are dif­fer­ent, for two rea­sons. One (and you may be able to hear my hint of pride) is be­cause I’m chair­man of the Hamp­stead Cricket Club, in north Lon­don, which has taken up most week­ends this sum­mer. The other is that my daugh­ter Bessie is about to move into halls of res­i­dence at drama school so my wife Imelda [Staunton, the ac­tress; they mar­ried in 1983] and I will sud­denly be rat­tling around our house in West Hamp­stead on our own.

On a Satur­day th­ese days, Imelda and I will get up rea­son­ably early, though I’m fonder than she is of a lit­tle lie-in. We might have tea or cof­fee in bed and read the news­pa­pers, and on a per­fect day we’d be in the gar­den all morn­ing. We’re not ob­ses­sive gar­den­ers, just pot­ter­ers, which means things are a bit hap­haz­ard but we don’t mind that. I knew I was of­fi­cially mid­dle-aged when Imelda bought me a green­house for my birth­day and I was pleased. That’s it, I thought, the wild days are over.

We used to grow salad but when we were both away film­ing dur­ing sum­mer it would all wither and we’d end up with tons of let­tuce soup. I’ve al­ways been more of a meat-and-two-veg­eta­bles man any­way, so we turned it over to flow­ers and I thought I’d bet­ter learn a bit about it. I went and did Sarah Raven’s one-day flower-ar­rang­ing course and even though the only other man there was a pro­fes­sional gar­dener, it was a great day out and I learnt a lot. At the end of it she lets you loose in her gar­den with a pair of scis­sors so I came home bright red in the face with a huge bou­quet of flow­ers. It was great.

Sun­shine would have to fea­ture in my per­fect week­end – I thrive on it. This sum­mer has been so bril­liant that I’m not even gloomy now it has turned cooler. On a per­fect sunny Satur­day af­ter­noon Imelda would prob­a­bly go and walk our dog, Molly, on Hamp­stead Heath and I might go on a bike ride. I usu­ally book a big char­ity ride abroad to get me back to the sun­shine in Jan­uary,

Her­bal tea or stiff drink? I never drink tea in any shape or form, so a stiff whisky. Shep­herd’s pie, peas and cauliflower. Very ba­sic.

Favourite role you’ve played? It was Big Jule in Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre in 1982. That was the hap­pi­est show I’ve ever been in and where I met Imelda, as well. I’ve got a black-and­white im­age of me play­ing in an in­ap­pro­pri­ate romper suit. It could be a mem­ory or a pho­to­graph, I’m not sure.

Who in­spires you? Imelda. Gar­den­ing Cycling Sun­shine Cricket The smell of a sweet pea

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