Healing, Heaven and horror films
In the past, when I did a lot of theatre, I would have three performances over a weekend and it would be tougher for me than Monday to Friday. But now that I’m a grandmother and don’t work so much, weekends mean family time and they are just great. My grandson [the first child of her daughter Lara, by Rula’s first husband Brian Deacon] is 18 months old and he’s an absolute delight. He reminds me so much of Lara, who was a really cheeky, bouncy baby too, that it’s like reliving the whole experience. Unfortunately I haven’t been much use as a babysitter recently because I had a shoulder operation two months ago that has put me out of action, but soon I hope to have him to stay overnight.
I live in Chiswick, west London, and Lara and her family are only half an hour away in Twickenham so I see them all the time. I’ve grown to love London since moving back here from the beautiful house in the country I owned when I was married to Dennis [Waterman, her second husband, whom she divorced in 1998]. Chiswick has a very welcoming, villagey atmosphere. I was brought up in England and will be forever grateful to this country, but I have to say that the older I get, the more my heart and soul feel Polish. I haven’t visited much for some years now since breaking up with my boyfriend, Wladek, who lived in Krakow, in 2007, but as time goes by I find that my roots feel more important. My Polish parents were always determined that we should remember our heritage and learn the language, and as a child I hated this because I just wanted to be like everyone else. Now, though, I’m enormously grateful. Knowing the accent is useful as an actress, for one thing, but I like to be able to cook Polish food too. I don’t do it when I’m alone (I only cook for my cat, Chica Luna) but my family and I always make classic Polish dishes like fish pie and fudge tarts and beetroot soup for Christmas. The latter is an acquired taste, I have to say.
One of the great luxuries of being on your own is the way you can read in bed for as long as you like on a weekend. I tend to have two or three books on the go. When I eventually get up and get going about the day, no two days are the same.
Writing my autobiography has occupied most of my time recently. I decided to do it partly for the challenge – I’ve always loved writing and I’m known in my family for writing odes and poems for special occasions – but also because my ex-husband Dennis admitted on Piers Morgan’s show Life Stories last year something about our marriage [that he had hit Rula] that he’d always previously denied and that was a cathartic moment. I wanted to write about it in a very fair way because I don’t carry any anger about it any more, though there’s still sadness, obviously. I wanted to show the world, too, that there is a lot more to me than my ex-marriages and my time on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.
My life involves a lot of travel – both to visit the conservation projects I support and for fun. I prefer intrepid travelling where you live slightly rough to staying in glossy hotels which are the same the world over. I’ll keep going to exotic places for as long as possible, I think, because the minute you give in to your age is when you’ll give up altogether. Funnily enough, I thought that being a “free woman” would be the perfect time to go off travelling along, but that quickly lost its appeal and now I go with friends or
Herbal tea or stiff drink? Astiff drink – vodka and soda with lime.
Favourite item of clothing? Myhippy chic long shift dresses from Hampstead Bazaar.
What are you most proud of? Mydaughter and, by proxy, mygrandson.
Best place to be in the world? Africa. Either on the Kenyan coast in a place called Kilifi, or at the elephant orphanage just outside Nairobi. Thai. I love the delicate flavours and spices. Mygrandson Myhome Abeautiful wooden elephant armchair given tomeby the lady who played Jet in Gladiators, years ago – we did panto together
Mycollection of wildlife art by Gary Hodges
Good memories with one of my sisters.
Family is incredibly important to me these days and I’m particularly close to my sisters. I’m 10 years older than the youngest one but she lives in London too and we still love going to the occasional club for a dance together on a Saturday night. We’ll go to Heaven, the gay club near Charing Cross (I’ve always had a lot of fans in the gay quarter), or Shadow Lounge in Soho, and I have no embarrassment at all about being a slightly older person on the dance floor. I just love dancing. It’s the only exercise I do, apart from swimming occasionally.
I don’t really watch what I eat either, except from a health point of view. The only major discipline in my life is my Buddhist chanting, which comes from a Japanese branch of the religion called Nichiren Buddhism. I’ve been in and out of Buddhism for about 25 years and I try to chant every day for personal goals and the happiness of all mankind. It is gentle but very powerful too, and when I don’t do it for a while I feel bad because just like exercise, you get out what you put in. It helps to keep me focused, which I need during times when I’m out of work, as I am now while I’m waiting for my shoulder to recuperate.
Something else I’ve done for years, when I haven’t been in work, is recording audio books. I love it. The studio is in Bath and the organisers put you up in a luxurious hotel, and then you go and read books in front of a microphone for seven or eight hours a day. I’ve met the most wonderful people through it, from David Tennant to Timothy West and Prunella Scales. We always get a jolly lunch, where we gossip about the books we’re reading, and then the afternoons become dangerous because you get soporific and make howling mistakes. I was once reading a deeply involved spy novel set in Eastern Europe, full of Russians and Prussians. By the middle of the afternoon I was feeling terribly sleepy and could see my producer nodding off. Suddenly I read: “Chapter 16. The streets of Djibouti were overflowing with Arab seamen.” That woke the producer up: we got terrible giggles and I couldn’t read for the next 20 minutes without falling off the stool!
My next project, once my arm has healed and my book publicity has calmed down, is going to be a onewoman cabaret show I’ve been asked to write, and then I’m hoping for some more challenging television parts to come my way.
With all this going on, there are a lot of things I have to say no to if I want to see my family as often as I’d like to. One good way to do this is to get them all around for Sunday lunch. Then the last thing I’ll often do on a Sunday night is have a “chilled sister evening” – we’ll curl up on the sofas with a good horror film and scare ourselves witless.
Rula by Rula Lenska (The Robson Press, RRP £20), is available to order from Telegraph Books at £18 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk.