Pottering among the flower beds
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